Tag Archive for 'safety'

Technology Training on Workflow Helps Address the Need for New Workers

By Jeff Winke

It is a scary world out there for you construction contractors who struggle with tight deadlines, demands for regulatory-governed quality, better productivity, lower costs, more time in a day, and that ominous need for a competent workforce.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released a study of construction firms in the United States.A few key statistics included in their Workforce Shortage Report include:

  • Eight out of 10 construction firms cannot find sufficient qualified employees
  • 19 percent are investing in labor saving equipment and tools that require smarter workers
  • 82 percent believe that it will be more difficult to find qualified workers over the next 12 months

“As the U.S.-based construction workforce becomes increasingly thinly spread,” the AGC report stated, “owners and managers of construction firms will be required to approach the problem of labor shortage creatively, in order to convert these problems into opportunities. A key to overcoming the labor shortage, in the construction industry, is to invest in current employees to increase their skills, knowledge and abilities, as well as to support existing employees with labor-saving tools and equipment.”

Investing in existing employees has definite advantages, when compared to hiring new employees.

  • Current employees know how the company operates and manages its project sites. 
  • Current employees are a known entity. Managers know their strengths and weaknesses and may be better able to manage and lead them than new hires.
  • With new employees, there are start-up administrative costs, drug testing, equipment and safety training, and general acclimation to new managers, co-workers, and procedures. 
  • Current employees pose less risk. Studies have confirmed higher injury rates among workers who have been on the job for less than a year. Consider also that hiring new employees with less experience and then moving them quickly into the field to meet demands may create greater risk.

Clearly, on-going skills and technology training of existing employees can prove to be critical not only for retention but the success of the company.

“The penalty for not keeping current with technology is longer project timelines,” stated Ron Oberlander, Vice President, Global Professional Services, Topcon Positioning Group, Livermore, California. “Successful training focusses on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.”

An Emphasis on Workflow

With the training emphasis on workflow, employees can develop a broader perspective on construction projects and all that goes into the tasks that culminate in their completion. The emphasis on work processes demonstrates a respect for the intelligence of employees and invites them to think in a partner role, which can strengthen their commitment to the job and the company.

“I’ve completed a couple of training programs conducted by Topcon and I am scheduled for another in the next six months,” said John Poirier, Project Manager with Warman Excavating & Trenching Ltd., Waldheim, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It is well worth the time; and the cost is inconsequential compared to what I learn. Unbelievable trainers, seasoned experts with 20 to 30 years of experience, are training me. They know the products, the market, and understand the workflow.”

“Technology changes too frequently,” said Oberlander.”When we host attendees – distributors and end users – at our training sessions we focus on workflows and how the key features of our products and systems improve the productivity and efficiency of end users.”

With the strong job economy today, it is sometimes difficult to find talent to fill open positions.A benefit of training and the power of easy-to-use technology means that contractors can hire less-skilled talent.They can either send them to instructor-led courses or put them through e-learning-based training.Either way, the knowledge and skills gap can be bridged.

Technology Evolution

Since every construction project is unique, and may require different technology and solutions, it is important – actually imperative – that workers at all experience levels engage in training regularly to remain up to date.

“Think about the advances in consumer technology such as the Apple iPhone,” Oberlander said, “The innovations and high-powered processors that upgrade the iPhone annually are being used in construction equipment. Look at the displays and systems inside of a new excavator, dozer, or other heavy equipment which now make them more productive to run and service; and in turn, makes the contractor more efficient and profitable.”

Oberlander went on to describe how GPS machine control has evolved during the past 20 years from little adoption of machine automation to a market where some machine manufacturers are integrating machine control technology direct from the technology-provider’s factory floor into their machines or even wiring heavy equipment so that they are capable of later adding aftermarket systems.Some government agencies are even specifying that contractors working on their projects must employ GPS machine control on their equipment.

An Investment in Training

Topcon Positioning Systems’ current project is an example of the interest and commitment to training occurring in the construction industry. The company is investing by building state-of-the-art training facilities in the United States, Italy, and Japan. 

The new 6-acre training facility in the U.S. is being constructed at the Topcon campus in Livermore, California, and will cover training for construction, geo positioning, and paving. Vertical construction and layout training will include a half-built building for real-world demonstrations. Two state-of-the-art classrooms will be included. The training facilities in Italy and Japan are being built to the same parameters.

“Since we focus heavily on workflow training, our training will mimic live applications that take place at a typical construction site,” Oberlander said. “The main difference is we can focus on the application and training without distractions of a contractor’s live jobsite. We always offer on-location training at the contractor’s jobsite or home office, but we believe that it is important to establish a baseline of education with a contained workflow at our training center.We also offer the students a tour of our manufacturing facility so they can see how the products they use are made.”

