Signet Pavement Supply
Premium Pavement Maintenance Products for the Elite Contractor

Jan
16

blog lute

Speed, efficiency, and tight margins are contributing to the death of the skilled paving craftsman.

There is a growing consumer trend in paving that favors the fly-by-night paving company. As our economy continues to worsen, it seems that the consumer is focusing less on the quality of work and more on the overall price of the work to be performed.

For paving work in the Chicago market, the shift started more than ten years ago. On the consumer side, a person shopping for paving services wasn’t overly concerned with small birdbaths, roller lines, and razor-straight edges. Years ago, quality of work was the first focus, and many customers wanted to see examples of your work before signing with you. With quality being the first focus, there used to be a higher standard to which pavers were held. There was also a higher probability of a customer signing with you, even though your price may have been higher than the next bid. Today, bids are all about the overall price and not so much concerned with comparing apples to apples.

On the contractor’s end, to offset the quality shift, contractors have had to “streamline” their paving operations. Speed and efficiency have replaced the days of leaving a roller man and tamp man behind to ensure perfection on the job. Leaving two men behind on the job to spend an additional half hour to re-roll the paved area and tamp the corners and edges one more time is not feasible. In a directly competitive market and in this economic downturn, margins are tighter, and a contractor has to be highly efficient in order to survive.

Surviving this trend as a contractor is a careful balance. Trying to balance speed and remaining committed to quality is a tough task. Having the right paving crew is crucial. A great paving crew is like a well-oiled machine. They work like a clock and can have the speed turned up on them with minimal conflict. The paver operator can pick up one pull, confidently sit down for the next, and start paving, all the while knowing the crew is working feverishly around him.

Another important aspect of survival centers around the person who “sells” the job. The best paving salespeople have been pavers themselves. With the right people skills and paving experience, the salesperson can properly sell “quality” against the shift. Getting the customer to understand they are paying for your company’s commitment to quality is not an easy task.

The balance of speed and quality must be ingrained throughout the company from owner, to salespeople, to the crew that will be performing the work. We can only hope that when the economy improves, the trend will include the survival of the skilled paving craftsman.

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May
26

In the mad dash of our sealcoating season, sometimes it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. Between managing employees, scheduling, and especially this Spring, the weather, it can be difficult to keep it all together.
It seems as if this Spring that Mother Nature has not been very kind to the Pavement Sector in most areas of the country. Contractors everywhere are at the mercy of this Spring’s unusually wet and cooler conditions and work continues to back up.
The stress that this has placed on our contractors continues to mount, and often times this can contribute to certain items being left off the truck when they leave the yard.

The first item has really peaked as of late. Our local State Trooper’s are cracking down on contractors not carrying MSDS sheets in their vehicles in our area. They are pulling vehicles over and going through ALL the proper procedures and demanding to see the MSDS sheets on the materials that they are hauling. MSDS sheets are available through your supplier and can be easily stored in a binder under the seat for easy reference. Having them on board can eliminate many headaches for all parties involved.

The second item that, if left at the yard, can make a long day would be the portable navigation system. First there was mapbooks, then mapquest, and now it’s amazing to think we used to send out crews without these.

The third item left out are more of the company’s business cards. As the crew is out in the field, the quickest way to generate more business is to have an abundance of extra business cards readily available. As the crew is approached by “walk-ins”, your cards should be ready to hand out quickly when requested. These should be accessible from either side of the truck and never be left at the home base.

The fourth item is a touchy subject, but also very important and ties into the third item. For contractors who have crew leaders or foreman who they allow to bid additional work out in the field, often times, extra estimate forms are left out of the truck. If your company allows it, extra estimate forms can lead to additional jobs adjacent to where your currently working, and sometimes a written estimate might be necessary to “seal the deal”. These are never a detriment to have around.

The fifth items pertain to the local State Trooper’s desires, and that would be a fire extinguisher and  flare kit. Again, these are complaints we have heard directly from our contractors, and if on board, can possibly eliminate additional “attention” from the local authorities.

