Viewing equipment upgrades as a competitive advantage is not limited to the equipment used by paving crews in the field. K-Five upgrades and maintains its five Chicago-area asphalt production facilities (Lemont, Chicago, Naperville, Markham and Elmhurst) to ensure quality mixes are produced in the most cost-effective way possible. Devitto says 80 percent of the mix quality and productivity for the company is a direct result of the ongoing plant improvements K-Five makes at its production facilities. With K-Five's five plants producing 1.5 million tons of HMA annually, producing a quality mix efficiently is very important. Sixty percent of the company's production is used on its own projects, and with 40 percent of those projects government jobs, quality and price are critical.
The company recently implemented an equipment management plan that replaces equipment on regular intervals. The intent is to maximize a piece of equipment's productivity then replace it before it requires a lot of repair work to keep it in production. Productivity is critical to this company's success and new equipment helps the company be more productive.
K-Five has leveraged improvements in paving equipment to further advance its competitive edge in the market. As with improvements and upgrades of production facilities to achieve a cost-effective quality mix, similar upgrades to field equipment over the years have also maximized the efforts of the company's skilled workforce. Equipping pavers with adjustable screeds, for example, provided paving crews with the versatility to pave various widths and improve the quality of the project during laydown.
K-Five equips four to five paving crews, and as many as seven crews during peak season, with the latest equipment available. The company has five Caterpillar AP-1055B rubber track pavers, one Cat AP-1000 rubber track paver, an eight-foot Cat AP-650 steel track paver for shoulder work and parking lots, two Ingersoll-Rand DD-130HF compactors, three IR DD-110HF compactors, five IR DD-90 compactors, and a Topcon automated screed control system just to mention a few of the machines used to produce quality asphalt placements.
"As a low bidder, we compete for every dollar we get," Devitto says. "So having the right equipment to maximize our profitability on those projects is what it's all about in this business. To give you another example, we used to think milling 2,500 yards a day off of a project was pretty good. Now, we have equipment that can mill 10,000 yards a day off that project.
"You're competing with other contractors who pay roughly the same for materials, production, labor rates and equipment," he adds. "The key for us is to constantly look at ways (particularly at the type of equipment available) to be more productive than our competitors. You need to invest in equipment that will improve your productivity and quality levels and allow you to compete more effectively."
K-Five recently completed a parking lot reconstruction for the City of Chicago's Midway Airport; and like many of the other government agency jobs which represents 40 percent of the contractor's paving projects, K-Five used its expertise to provide a cost-effective solution to the stringent guidelines outlined in the contract.
After placing a 10-inch aggregate frost protection base for the new parking lot, paving crews applied a 6-inch HMA base course, followed by a 1.5-inch binder course and a 1.5-inch surface course. The City's "green initiative" required reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) to be used in all three lifts of the project. The base course called for 33.4 percent RAP and a PG 58-22 asphalt cement binder. Because of the AC content in the RAP, the company's Lemont plant operators only had to add 2.9 percent AC to the mix to achieve the required 4.5 percent AC content. The lift was placed with a Cat AP-1055B rubber track paver and compacted to the required 93 percent density using two Ingersoll-Rand DD-90HF vibratory rollers.
On the binder and surface course mats, K-Five was allowed to place mix designs containing 20 and 15 percent RAP respectively, using a PG 64-22 AC binder. Compaction density for both lifts was 97 percent.
The $1.1-million project required 15,746 tons of base mix, 4,000 tons of binder mix and 4,000 tons of surface mix. All mixes were produced at approximately 315 to 320 degrees F to maintain a working temperature during the approximate 40-minute transport from the Lemont plant to Midway. Temperature at the screed was constantly monitored and recorded at 285 to 290 degrees.
And even with all the obstacles (light poles, manholes and landscape islands) the paving crew had to contend with on the project, K-Five still managed to place 1,500 tons of HMA a day by matching the right technology with the skill of laborers and equipment operators working on the project.