Demolishing the Status Quo
Interstate Sawing & Demolition takes the lead in concrete sawing, robotic demolition, confined space demolition and excavation
What started out as a one-person concrete cutting business housed in the owners’ garage has grown to epitomize what cutting-edge robotic demolition can do.
Duke Long and his wife, Sandi, founded Interstate Sawing & Demolition (Interstate) in 1996 following Duke’s decadelong stint working for a competitor. He recalls, “I had been running their out-of-town projects and I just felt like I could do it better myself.”
In the company’s first couple of years, the work was 100% state and federal highway work. They soon added on service work for plumbers, electricians and builders—cutting concrete walls, electric sawing, removing concrete and core drilling. Everything transformed, though, in 2007, when Duke bought his first robot. Since then, robotic demolition has been a game changer for Interstate, bringing the team all over the country and beyond.
Robots to the Rescue
Duke enthusiastically recounts the immense benefits this technology brings to his customers. He says, “A robot can do the work of 20 men. The power source is electric, so you could have a generator running outside or you plug it in to in-house power. There are different sizes ranging from 1,000 pounds all the way up to 12,000 pounds, and it’s remarkably quiet.”
With 15 different attachments available, this next-gen equipment has a multitude of options. Add a breaker—break concrete; add a crusher—crush concrete. Duke explains, “We call it silent demolition. You could do that right in a hospital. You can crush up to a 30-inch-thick wall right next to where they’re performing surgery, and you wouldn’t even know we were there.” He adds, “You could put a bucket on it and you can excavate in a hospital, with no more noise than from a vacuum cleaner. No fumes. No nonsense.”
The team can take the robot into a confined area, making it an extraordinary safety tool. “You can be 200 feet away from that robot,” Duke says, “and let it work by remote control.”
The robotic technology is also a huge value-add to the 45-person company as it affects his operators who can now easily work all the way to retirement age. Duke shares, “We’ve mechanicalized all that hard labor work. Our guys don’t bend over anymore to pick up concrete. They push a button. It sucks down to the concrete and they can lift it up. They’re not using rivet busters and jack hammers, and then dealing with repetitive injuries. I think we’re going now over 12 years without a lost-time injury.” As proof, Interstate Sawing & Demolition’s EMR is 0.73, impressive for the industry.
Delivering Safety and Service
Even with this incredible state-of-the-art robotic demolition equipment, the concrete cutting side of the business is going as strong as ever. The two, in fact, go hand in hand, helping Duke and his team best serve their customers through enhanced safety and productivity, and even lower insurance rates.
Big heavy commercial makes up approximately 96% of the company’s work, with a focus on hospitals, factories, food service, schools and nuclear plants—places where efficiency and safety are absolutely paramount and where fossil fuels cannot be introduced.
Duke notes that one of Interstate’s specialties is taking big machine bases out of tool and die shops. He says, “It could be a 10-foot-thick machine base, full of steel. We could take that out while they have a $10 million CNC machine working 3 feet away. We can do it without disrupting that machine—no dust, no vibration. That’s very advantageous to our customers to be able to keep production going.”
Recent projects include a highly sensitive job in Bridgetown, Barbados, for the prime minister and that country’s army. “We helped bring down an 8-story building surrounded on three sides. The only way to bring the building down was deconstruction, taking it apart the exact opposite way they put it together.” Another recent job was bringing down to the ground a 10-story building in Nashville, Tennessee.
Although the largest company of its kind in Wisconsin, Interstate Sawing & Demolition proudly operates as a family-owned business. Along with Duke and Sandi, three of their children—all in their twenties—are part of the successful venture. The goal is, within the next 10 years, for the kids to take over the business, with Duke planning to “always be around in some form as far as managing or just helping them out.” In the meantime, the West Bend-based company has just opened up a branch in Madison, furthering their local impact and setting the team up for continued success in the near future.