The sixth item would be a “disaster kit”,or, a sealer splash kit., for when you or your helper accidentally gets a little sealer on an “undesirable area” ie. garage doors, siding, adjacent concrete, or brick. It’s always a good idea to have a bucket made up of a small spray bottle of water, towels or rags, and some form of cleaning solution, and a small brush on the truck readily available. Many headaches can be eliminated by having this ready to go. When sealer goes where it shouldn’t, you have to act FAST.

The seventh item would be jumper cables. Just because, out in the field, anything can happen.
The eighth item would be a first aid kit. Like I said before, in the field, anything can happen and you want to be prepared. OHSA will love you, not to mention your insurance company, in the event of a safety audit.

The ninth item a bucket filled with cold patch including lid. Always have this on the truck, many times a customer will request a small hole to fill or blemish that can be touched up with a little cold patch and a tamper. The bucket will stay good and can be refilled as necessary, one bucket can either be a convienence item or revenue generating for the crew and goes a long way.

The tenth item, which we put a lot of stock into, would be yard signs. Yard signs are important because they allow you to brand your name into passers-by for more time after your string or barricades come down. We always received a TON of feedback from the yard signs we would leave on the job. The best situation would be when we’d leave leave them up and tell the property owner we’d be back by in a few days. After 24 hours, the string would come down and our signs would remain, sometimes, up to a  week. Much business came from these for us, and if you don’t have them, get them. There are many places online that print these cheap on corrugated plastic material so when they disappear, you’re not out of too much money. After getting a  few jobs from one sign, and the rest of the signs are paid for. We would never leave the yard without them.

We wish all pavement maintenance contractors a warmer and drier forecast as we shift into the summer work season. Please visit our webstore opening in June @ http://www.signetpavementsupply.com for the best deals on Paving, Sealcoating, and Striping tools and equipment on the web.

Apr
18

There are many ways to reach your customers, both new and repeat. Direct mailings, flyers, postcards, and door hangers are a few of the most commonly used. All of these methods can be very effective when properly designed, and even more importantly, properly timed.
In the Northern climates where the paving, sealcoating, and striping seasons come to a crashing halt in the fall, timing is everything. Timing the release of your mailings or distribution of your flyers and door hangers is a strategic challenge. There are different challenges that are independently presented to the residential and commercial markets. There are a few key things to keep in mind when to send out mailings or to start distributing your materials.
As we move into spring in the Northern climates, you never know when you might get that last reminder of winter. Typically, in the Midwest, we always receive the unpleasant surprise of snow in April. When it’s snowing outside, not many property owners or managers are thinking about pavement maintenance. If you release your materials too early, you might catch property managers still operating under their snow budgets and not thinking about pavement maintenance just yet. Too late, and your numbers won’t be given any consideration and may not be included in the maintenance budget. Another important factor is when you have a heavy winter, you have to be sensitive to property managers going into the spring. The last thing a property manager wants to think about is pavement maintenance when they are already way over budget with snow money. Our contractors have been successful with this issue by being sensitive with their first letter and following up within a few weeks with another letter or meeting request. This time line and sensitivity are extremely important, especially when attempting to attract new customers.
On the residential side of the “timing game”, you have a small window you want to shoot for to maximize your initial return on your marketing materials. This window falls on the first warm weekend in the spring. This is usually the weekend when homeowners are outside for the first time, mulling over their landscaping and looking at all their exterior maintenance projects. It is important to check the 10 day weather forecast, to be successful, the weather has to show a warming trend after this weekend. If it’s just a freak warm weekend and temperatures plummet after that, it’s not yet the time. Wait until the next the next warm weekend with a 10 day forecast that looks promising and try again. This is a great time to target your mailings to be delivered or to distribute flyers or hang door hangers.
These concepts have been successful for our contractors for many years. Every year we consult several of our contractors on the most opportune times to start their annual direct marketing campaigns. One other issue we are finding is that as we slump further into a recession in our area, more often times than not, a follow up letter or postcard is becoming necessary to get the customers to engage. Our contractors are having to work harder in these times to retain their customers.
With over 30 years of Pavement contracting experience, Signet Pavement Supply, offers a competitive advantage to its customers. We have a library of experiences that have bridged success for many of our fellow contractors over the years. Good luck to you all as you embark on your own direct marketing missions this spring and visit us @ http://www.signetpavmentsupply.com