Construction contractors struggle with the need to keep up to date on the latest technology and trends that make their projects more efficient, while attracting and keeping a full workforce in a tight labor market. The answers may be found in training both existing employees and new inexperienced workers on labor-saving technologies with a focus on the work process which yields greater efficiencies and better results.

What do you tell others considering training? Poirier said: “Go for it. There is 100 percent benefit to training; otherwise you’re looking at your technology being the world’s most expensive paperweight. Training gave me knowledge and confidence to feel comfortable with the technology. I recently set up a new excavator using a system I had mounted on a different machine. It works great and would have cost me $42,000 to have someone come in and set up and initialize the GPS system on the excavator – all work I did myself.”

Clearly training can benefit contractors. It can add knowledge, skills, and the confidence to succeed.

ARTBA’s 2020 Transportation Construction Market Forecast Coming December 4

60-Minute Webinar for Transportation Construction Professionals, Public Officials & Analysts

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black will detail the association’s five-year transportation construction market outlook in her annual forecast, 3 p.m. Eastern, Dec. 4.

Topics to be covered as part of the webinar include:

  • National market forecast and which states are driving the activity;
  • Highway, bridge, airport runway, transit, freight, rail, and ports/waterway forecasts; and
  • The impacts of hundreds of recently approved state and local transportation funding initiatives.

ARTBA Senior Vice President of Congressional Relations Dean Franks will also provide an update on efforts to permanently fix the Highway Trust Fund, pass a long-term infrastructure plan and the reauthorization of the FAST Act.

The webinar is for transportation design and construction professionals, public agency officials, analysts and investors.

The registration fee is $350 for the private sector and $175 for public agency officials.  Paid participants will receive a copy of the complete U.S. Transportation Construction Market Forecast report (a $200 value); a PowerPoint presentation and “Q & A” session; and access to an online, interactive summary of the forecast results.

Register here.

Established in 1902, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, courts, news media and the general public. 

60-Minute Webinar for Transportation Construction Professionals, Public Officials & Analysts

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black will detail the association’s five-year transportation construction market outlook in her annual forecast, 3 p.m. Eastern, Dec. 4.

Topics to be covered as part of the webinar include:

  • National market forecast and which states are driving the activity;
  • Highway, bridge, airport runway, transit, freight, rail, and ports/waterway forecasts; and
  • The impacts of hundreds of recently approved state and local transportation funding initiatives.

ARTBA Senior Vice President of Congressional Relations Dean Franks will also provide an update on efforts to permanently fix the Highway Trust Fund, pass a long-term infrastructure plan and the reauthorization of the FAST Act.

The webinar is for transportation design and construction professionals, public agency officials, analysts and investors.

The registration fee is $350 for the private sector and $175 for public agency officials.  Paid participants will receive a copy of the complete U.S. Transportation Construction Market Forecast report (a $200 value); a PowerPoint presentation and “Q & A” session; and access to an online, interactive summary of the forecast results.

Register here.

Established in 1902, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, courts, news media and the general public.

The Case for Training

Achieving improved productivity and worker accountability 

By Jeff Winke

Building landfills have become more complex and technologically sophisticated. Gone are the days when a smart owner could manage a site by pushing dirt over collected refuse. Back then, measurements were close approximations and quality was achieved through the skills and experience of the heavy-equipment operator.

Today, contractors and project owners expect more. Speed, exacting accuracy, productivity, and quality long-life results are the expectation. Construction machines are more technologically advanced and sophisticated software creates project plans, manages the work, and documents the results. 

“Amidst the expensive, often difficult to learn, advanced technology is a simple, effective tool for building and maintaining landfills,” said John Miller, owner of JCM Excavating, Allendale, Michigan, and inventor of the JohnnyBall® 3D level and slope measuring system. “The JohnnyBall is mounted inside the operator’s compartment and is designed to allow operators to quickly check if their machine is at true level to then ascertain slope and grade. The mechanical device requires no electronics, batteries, or satellites. It uses a compass-like design where the inner ball has industry-standard level and slope indications printed on it and the outer ball carries a stationary dot to indicate the true attitude of the machine, providing a 3D level and slope perspective at a glance.”

Miller believes the JohnnyBall provides the accountability that can help both the experienced operator perform better and the new machine operator get over the initial “new-kid learning hump” to gain comfortable proficiency and high production. 

