Times are tough, no doubt about it. From coast to coast contractors are finding ways to survive this toughest of economies in decades – and unfortunately some aren’t surviving. Jobs (especially big jobs) are few, margins are tight, and contractors are working hard to do more with less, from equipment and tools to employees.
So productivity has to be maintained – or even improved. And while you can improve some skills of some workers the best way to improve productivity is to make sure your equipment is operating at peak performance levels and to take advantage of new-and-improved equipment available in the marketplace.
And there’s plenty of that out there. Asphalt pavers are a great example. Manufacturers have designed and constructed pavers so they last a long time with proper maintenance – so there are a lot of old units in the field. But new machines offer a host of improvements, from electronics and hydraulics to material handling – all of which contribute to higher quality work, greater productivity, or both. And don’t ignore important ergonomic developments made in recent years. These operator-comfort improvements are often dismissed as unnecessary or cosmetic but they’re not. Operators spend hours each day in the equipment and anything an owner can do to reduce operator fatigue will improve productivity – and in the long run job quality. So seats, location of controls, types of controls, sight lines, and other upgrades found on new equipment can help your existing crew produce more over a long day and season.
And this doesn’t apply only to pavers. Sweepers, sealcoating equipment, cracksealing units, and striping machines all have seen improvements in recent years – manufacturers aren’t sitting still despite lackluster sales – so any contractor trying to get the job done with equipment operating less then optimally can benefit from what’s on the market. And it’s not just equipment, either. Tools have undergone their own improvements, and while they might not be as pronounced as improvements in equipment there’s nothing that helps a laborer get the job done better than a clean lute, rake, shovel, or squeegee.
So as you prepare to tackle the economy of 2012 – and whatever it brings – examine your fleet and your tools of the trade. This Annual Showcase Issue is a great place to start.