Caterpillar offers tips to maximize bonus pay on paving jobs
Few things are more frustrating to a paving contractor than leaving money on the table by not maximizing bonus pay.
Of course the challenge is how, exactly, does the contractor improve to a level where bonus pay is maximized? Dawson Construction Ltd., in Kamloops, British Columbia, faced just such a situation.
The firm received 80 percent bonus pay on virtually every job. “We were successful, with good work,” said Gord Procknow, general manager of the firm. “It’s not that we weren’t proud of what we were doing. But there is money between 80 percent ride bonus pay, and 100 percent. If you’re out there, and doing the work, you want to maximize that pay.”
Dawson set its eyes on that 100 percent target. They approached the next project – the paving of Highway 97 near Cash Creek, B.C. – with two simple goals that, if met, would improve bonus pay:
1. Don’t stop doing the right things.
2. Find new “right things” to do.
Continuing past successes
As Procknow stated, the firm certainly had been successful. That meant modification was in order, but not a complete overhaul. Among the past practices that continued:
Use of a pickup machine. “A pickup machine is a must here,” said Sam McGhee, equipment manager at Dawson. “The windrow elevator we use ensures a better mixed product is going to the paver.”
The Weiler E650A’s mixing ability helped prevent segregation and also kept the paver hopper at a consistent level. “It keeps the weight consistent, which helps with smoothness,” McGhee said. “There is no surge when the hopper is being filled.”
Timing. Dawson, like all quality paving contractors, is all about steady movement. “Consistency is everything,” McGhee said. Haul trucks are timed to keep the paving train moving at a consistent pace. The windrow elevator also helps keep operations steady. Compactors, and their ability to keep pace with the rest of the paving train, also are factored into the paver’s pace.
No-contact skis. Dawson uses the skis on both sides of the paver, to make readings that much more accurate.
Three drops. Asphalt is placed in haul trucks in three drops. “It’s a simple step, and it’s an obvious step,” Procknow said. Still, it doesn’t always get done.
One big change
Dawson still had some ground to gain to earn more bonus pay. The contractor’s efforts on that front mostly consisted of a somewhat risky move. “We bought a new paver and put it to work immediately,” Procknow said. “We hadn’t trained on it. We bought the paver, it arrived, and we put it to work.”
And the Cat AP1055D did the job. “That paver made the difference on this job,” Procknow said.
What would Procknow and McGhee suggest to those considering such a significant switch before a crucial job?
Purchase an operator friendly machine. “There was no learning curve,” McGhee said. “The operator just jumped on and started to pave. That was it.” A machine that’s easy to operate is a key element in placing a smooth mat.
Help the operator. The operator station on the new paver swings out beyond the machine, enhancing sight lines and keeping the paving train in line. “For the operator, the ability for his station to swing out so he can follow a proper line really helped,” McGhee said. “He has good sight lines, and it’s an easy machine to steer.”
Leverage the technology. An operator display should enable the operator to focus on placing a proper mat. It also should relay a wide array of information regarding system performance and potential trouble spots. Some of the newer operator displays on the market provide information and tools such as paving techniques, a startup checklist – and even a job-planning tool.
Realize you’re buying customer support and training, too. “With previous pavers from a different manufacturer, we just didn’t have the support,” McGhee said. “On a job like this, with bonus and timing demands, we couldn’t afford downtime.” Parts availability was a key issue that was investigated before the purchase. In fact, Dawson’s entire fleet – from the pickup machine through the final roller – is marketed through a single dealer because of its product support capabilities.
Don’t forget the price. Contractors might be surprised at the low cost of a machine upgrade. “We never would have guessed we could buy a machine for this price,” Procknow said. “It was a situation where we could improve the performance and productivity of our fleet and help us earn more bonus – at a reasonable price.”
So what were the results? “Right away, from the very first minute using that new paver, we were at 90 percent pay on the bonus ride, and 90 percent on segregation,” McGhee said.
Procknow sees more success ahead. “As we gain experience, we’ll continue looking for improvements that will help us hit the 100 percent target,” he said.