“Training is crucial for our success as a landfill, since many of our employees come from varying types of backgrounds,” stated Jason Turville, operations supervisor at Trans-Jordan Cities Landfill, South Jordan, Utah. “Our construction process is very specific and so most of our new-hires have to be taught from scratch.” 

Most Trans-Jordan machine operators are hired from outside the industry and have had no landfill experience. Generally, the new employee is mature, between 30- to 50-years old and will have real-world equipment experience from various construction-type companies. Experience can vary from well-seasoned to some with experience on only one machine type. 

            Training is a constant at Trans-Jordan, since there are many aspects to learn about processing municipal solid waste (MSW). Because some challenges do not happen that often, the company management uses the atypical as a chance to show the less experienced how to handle it. 

            For basic training, Trans-Jordan uses some instructional materials produced by the equipment manufacturers, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), as well as the Utah Safety Counsel. They conduct classroom training and a lot of hands-on training. Each division of job type has a trainer associated with that skill, which are typically the supervisors who themselves are experienced experts in all aspects of the landfill. 

            When asked why training is important, Turville responded: “Training is needed to ensure all our employees are on the same page and doing things consistently the same way. Processing 1,500 tons a day of MSW takes teamwork and coordination. In order to keep it safe and productive, training is the key ingredient. Training is also needed to ensure that new employees are doing the job as we expect of them rather than some other way they did somewhere else. For example, we compact the trash in a very specific way in order to get the best possible compaction. This process has taken much refinement through the years and is crucial to our success.”

            Key to Trans-Jordan’s technical skills field training is the JohnnyBall 3D level and slope measuring system. Why is JohnnyBall so important?

            “We purchased our first JohnnyBall merely to help aid the operators achieve true machine level, but then we quickly realized how it can help new operators who don’t quite understand or know what different slope angles look and feel like,” Turville said. “On a daily basis, we expect our working face to be a 4:1, with side slopes of 3:1. The JohnnyBall has been instrumental in teaching this technical requirement that we expect of all our operators. A 4:1 working face is ideal for the best compaction, based on how we run our operation and the JohnnyBall holds them accountable by showing consistent, accurate feedback.”

            Turville cited one employee who especially benefited from JohnnyBall training: “We had one guy who was maintaining the tipping face of the active landfill too steep and it was making the job really hard on him. Once we got him comfortable with the JohnnyBall and he realized the correct slope, he was able to use it to learn the correct steepness for the best compaction. He was clearly happier, and more productive using JohnnyBall in his daily production!”

            Before Trans-Jordan had begun using JohnnyBall for training and its daily heavy production, employee field training was “painful,” according to Turville. It was not only very time consuming, but required a second individual watching the employee while they were learning, to give constant feedback on the operator’s performance.

            “We expect our operators to be comfortable and proficient with all of our equipment,” Turville said. “With a new operator, we start them with running the compactor because that is a core machine to our business. Compactors are ‘the money maker,’ and must be the piece of heavy equipment that can be operated by everyone.” 

            After compactor training, Trans-Jordan will slowly integrate the newbies into the other machines, which are also equipped with JohnnyBall 3D level and slope measuring systems. Their philosophy is that everyone should have good skills on all equipment, so they can be rotated through that equipment, keeping them interested and fresh, plus ensuring that they always have skilled operators available to get any job done correctly.

            In the end, the question becomes does proper training result in improved company productivity and the other question, how does training affect the worker who is trained? “For our operation, the best MSW compaction is achieved with 4:1 working face and a 3:1 side slope, using our two Cat 836K Landfill Compactors working together,” stated Turville. “We achieve maximum productivity by using our prescribed working order and method ensures that we do get the best compaction. And the JohnnyBall provides the accountability.

Johnny Ball

JohnnyBall® is a 3D level and slope measuring system that is designed to do just that. The device is designed to offer a distinct advantage over non-3D slope meters, which require more than one meter to cover all slope variations and grades.

“When your machine is level, your work is more accurate and efficient,” said John Miller, owner of JCM Excavating, Allendale, Michigan, a 30-plus-years experienced heavy-equipment operator and inventor of the JohnnyBall system. “There is a true sense of what the machine is doing. This direct relationship between operator and machine is what I created the JohnnyBall to provide at a glance.”

The JohnnyBall is mounted inside the operator’s compartment and is designed to allow operators to quickly check whether their machine is level. The mechanical device requires no electronics, batteries, or satellites. It uses a compass-like design where the inner ball has industry-standard level and slope indications printed on it and the outer ball carries a stationary dot to indicate the true attitude of the machine, providing a 3D level and slope perspective at a glance.

