Take Communication one step further.

Manufacturers, contractors must talk about training.

Hot mix asphalt road equipment manufacturers have taken the customer into the design phase of equipment construction, with positive results. Listening to their customers, industry manufacturers have designed their models to be more efficient. Wouldn't it be nice if the industry took this working relationship between manufacturer and customer one step further and tackled equipment operations?

Say a contractor buys the latest compactor model, and, when it arrives, hands the keys over to their top roller operator. And because they've been on the job for 25 years, running this machine should be a piece of cake for the operator, right? Wrong. They may have operated a roller for 25 years, but they've never operated this roller.

In order to run this unit most efficiently, this operator must be walked through all the new upgrades they'll encounter as they use the machine For instance, manufacturers have ingeniously installed vibe tachs on rollers, and now operators can chart vibrations per minute as they work. But to operate these units efficiently, it would help if someone walked the operators through the concept of impactment spaces, which must now be taken into account with the new equipment. The operators should have 10 spaces per foot (0.33 meter). If they do not, the mat could be rippled and bumpy.

Another example: The correct way to install auger extensions, auger tunnels and screed extensions on pavers constantly baffles contractors. It is assumed the crew knows how to operate these mechanisms because in the past they've operated pavers on which these units have been installed. But these auger extensions, tunnels and screed extensions are not the same units the crew has used in the past. And when not properly installed, they can effect the smoothness of the mat.

The relationship between customer and manufacturer shouldn't stop at the equipment purchase. Contractors have demanded product quality, and manufacturers have responded in short order. Now it is time to take the working relationship one step further. It's time for manufacturers to pass along product knowledge.

Many manufacturers of rollers and pavers recognize the importance of this working relationship, and have made strides in gaining information on how their customers use their equipment. They know that with this kind of information, they can best serve their customers by refining already stellar features to make the equipment more standardized, user -friendly, and cost-efficient. Customers who have not been approached by manufacturers should take the lead and offer their own input.

Manufacturers want and need to know under what extremes the product is used: what types of mixes are run through and under these machines, and in what weather conditions the units are used. Contractors, in turn, must know how to properly operate the equipment, whether it is maintenance free, whether it comes with an owner's manual, and whether it is easy to transport to the job site.

Contractors have already made it clear that ease of operation, factory support, dealer support, and parts availability are important to this working relationship. To take this working relationship one step further, though, manufacturers must stick around after the sale. Once the sale is made, the manufacturer's sales rep and a mechanic should spend a good deal of time at the customer's facility. They should not only get to know how the contractor will use the product, but also introduce the operator to the new equipment features which hopefully will make his work life easier.

Manufacturer-provided training both before and after the purchase, as well as follow-up to that training, are key to the operator's easier work life. Before the purchase, operators should have about a week of training at the factory to go through the fundamentals of equipment operation. After the purchase, manufacturer's reps should work with the operator in the field to properly run the machine.

Technology, computers, and the state of the art, are all screaming into the 21st century. We cannot be content to continue relying on practices that worked even as recently as five years ago. In order to stay abreast, it will take teamwork between manufacturers and contractors to ensure the equipment performs to its full potential.


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