With a focus on versatility and a goal of perfection, there wasn't much to prevent Sikes Asphalt Group from successfully completing a monster sealcoating and pavement repair job for Union Pacific Railroad last summer.
And nothing did. In 14 days, working 12-hour shifts around the clock, Jake Sikes and his six-person crew cleaned and cracksealed 2.7 million sq. ft. of parking lot pavement, performed 23,000 sq. ft. of remove-and-replace repairs, placed a fabric and overlay on 110,000 sq. ft., and then sealcoated the whole job. Twice.
"It was actually really hard but a really fun job," Sikes says. "And Union Pacific was blown away by how fast we finished and by how fast we worked day and night."
The Sikes Asphalt Group's ability to undertake and complete a job like this is rooted in Jake Sikes' approach to business: build relationships, run a versatile operation, and perform quality work.
"Since we're a smaller operation we probably have a better handle on everything that goes on and everything that we can do," Sikes says. "Everyone wears several hats and is trained on several jobs. We give people the opportunity to get on a machine here and there so we don't have just one guy who runs the sealcoating machine. A few people can do it, so if someone doesn't show up we can put someone else on that part of the job and we don't get slowed down."
Planning and preparation
Sikes decided the best way to tackle the Union Pacific job was to hit it hard for 14 consecutive days and nights, running 24 hours a day with two 12-hour shifts. "We continually worked as a unit as opposed to having guys spread out over the property doing different things," he says. "I find that the more you keep everybody together the more productive you are. When you have two guys over here and two guys over there nothing ever gets done."
Communication was facilitated with Motorola radios that hooked to the belt and had an earpiece. "We outfitted the whole crew with them, and it turned out to be a huge advantage on a job this big," Sikes says. "The more I work on this large a scale the more I wish I had communication just like a SWAT team does."
Sikes says that even though the company employs only seven people to handle all the work, the versatility of employees and the right mix and flexibility of equipment enable his crews to handle big jobs confidently. He says his goal on all jobs is to try to have the entire company and crew operate as if it's a team. "We're all in this together," he says. "No one is special and that includes me."
Sikes says that his crew worked long hours but was compensated for their extra effort. In addition to an hourly rate ranging from $18 to $24, the crew piled up a huge amount of overtime, plus he paid them a flat bonus. "All the guys are used to a rigorous schedule because we only have a small window to make this business work - four or five months max, so they know how to work hard and work efficiently."
Among other early decisions that proved crucial:
- Having SealMaster of Vajello, CA, drop a 4,300-gal. bulk tank with pre-mixed sealer saved time on the jobsite. Overall the supplier delivered 90,000 gal. of AM acrylic-modified sealer daily, sometimes twice a day. ("Had I used just bulk material I'd have been sitting around watching the agitator turn.")
- Having Wine Country On-Site Fleet Maintenance at the jobsite to service the equipment in case something broke, but more importantly to keep the equipment running smoothly and efficiently by constantly changing out the squeegee, spray tips, and interchanged spray systems
- Notbuying a second sealcoating buggy (which created some problems that resulted in an even better solution)
- Subcontracting the striping of 125 truck bays and 4,500 stalls to Sierra Striping, Sacramento, which freed Sikes up to focus on repair and sealcoating