“I can’t believe how accurate JohnnyBall is and that I don’t need to continually jump out of the cab to pound stakes,” said independent machine operator Chuck Cornell who is based in Lowell, Mich. “I recently used it on a Cat D6N-LGP crawler dozer on the build of retention ponds in a new subdivision and it saved me time and was spot-on accurate!”

Even for those using GPS machine control, Miller believes the JohnnyBall can provide a compelling, low-cost complement—especially when working near tree lines or buildings that can interfere with satellite signal reception. He also said, “if you think about it, heavy-equipment production is not always GPS connected, so there likely are times when having slope and level confirmation can come in handy.”

Miller believes the JohnnyBall can help both the experienced operator perform better and the new machine operator get over the initial “new-kid learning hump” to gain comfortable proficiency.

According to the manufacturer, a benefit of JohnnyBall is its portability. It features a base cup which is mounted in the machine cab. Thus, operators can take JohnnyBall from one job site to the next, or from machine to machine. It is designed to work in dozers, graders, excavators, skid steer loaders, and other heavy equipment— any brand, model, or size machine. 

“Because JohnnyBall can handle extreme conditions, and doesn’t rely on GPS or electricity, it’s never down,” said Miller. “To ensure the highest quality, we went through three phases of prototyping and rigorous lab testing for durability and testing temperature extremes. In 2014, extensive field-testing was conducted at multiple job sites with machine operators from Team Elmer’s, Traverse City, Mich., a successful 60-year-old excavating firm. We want to use and sell only the best product possible.

“The results were clear: JohnnyBall saved time, reduced the need for manpower, and increased efficiency. On multiple job sites, including highway ditch and slope work, Team Elmer’s operators reported saving up to 2-5 hours a day, eliminated grade rod staff on the projects, and needed to set fewer stakes.”

JohnnyBall is manufactured and assembled in the U.S. and is available through U.S. and international distributors. Made and assembled in the U.S., the system comes in a protective transport case with two base cups. Additional cups are available for purchase.

DEWALT Enhances Three Original 60V MAX* FLEXVOLT® Tools

DEWALT’s most powerful line just got better with Circular Saw, Grinder, and Reciprocating Saw upgrades

At the 2019 Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA®) tradeshow, DEWALT announces upgrades to three products that were part of the original DEWALT FLEXVOLT® System, debuted in 2016. The new 60V MAX* FLEXVOLT® 7-1/4 IN. Circular Saw (DCS578)60V MAX* FLEXVOLT® 4-1/2 – 6 IN. Grinder (DCG418), and 60V MAX* FLEXVOLT® Reciprocating Saw (DCS389) each offer increased power versus their predecessors.

The upgrades to these three tools mean that the Circular Saw (DCS578) is up to 47% more powerful than its predecessor**, the DCS575. The Grinder (DCG418) is up to 30% more powerful than its predecessor, the DCG414**. And the Reciprocating Saw (DCS389) is up to 19% more powerful than its predecessor, the DCS388**. Each of these tools achieves this increase in performance via new motors, new software, and new controls. In addition, each of these tools will be available as a kit with a 9.0Ah*** battery. The original FLEXVOLT tools were kitted with a 6.0Ah** battery.

When 60V MAX* tools and the FLEXVOLT Battery System debuted in 2016, they revolutionized power tools, featuring the world’s first batteries that automatically changed voltage when the user changes tools. Still today, with 20 tools now in this premium line, the 60V MAX* System continues to provide tools that offer the power of corded with the freedom of cordless. Upgrades to these three tools continue the legacy of efficiency in heavy applications, with added power and long runtime. In other words, three of “our most powerful tools just got better”.

Available where DEWALT products are sold in spring 2020, the three new tools will retail bare tool (without a battery), and P kitted with one 9.0Ah** battery. More information on FLEXVOLT and all other DEWALT products can be found at DEWALT.com.

With respect to 60V MAX* – Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 60 volts. Nominal voltage is 54.

With respect to 20V MAX* – Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 20 volts. Nominal voltage is 18.

**When using the DCB609 battery vs. using when using the DCB606 battery.

***Amp hours are measured in 20V MAX* mode.

STAFDA is a registered trademark of Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors Association, which has not endorsed or approved these products.

About DEWALT

DEWALT is obsessed with how users work in the real world and is relentlessly pursuing total jobsite solutions. By incorporating its latest technology and industry innovations, DEWALT is leading the charge for the jobsite of the future. DEWALT products. GUARANTEED TOUGH®. For more information, visit www.dewalt.com