Over the last 25 years contractors and manufacturers in the pavement maintenance industry have seen a need and have responded by bringing something new to help improve their businesses. These six examples have moved the industry forward in either productivity, profitability, ease of the workday - or a combination of all three. This group is not exhaustive by any means, so feel free to visit www.pavementonline.com to let us know what innovations you've seen in the industry and how those innovations have affected your business.
Options, Tank Sizes Enhance Sealcoating Systems
For years most of the sealcoating equipment available to contractors were very basic no-frills, keep-the-cost-down, perfectly acceptable models. But gradually sealcoating equipment manufacturers, driven by needs and demands of contractors, have increasingly offered larger equipment, with more options, at various price points, to suit any contractor.
"This didn't just happen in one day, the industry just kept evolving," says Brent Loutzenhiser, Seal-Rite.
Loutzenhiser was a sealcoating contractor himself, and though he originally looked to the market for equipment he needed, he couldn't find what he wanted. "We thought what we wanted was really basic: a front deck and hose reels, but that wasn't available."
So he built his own, and that spawned Seal-Rite, an equipment manufacturer that today, with the variety of bells and whistle options it offers, can produce more than 60 different sealcoating units from the 200-gal. application units to a 10,000-gal. bulk tank.
Loutzenhiser says that for years manufacturers produced a basic sealcoating unit and because they were selling a lot of what they made, and because there were only a few competitors, contractors bought what was readily available.
"We brought to the market what we thought, as a contractor, the market was missing," he says. "Until our machine was available none of the sealcoating units available could carry a blower, and that was our big claim to fame, just that our units could hold two blowers." He says Seal-Rite also added rubber blades inside the tank to keep the tank clean.
"We still have older contractors who want just the basic unit but we also have contractors who want the 'Cadillac' unit," Loutzenhiser says.
"As contractors have become more focused on professionalism and productivity they want more features. A lot of what we offer is just what we wanted but couldn't find when we were buying equipment. Or it's something other sealcoaters have told us they didn't like or something they wanted," he says.
Among the features Seal-Rite offers are a ramp for loading and unloading equipment, a 5-gal. water jug, three hoses (air, water, material) and a hose reel for each one, and a 5-gal. gravity fed gas tank for compressors and air blowers. One unit, the SR-850 Extreme trailer-mounted system, can carry 10 tools, three blowers, and a Billy Goat Grazor.
And many other equipment manufacturers also offer a top-of-the-line unit with a variety of options for comfort and ease of use.
But Loutzenhiser points out that more equipment options are not the only change contractors have seen in the industry. Bigger tanks, he says, have been a key to contractors' growth, productivity, and profitability. He says that before Seal-Rite introduced its 700-gal. machine in 1997 the sealcoating machine of choice in the industry was a 550-gal. unit.
"The price difference between the 550 and 700 was really negligible so today almost everyone buys the 700," he says - which he says is indicative of what's happened in the market in a relatively brief time.
"There is recognition that bigger tanks mean greater production and greater profitability," he says. "Years ago contractors couldn't finish many jobs with just one load of sealer but now, because of bigger tanks, they can. Bigger tanks have real value."