Our First Thirty Years - 1985 to 2015

To all of our current and past employees we say thank-you for the dedication, loyalty, excitement, and world class work. To our clients and customers I say it has been an honor to know you and our privilege to work with you on your projects to help us become successful. The future is bright at Olson Engineering, so I take this opportunity to reflect on this, our 30 Year Anniversary, and comment on the 22 years of Olson Instruments which developed out of it.

Starting a specialized consulting company five years after college at age 29 was exciting, and maybe a bit naive, in the field of Nondestructive Testing (NDT) and evaluation of structures, which few had even heard of in 1985.   It has taken my wife, Jan, and I on an adventure to build a business that requires inventing and collaborating with the best minds in an industry as we helped apply, create and develop services and equipment designed to image the infrastructure.   My goal from the beginning was to image structures like dams, buildings, roads, bridges and tunnels etc., to facilitate the identification of anomalies that would affect the integrity of structures that people use every day.  Using technologies similar to those associated with ultrasound, I wanted to create visual representations that would make it possible to better understand and maintain the integrity of structures, or identify necessary repairs to avoid catastrophic events. That remains Olson Engineering’s first and highest goal.

At the start we were conducting sonic echo/impulse response integrity testing of drilled shaft and pile foundations, ultrasonic pulse velocity testing of structural concrete, and crosshole seismic testing. We have always benefitted from the talents of outstanding people through the years and many of our early staff are still working and with us to this day.  To illustrate, Sue Jones (now Instrument Sales Director) and I in the 1980’s and then Dennis Sack (now Sr. VP and Principal Engineer) and Dave Fidelman (now Senior Instrument Designer) were all lugging around an expensive 70 lb dynamic signal analyzer that recorded data on a 3.5 inch floppy disk or a large early portable PC with an A/D card all without batteries in the early 1990’s!  A lack of suitable battery powered, more portable field NDT test equipment prompted us to build our own devices, first for ourselves, and then, in 1993 we opened Olson Instruments from which we sell our equipment to a customer base all over the world.  It wasn’t long with this team and many others including Dr. Yajai Tinkey (now VP and Associate Engineer) that we started to add to those technologies quickly and make instruments that were ruggedized, battery powered and more portable which continues to this day.   We now offer over 30 different consulting NDT and geophysical test methods, and 5 Olson Instruments Platforms which provide 17 NDT and geophysical engineering tests.  Evan Walston, Treasurer/Comptroller in our companies and Production Manager of Olson Instruments has overseen our growing from custom benchtop manufacturing to organized small business manufacturing.  Pat Miller, Sr. Engineer has contributed greatly in developing our new lightweight deflectometer (LWD-1) that grew out of his graduate school research at the Colorado School of Mines.  

In 2011 Jan and I decided to further expand Olson Engineering’s presence to the east coast and we opened our new office in Manassas, Virginia 30 miles from Washington, D.C.  We have had an office in Rutherford, New Jersey since 2006 (now operated by Aaron Homer) which has allowed us to concentrate on the eastern US and the aging infrastructure along the eastern seaboard and eastern US.

In November 2012 we were very glad that Phil Sirles joined our company as the Principle Geophysicist of our new Geophysics Division (now Chief Operations Officer) and shortly thereafter Jacob Sheehan, Sr. Geophysicist also joined our firm.  Under Phil our Geophysics Division has grown quickly as we have continued to add staff (now 5 geophysicists) and equipment to increase capabilities for continued growth in the coming years.   The synergism between NDT and Geophysics has been great for the company and our clients.  In May this year, Alan Rock joined our firm as Chief Programmer and Scientist, and we expect that his strong background in math, physics, technology, artificial intelligence and programming will contribute strongly to further advances in imaging of the subsurface and structures in the near future.

We continually work on the next generation of technology in NDT and Geophysics, in both services and equipment, and our commitment to our vision of imaging is still strongly with us as we push hard into the next thirty years.  Our thirst to explore and provide improvements for our industry is stronger than ever as we look forward to a future that includes The Cloud, fiber-optic sensing, drones, robots, artificial intelligence and other technologies that will be added to our arsenal of tools to image the infrastructure for the safety and well-being of us all.

Again, Thank You, to the employees and clientele who have helped us make Olson Engineering what it is today; 30 years of success and enjoyment.  We are encouraged and excited about all our future together.

 - Larry D. Olson, President