These are interesting times we operate in today's world. Regardless of the common day to day problems everyone deals with as far as labor issues, transportation, material delivery, utilizing best practices, yield management or overall profitability .... now we have this virus spread to be concerned with. Most of us are not only bothered by the potential health implications, but the potential economic impact of shutting down an entire continent is a huge concern as well.
While most large highway class paving operations have embraced automation, whether due to specification requirements or embracing the power of technology - many of their smaller commercial operations have not yet made the jump to automated grade controls.
Many commercial class operations are old school, meaning they operate the paving machines manually. They are dependent on the screed operators eye (depth perception) to make adjustments of the angle of attack of the screed on the fly in an effort to pave a smooth mat at the required thickness.
I am the last person in the world that questions this standard or the ability of skilled operators, as I have paved this way for many years myself. That being said, the old skilled paving guys are becoming more and more difficult to find. The fact is that much of the new labor force does not have any desire to ride the back of a paving machine, placing 300 degree material on a 100 degree day. Hiring and retaining a skilled paving force is perhaps the biggest potential issue moving forward.
There are so many things happening around a paving machine, it can be tough to keep up with. With smaller crews it can be even more difficult as there are less people to accomplish the tasks at hand. This is where automation can help out immensely.
Automatic grade and slope controls constantly keep an eye on grade, and adjust for proper thickness, elevation or slope. Automatic grade controls never get distracted by the pretty girl walking by, a ringing cell phone or material being spilled in front of the paver. Large spills are recognized by everyone and are usually dealt with prior to the paver crawling over them, it is the small amounts of material that seem to always trickle out between the truck and the machine that cause the biggest mat quality and yield issues.
If undetected, a relatively small spill such as this can wreck havoc on a paving machine being operated manually. As the tracks crawl up on the spill, the tow points are elevated and there is almost always a bump or deficiency in the mat. An operator can struggle to adjust quickly enough to make the correction in a timely fashion. automation would immediately recognize the change and immediately begin making corrections. Imagine if the the spill situation were going on for several yards, or even worse several hundred yards.....the paver riding on undetected material trickling out in front of the tracks can make a huge difference in the overall yield of the project.
Let's face it, it is difficult to hire and retain qualified paving personnel. Training someone that has never had asphalt on their boots is even more difficult today. In the future, if hiring and retaining a quality labor force continues to be an issue, maybe it is indeed time to consider automatic grade and slope controls for your paving operation.
Automation will not replace qualified paving operators, but it will make their life much easier and more profitable in the long run.
For more information on time saving, quality enhancing and profit protection automation systems for your paving operation contact: