Over the last few issues we've been looking at innovation in the paving and pavement maintenance industry with an eye on what those innovations mean to the contractor. Typically the innovations make work easier, make the contractor more efficient and more productive, and help the contractor do a better job. And all those contribute to bottom line profitability.
It's clear that the industry's manufacturers are responsible for getting these innovations into the equipment - designing, testing, refining, tweaking - and for getting that equipment into the hands of the contractors. Manufacturers deserve a lot of credit for their R&D, which is costly and time-consuming, and that's something that often goes unrecognized. But manufacturers also know they get a lot of assistance in their R&D efforts and they are more than willing to give credit where credit is due. Over the months and from the mouth of one manufacturer after another, the manufacturers credit the contractors. In this issue's "How Asphalt Pavers Have Improved" we quote John Sunkenberg, Volvo product competency manager - paving, but we could have quoted anyone we interviewed because in one way or another they all said what he said:
"It's important to recognize that these innovations were things that came from the customer. These were things they needed. Many changes are often driven by the contractor, that's why it's important that they voice what they want and what they need. You build a good piece of equipment by listening to your customers."
Credit where credit is due, for sure. Contractors are out in the field every day, all day, putting equipment through its paces, demanding that it do what it is built to do, pushing it to do more - and recognizing when it can't and noting the improvements they'd like to have.
It's essential contractors communicate what they learn in the field (and even complain) to the manufacturers. Because while innovation might end with the manufacturers who work to provide what the contractor needs, it surely starts with the contractor who defines what he needs in the field.