Mar
14

MA-10's Ready to Ship

Choosing the right sized Direct-Fired Crack melter is an important business decision.  There are many factors that play into purchasing the right melter.  A few options to choose from when purchasing a kettle are the 10 gallon, 30 gallon, and 55 gallon capacities.  All these melters come with some form of agitation.  The most economical units come with manual sweep agitation, which essentially relies on the user to “rock” the arm of the agitation system back and forth. This allows the arm to move around the molten material inside, which carefully avoids “cooking” the polymers out of the material.

All the above melters are  stationary melters.  This means typically that the melter may be truck or trailer mounted and the user has different means to apply the material.  They might be using a 4 gallon bander box or smaller pour pot and striking the material off with a crack squeegee.  Both methods of application have their advantages.  Crackbanders are also called speed banders because of the speed at which you can apply the material.  Putting down the material with a pour pot and squeegee is cumbersome, but the control you have applying the material can be considered an advantage.  On a driveway, no one wants to look at a 3″ band, or “snake,” banded over the top of every crack in their driveway.  The pour pot and squeegee method requires a two man operation.  One man operates the pour pot and monitors the amount of material released. The other follows along with the squeegee, forcing it down into the crack and striking off any heavy build up.  Cosmetically speaking, this might be the better option.  As for the performance of the material, some argue it’s better to leave more material behind.  We’ll touch on this issue in a future blog or article.

The other option is a melter/applicator.  This machine not only melts the material, but applies it  as well.  This unit typically comes in a ten gallon machine.  These units are prettty handy.  One complaint we have fielded on these machines is are that they take about 30  to 45 minutes to heat up to a suitable application temperature(so do the stationary melters).  A lot of our contractors make sure the torch is lit and placed in area that is safe and where it will not go out.  An operator usually will do something else in close proximity to the machine while it is heating, checking on it often.  Once heated, the operator controls the material flow and the screed while maneuvuring the machine over the crack.  This is a fairly simple method to apply.  The other issue pertaining to MA-10’s is the build up of carbon or other matter, which can form a clog in the valve.  With simple maintenance, this problem can  be avoided almost entirely. 

Often times our contractors will use both a stationary melter(as a premelter) and an MA-10 to apply the material.  In the world of Direct Fired Melters, this seems to be the most efficient method used on parking lots and areas where the extra capacity is needed.

In terms of which melter is right for you, there are a few considerations to take into account.  First, you need to consider how much room you have on your rig, and whether it is mounted on a truck or trailer.  You only want to purchase the size of melter that will fit in the space allowed.  Second, you should consider your typical scope of work.  If you’re a contractor that  does only residential work, a 10 gallon mini melter or an MA-10 might work best.  If you do mostly residential but dabble into some commercial work, you may want to look into a 30 gallon melter.  If you do mostly commercial, a 55 gallon melter might be your best option.  Your budget also may play into your decision as well.  Direct Fired melters purchased new are anywhere from $625-$1200.00.  Keep in mind that  stationary melters also require the purchase of a Crack Bander (approx $350) or a Pour Pot (approx $110).

Ultimately, the decision when buying a direct fired melter falls on the purchaser.  Bigger isn’t always better.  However, you also want to consider growth in the process.  If you’re a driveway contractor today, but you are aspiring to do more commercial in the future, you might be looking more for a 30 gallon melter.  Any melter you choose will get the job done.  Signet Pavement Supply attempts to fit each of our contractors with not only the best melter to get their jobs done, but more efficiently as well. 

Visit our webstore coming this April @ www.signetpavementsupply.com  for the best deals on all Direct Fired Melters in our Crackfilling Equipment category.

