TEI Rock Drills: Growing the family business one drill at a time

The 43-employee company got its start making big drills for mining, but now most of its sales today go into the civil market

TEI Rock Drills | Montrose | Product: Industrial

President and CEO Sue Frank’s father, Bill Patterson, started the company in 1980 in Littleton and transplanted the fledgling heavy-duty rock drill manufacturer to Montrose in 1988.

Frank says the move was largely tied to lifestyle and access to the outdoors. “Montrose is known as the banana belt of Western Colorado,” she says. “The valley we live in is fairly warm-weather, but you drive an hour and you’re in Telluride.”

The 43-employee company got its start making big drills for mining, but 85 percent of its sales today go into the civil market for road construction, micropile foundations and other applications.

“It’s a more stable market,” Frank says. “There’s always going to be roads that need to be fixed and buildings that need foundations.”

But TEI’s 40 years of success are largely tied to making better and better drills. “We hold seven international patents,” Frank says.

One prime example: TEI’s patented drifter system keeps a drill in check when it hits a soft spot in an otherwise rocky medium.

“My father always said, ‘As soon as you turn the hammer on, it’s trying to destroy itself,’” Frank says. “There’s a lot of energy going through this drill trying to break up rock. If it’s not hitting against a hard surface – we call if back-hammering or dry-firing – then all of that energy has no place to go. You tend to break parts and destroy your drill.”

In response, TEI engineers developed a drill that actually powers down when it hits a soft spot, saving itself in the process.

Frank says the company continues to invest in new technologies with the end goal of making a better product. Another key: vertical integration. “We manufacture everything in-house – we don’t outsource,” she says. “By making everything here, we can be a lot more flexible.”


This article is part of the 2020 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here

Categories: Made in Colorado, Magazine Articles