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RST manufactures world-class geotechnical instruments

RST Instruments Ltd. leads the industry in manufacturing geotechnical instruments, and providing sales and service worldwide. The British Columbia-based company’s success is derived from a strong team and its ability to consistently manufacture best-of-class products. RST delivers innovative high-technology designs, responsive customer-focused solutions and after sales service.

Senior staff members include Rob Taylor, Bob Kobetitch, Dean Polvi and Pierre Choquet, and since RST was founded in 1974 it has experienced steady, continuous growth. With a combined management total of over 140 man-years of geotechnical instrumentation experience, RST is capable of providing custom-engineered solutions to site-specific problems.

Headquartered in Maple Ridge, B.C., the RST Instruments plant excels at manufacturing geotechnical, mining, environmental and structural instrumentation. These instruments include inclinometer systems, inclinometer casing, data loggers, borehole packers, settlement systems, thermistors, tilt meters, water level meters, water level loggers, piezometers, load cells and ‘Accu-Seal’ well screen, and are used in many projects worldwide, including highways, and hydroelectric and mining projects. The end users of RST Instruments products are all over the world, in industries including civil construction, mining, oil and gas, oil sands, water management, drilling, environmental monitoring and research.

RST is known within the industry for its reliability and the quality of its products, but the company’s chief executive attributes RST Instruments’ success to having the right team in place.

“Our team’s core strength is diversity,” says Rob Taylor, president of RST Instruments. “We have a wide range of skill sets that include hardware, design, software, metalwork, measurement and languages. Our staff speaks a total of 15 languages,” he adds.

“The wide variety of customer types, project types and geographical locations gives substantial diversity of customers,” says Pierre Choquet, vice president of sales. “All of our sales and technical support staff are highly trained and experienced professionals who are available to provide customers with a selection of instrumentation, training, installation, inspection, modernization and optimization of existing monitoring systems.”

From the conceptual design of products to the exceptional post-sale calibration and repair service offered by the company’s technical department, RST’s commitment to client satisfaction is always top of mind.

“We place a lot of emphasis on knowing our subject, looking after the customer, hiring and retaining great people and investing in the company,” says Taylor. The challenges the team comes across are equally monumental.

“We respond to a wide range of customer requirements,” explains Taylor. “We provide complex products and have a global reach that requires understanding languages, cultures, time zones and end-user knowledge.”

“The majority of our sales is standard product with minor variations, but when something special is required, we provide custom-engineered solutions to site-specific problems, either on a design-build basis, or in co-operation with the client,” says Taylor. “RST’s products have been designed in conjunction with client input following field testing or based on project requirements. In-depth technical support is provided, and senior staff members are always available to work with clients until a solution is found to meet the project requirements.”

Recently, RST Instruments has been involved with projects such as La Yesca Dam in Mexico, Mt. Milligan Mine in B.C., the California Department of Water Resources and the City of Surrey.

RST provided numerous instruments to the project at La Yesca Dam, a 208-metre-high concrete-faced rock-fill dam on the Rio Grande de Santiago in Mexico. Construction on the dam began in 2007, after Empresas ICA was awarded the main construction contract. The dam feeds a hydroelectric power station and was inaugurated in 2012. RST provided pressure, movement and tilt instruments along with real-time data acquisition systems to control construction and monitor long-term behaviour.

RST also manufactured tailings dam instrumentation for the Mt. Milligan copper-gold project, located northwest of Prince George, and midway between the communities of Fort St. James and Mackenzie in central B.C. Construction began in 2010, and the mine shipped its first concentrate in September 2013. Full commercial production is now underway.

Recently, the company provided grouting controls to the California Department of Water Resources, monitoring grout volume, pressure and structural response on a real-time basis. The structural response measurement was designed to be installed underwater by divers, and provided measurements with a precision of 0.1 millimetres via radio link to the grouting crew for excellent real-time 3D visualization of structural response to ground improvement.

RST has also developed and delivered a drain hole mapping system for a BC Hydro project on the Columbia River. The system includes tiltmeter, magnetometer and insertion equipment to measure the orientation of upward-raked drain holes in rock from a tunnel.

In another project, RST provided custom slope stability monitoring instruments to the City of Surrey allowing real-time alarming of earth movements on a slope. This system allows the municipality to have an immediate response to earth movements regardless of when it happens.

RST is able to provide custom-engineered solutions to site-specific problems, either on a design-build basis, or in co-operation with the client. With ISO 9001 Certification, RST has a proven track record for quality, long-term stability and product reliability. The company’s 40,000 square-foot modern facility incorporates CAD, CAM and CNC manufacturing techniques. Substantial capacity, duplicate machinery and a cross-skilled workforce allow long production runs, big orders and tight schedules to be met routinely. Purpose-built in-house designed equipment provides special capabilities unavailable in the marketplace. These techniques assure high quality, at a reasonable cost, with timely delivery.

“We have witnessed numerous changes over the years that include market growth, product innovation, new production methods such as pick and place surface mount electronics and CNC machining, design software, productivity tools and communications technology,” says Taylor.

As sales increased, RST’s 2001 vintage ERP system was showing some limitations. In 2013, a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system was brought online. This system, NTS Apollo, provides continuous control from CRM (customer relations management), through order entry, procurement and production, shipment and billing.

“The implementation of NTS Apollo was extremely smooth, with all modules functional from the first day, and continuous detail improvements ongoing,” says operations vice president Bob Kobetitch. “The system allows our sales staff to see inventory and shipping, production to see quotes, customer support to see calibrations of historical orders, management to see production load. Shortages are picked up immediately, delivery is streamlined,” he adds.

“When I started at RST in 1989, we had virtually no manufacturing capability, a largely Canadian customer base, mostly resale products and four employees. We now have hundreds of high-technology products built in-house, sales in 70 countries and 67 employees,” says Taylor. “We continue to roll out exciting new products. We expect that the geotechnical instruments business will continue to grow worldwide as larger projects are built to higher standards in more difficult sites.”

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