Feb
28

Hats off to the Pavement Coatings Technology Council for their work on the issues surrounding Coal Tar Based Asphalt Sealant.  I thought that this seminar was well presented and informative.  Rather than look at Coal Tar as a primary source of PAH’s released into our environment (less than 1%, according to the PCTC), we should first concentrate more closely on the larger contributors centering in and around the automotive industry.  Vehicle exhaust, tire particles from wear, and drippings of petrochemicals all factor into the health of our environment at a much more alarming rate in comparison to coal tar.

They also brought information forward that the original studies in Austin, TX. may be flawed or incomplete.  This partly relates to the fact that since the ban, the levels of PAH’s in Barton Springs Creek have remained the same.  Given that this waterway is spring fed, nature constantly is recharging it with fresh water.  These numbers should of went down and according to the PCTC, they have not. 

As a whole, we all want to do the right thing for our future.  Let’s not grab the lowest hanging fruit and gather more scientific information before we hurt the pavement maintenance industry anymore.  Let’s allow both sides to be heard and make the best decisions for everyone involved going forward.

We will be posting the PCTC’s video presentation on our blog VERY SOON…Stay tuned…

Dec
28

Signet Pavement Supply, Inc., based out of Crystal Lake, Illinois has been awarded Sealmaster Illinois top distributor again for the 2010 season.  Signet Pavement Supply, Inc. is the top distributor of  premium pavement products to elite pavement contractors in our area.  We would like to thank our customers for their continued support this year to make this honor possible. 

We are excited for the 2011 season to begin.  We are looking forward to opening our fourth location in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago in the spring.  We also look forward to our interactive supply store launching very soon @ www.signetpavementsupply.com

Signet currently caters to Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin pavement contractors out of its two Illinois locations,  Crystal lake/Lake in the Hills, and Richmond/Spring Grove.  Signet also caters to Southern Wisconsin out of its Elkhorn, WI. location.

Happy Holidays to all our wonderful customers and their families and all the best to you for a great 2011.

Apr
11

Signet Pavement Supply is pleased to announce that we are open for the 2010 season.  Our Lake In The Hills Location and Richmond location have received our first loads of  sealer and our contractors are taking advantage of the warmer spring temperatures and getting an early start to their season.

Signet Pavement Supply prides itself on having sealer and supplies  not only earlier in the season, but later in the fall for our  customers to finish their jobs and extend their season.  Signet Pavement Supply is SEALMASTER Chicago’s Platinum Distributor     with locations in Lake in the Hills, IL., Richmond, IL., and Elkhorn WI..  Signet Pavement Supply carries Premium Pavement Products for the elite contractor.

Jan
25

Signet Pavement Supply, Inc. is pleased to announce we are adding another location for Spring 2010.  This location will service our customers out of Elkhorn, Wisconsin.  Signet currently was serving customers from that area out of our Richmond, Illinois location.  Signet Pavement Supply, Inc. provides SEALMASTER pavement maintenance products and equipment to sealcoaters and pavers out of our Crystal Lake/Lake in the Hills and Richmond/Spring Grove Locations.  Call us for more information @ 1.888.445.SIGNET(7446).  Or check us out at www.signetpavementsupply.com.  We anticipate opening in Elkhorn, Wisconsin and at all our other locations in April 2010.

Jan
25

Signet Pavement Supply, Inc. is pleased to announce that we are currently working on releasing www.signetpavementsupply.com.  This will be the newest and easiest place for Sealcoaters and Pavers can go on the internet and purchase all the essential tools, equipment, and products they need to get their jobs done right.  Signet has long been known for supplying the elite contractors of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin and looks forward to supplying elite contractors all over the country with this site.  If you have any questions about the store, please call us toll free (outside Illinois)@ 1.888.445.SIGNET(7446).  Or we can be reached anytime @1.815.482.4857.  We are nearing completion on the site and expect for it to launch April of 2010.

Jan
25

Signet Pavement Supply, Inc.,  is proud to announce that we have just been presented with SEALMASTER’s most coveted award as their “Platinum Distributor of the Year”.  This award goes out to only their top distributor of their great line of pavement products and equipment.  Signet prides itself on its unparalleled customer service, support, and knowledge of the pavement maintenance industry.  We truly cherish this award and we would like to thank ALL of our customers for helping us be in place to receive it.