Bottom Line Equipment launched in 2005, and for its first five years in business, was wholly dedicated to cleanup and recovery efforts in the New Orleans market following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina.
Kurt Degueyter, Bottom Line’s founder and owner, established the LLC as an under-capitalized entrepreneur with modest intentions of buying and selling used equipment. The storm – counted among the most intense and deadliest in recent history to make landfall in the contiguous United States – was a game changer that led him and his wife, Kim, to double down on efforts that included cashing out a home equity line-of-credit and purchasing essential heavy equipment for the recovery efforts.
Starting out with two pieces of heavy equipment and about 20 attachments, the Degueyters didn’t flinch at taking on risks associated with the investment as residents of hurricane-stricken New Orleans and surrounding areas began the arduous process of rebuilding their communities and lives.
Nor did Kurt and Kim pay much thought to the potential upside for the new business. Over the past 15 years, it has grown exponentially to become a large independent equipment company engaged in the acquisition, rental, and resale of heavy construction equipment and specialty attachments. Headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, it employs 170 people, includes seven Gulf Coast locations, and maintains a fleet of more than 1,400 pieces of heavy equipment and 400 specialty attachments with an original acquisition cost of over $240 million.
“In the beginning days of Bottom Line, we didn’t have money to buy and sell, so I was brokering,” Degueyter said. “Thirty days later, Katrina hit, one of the largest natural disasters to date. We were in New Orleans within three days, setting up shop on a stretch of highway known as ‘equipment row.’ That’s where we really started building the business, from nothing. Every dollar we made was put back in the company.”
By 2010, Bottom Line began diversifying its customer base by repurposing its existing fleet of excavators and bulldozers, which were initially acquired for levee work, and adding new lines of attachments geared toward meeting specific needs in the oil and gas industry with an emphasis on pipeline construction contractors.
Degueyter first gained familiarity with Vacuworx lifting systems in the early 2000s, while working for a Gulf Coast equipment dealer that was helping roll out an early version of the RC Series pipe-handling system. The industry, he recalled, was a little skeptical in the beginning about handling a piece of pipe with only the vacuum lifter securing it. That started changing soon after the product began to penetrate the market, he said, and customers realized the safety aspect of limiting direct human contact with bulky lengths of tubular steel.
Because vacuum lifting doesn’t require any rigging of the material being lifted, there are no workers needed to climb on a stack to secure it or loiter on the right of way, providing maximum room for safe and efficient pipe-handling maneuvers. Wireless remote operation and 360° of hydraulic rotation allow for a high level of operating efficiency, and the precise placement of materials from the secure confines of the host machine.
“The consensus is that our customers really like the built-in safety features,” Degueyter said. “In many cases, our customers have reported an immediate increase in productivity. Vacuworx provides a way for us to help our customers to do it in a safe manner. The real benefit is safety because it removes people from a position where they could possibly get hurt.”
Bottom Line stocks heavy-duty RC Series lifters with lifting capacities ranging from 22,000 to 55,000 lbs., and a full range of vacuum pads to lift and maneuver virtually any dimension of pipe, steel plate, or concrete slab. It has also put out orders for the Vacuworx HL Series Barrier Lifters, a hydraulic lifting option designed for the safe and efficient handling of concrete road barriers up to 30 ft. long and 23,200 lbs., and the PS 1, a portable vacuum lifting system for smaller challenges up to 1,700 lbs.
“We rent it, buy it, sell it, repair it, deliver it,” Degueyter said. “There is no doubt in our mind that Vacuworx offers the best vacuum lifting special attachments that are in the marketplace.”
High Standards for Service and Support
The decision-making process Bottom Line undergoes when forming alliances, investing in equipment, or incorporating new technologies always ties back to doing the right thing for the company, its customers, and its employees.
Bottom Line values working both smarter and harder to ensure the best outcome for its clients. It chose to work with Vacuworx because of its reputation for personalized service and support in the industry.
“When we look outside the organization, we like to see vendors that exhibit or share the same common set of core values,” Degueyter said. “That’s what really makes us good at what we do.”
“Vacuworx is always responsive, willing to go beyond what some may consider ‘standard operational procedure,’” he said. “They are very knowledgeable about products, abilities, and limitations, which helps guide our sales staff when matching products with our customers. Whether we bring in a new product or an existing one that we own, the support is the same. They are there, providing support after the sale.”
Combining Technology and Service
Bottom Line takes pride in maintaining a “one-fleet” mentality and is considerate of innovative technologies that promote safety and security, which has included prolific use of telematics to track location and usage of assets, bolstering the company’s field management and scheduled maintenance capabilities. Degueyter said the equipment dealer’s Bottom Line Link platform is set up so that data from every machine flows seamlessly into a central platform, helping feed its product health program and product support team.
Bottom Line has 30 fully equipped field service trucks and factory trained shop technicians at each of seven strategically located service centers across Louisiana and Texas. It is well-equipped to deliver on the guarantee provided to its customers, Degueyter said. “We will repair or replace any rental machine within 24 hours if the unit is working within 100 miles of one of our service centers," he states.
“The increased safety aspect drives our customers,” he continued. “Now we’ve taken it to next level with training from our OEMs and tracking all of our assets with telematics. At the end of the day, our safety program is all about going home to families, as good or better as we showed up this morning. We see Vacuworx responding in the same way. Safety is our bottom line.”