By Michael Groh
Which of the following statements best describes your firm's relationship with your customer base?
1. I depend on my customer to help me achieve my personal and corporate financial goals.
2. My customer depends on me and my firm to help them effectively manage their pavement assets.
If statement #1 characterizes your approach in the pavement maintenance industry there is no reason to continue to read this article. I would suggest that you use your time to explore alternate careers as your current business model is seriously flawed for long-term success.
Agreement with statement #2 indicates that you and your firm are committed to developing and maintaining a long-term relationship with your customer base. One way to develop an interdependent relationship with your clients is to offer them a new approach to managing their pavement needs. Over the last three decades I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of facility and property managers throughout the United States and I continue to be amazed at how often maintaining this important property asset is often overlooked. Pavement maintenance is frequently a low priority that is woefully underfunded.
Here's a common situation I am sure you have encountered: A property manager gets a call regarding a pothole in the third aisle of the south parking lot. She contacts the maintenance personnel to place a barricade over the pothole to keep people from being injured or damaging their car. The barricade becomes a semi-permanent fixture in the south lot until someone has time to place temporary patch material in the hole. So often the approach is to apply a short-term "fix" that does not address the causes of the failure. After all, "it is just a parking lot" seems to be the sentiments of many property owners.
This scenario is certainly oversimplified, but unfortunately maintaining a parking lot in a proactive fashion is more the exception than the rule. When potholes begin to interconnect and the lot starts to look like a strip mining operation, it is often only then that budgets are submitted for repair of the pavement.
There are many reasons why maintaining a parking lot is not a priority. I've found that the primary reason is that managers often are not aware of the true value of their pavement asset. It is not uncommon that the replacement value of a hot mix asphalt parking lot can have a value in excess of $1 million based on a typical cost to install a parking stall with hot mix asphalt at $1,500 - $2,000 per stall.
The value of this asset is such that if the maintenance is overlooked for an extended period of time, the cost to replace it is often prohibitive in financial terms and the amount of "downtime" required to replace the lot is usually substantial. The property manager is then faced with using a "band-aid" approach that only exacerbates the problem. A "band-aided lot" is probably not the best first impression a company wants its customers and employees to have.
A potential solution to this reoccurring problem is to work with your client to develop an inventory of the current conditions and a long-term strategy to manage the pavement. This process is commonly referred to as a Pavement Management Program.
There are numerous interpretations of what elements comprise a Pavement Management Program (PMP). The earlier a PMP is begun, the greater the benefits the owner will experience. The key activities that comprise a PMP are:
- Pavement inventory/assessment
- Plans and specifications
- Tracking of maintenance and rehabilitation activities
In order to properly execute a cost-effective management program for pavements, it is important to have a comprehensive inventory of the facility's pavements. Prior to the fieldwork, the pavement area should be categorized into various sections by type of use, location, or condition. These various sections allow for more detail to be noted and will assist in the budgeting process.