Complex Warehouse Lot Provides Training Opportunity for Commercial Paving Crews
BY John Ball
T&K Asphalt Services Inc. is headquartered in Whitman, Massachusetts. They have one grading crew, one milling crew and two paving crews. These teams all work together to accomplish jobs like a well-oiled machine. This company is strong not only because they have an excellent overall team of employees working in harmony with best practices and good training, but also because they use a complete and well-thought-out work order to keep those best practices on track.
One of the members of the crew I want to highlight in this article is the paving foreman. For T&K Asphalt, Joe Mohan is a foreman who started out four years ago as a truck driver for the company. He moved up to the tack truck, then learned how to run the screed. He became the foreman after only three years in the business.
Mohan understands yield, how to calculate it and the importance of tracking it throughout the project. He’s excellent at laying out the project before the crew gets started at the job site. And that’s key to a job’s success. If you don’t put lines down, you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. Mohan puts the lines down and makes sure his crew knows all the particulars they need to know for the whole project.
For the parking lot job we’re talking about in this article, Mohan had to line out tapers, wedges and lanes that were up against sloped loading bays and stairs. He had his work cut out for him to decide how the trucks could get in to charge the paver without running over fresh asphalt. He had to make the plan for the laborers to build starter pads in a number of corners and to work around bollards and even a drainpipe that stuck up a foot away from the building. All these things factor into how a crew will put together the paving jigsaw puzzle and Mohan knows how to map that out, so the crew is its most efficient.
Another important crewmember I want to highlight in this article is the superintendent. For T&K Asphalt, Dick Gleason is the superintendent who joined the company a few years ago but has been dedicated to the asphalt industry for much longer. While he’s a quiet fellow who gets in and gets the job done right, he’s the dependable and organized project manager in the background making sure the crew has the equipment, trucking, personnel and material they need.
On the parking lot job we’re using as the example in this article, Gleason took care of the project very well, ensuring all the moving parts were in place when the crew needed them. He’s there at the start of the shift to make sure everyone gets to the job and the lowboys have delivered the right pieces of equipment for the project. He calls the plant to make sure the right material—and the right amount—is scheduled for the day.
Once Gleason has the plant on notice, Mohan can take over from there. And once the crew is in motion, Gleason can be the liaison between the team and the customer, if needed.
Some Best Practices in Motion
One of the best practices that the T&K Asphalt team takes the time to get right is proper maintenance. They keep equipment in good condition through cleanliness and upkeep. You will see equipment operators and laborers alike cleaning nooks and crannies to prevent material buildup and to keep sensors working properly, of course, but you also see laborers doing little things that matter for a clean mat.
For example, when laborers are watching and waiting for someone to need their shovel full of mix, they’ll take that time to lubricate and clean tools or, if tools are already clean and ready to go, they’ll make sure the tool oiled with release agent rests atop their boot, rather than dragging it along the mat. This ensures it doesn’t dig into the mat and the release agent doesn’t dribble onto the mat.
Having a clean and well-lubricated shovel may seem like a small or insignificant detail in the grand scheme of a paving job, but the laborers at T&K Asphalt take these details seriously. When a colleague needs a shovel full of mix in a specific spot, the laborer can toss the material directly to the indicated place, letting it slide perfectly from the tool to the low area with ease. There’s no dribbling or segregation of material across the mat from mix sticking to tools. The process is efficient, and the result is a quality job. [Sarah, use video 59; at 24 seconds]
Another best practice the T&K Asphalt team uses is loading up the back of the paver in an efficient and organized manner with the tools they need for the job. By organizing everything cleanly and smartly, they make it easy to grab the right tool right when they need it. Everything has a place, and everything is in its place when they get ready for takeoff.
Let’s take a closer look at the back of the paver to see some of the elements your crew might need, as well. The first thing you notice in the center of this picture is the bracket system they’ve built to hold long-handled tools like the lutes and brooms upright and out of the way. This structure has some brackets on it that hold a pair of spray wands. Notice the smart level under the left-hand screed operator station.
The right-hand screed operator pedestal has some modifications for the T&K Asphalt crew. They’ve attached a basket that can hold the clipboard with the day’s work order and truck slips. The pedestal also has a j-bracket the crew has installed for the spool of string. Notice the smart level on the shelf beneath the pedestal, too. Everything has a place to keep the screed and paver operator platform neat and tidy and to minimize trip hazards for the crew.
- There’s a shelf for the measuring wheel.
- In the center of the screed, the team has built a simple bracket cage to hold the long-handled tools like the broom, lutes, and so on. The ring of this bracket allows the crew to hook the depth gauge tools on by their handles where they’re easy to grab when paving.
- The long straight edge has a shelf to keep it secure and up where it’s not a tripping hazard.
At the right-hand screed operator pedestal, you can see the spool of string for lining out jobs and a basket that’s been attached to the side of the operator panel to hold papers and clipboards.
D.Near the base of the screed, the team has brackets that the shovels can slide into to ensure those don’t fall over or cause a tripping hazard.
All around the back of the paver, the crew has affixed paint holders, brackets and shelves to keep tools secure and within easy reach. This not only makes the paving and quality-control processes more efficient, but it also makes it easier for crewmembers to keep track of tools. How many times have you lost track of the straight edge or the four-foot level? Those costs add up when you have to keep replacing them. This more organized system helps prevent trips and falls as well as lost tools and profits.
A Strong Work Order Example
The work order gets its own bin or basket on the back of the paver because it’s the guidebook for the project. The work order that T&K Asphalt has put together for its crews to work from includes detailed information that each member of the crew needs to execute the job.
In this image, you can see the vital information at the top of the page. It provides space for the foreman’s name and contact details, but it also provides the phone number and email address for the contact person of the job. It’s important to have the exact address of the project listed out on this work order, but including the responsible person’s contact information could be a saving grace if the crew shows up and there’s a problem. How many times have you pulled up to a parking lot job to find random cars parked in the lot you believed you were to be milling or sealing? You use the work order to verify the correct address and to contact the responsible person immediately.
In the event a member of the customer’s team makes a request that’s not on the work order, you have your sales representative’s information on this work order as well. A change order isn’t always a problem—sometimes a request can be handled within the same day’s work. But changes typically incur costs and labor, which is a discussion for the sales representative, estimator or—if your company allows it—the supervisor on the job. By spelling out exactly what the work of the day entails—which you see in the left column of this picture—the crew can’t be blindsided by demands of a suddenly appearing site contact who thinks you should have brought extra car stops or extra mix to build extra speed bumps and so on.
The work order also spells out how much material is needed for the job. The foreman or paver operator can use this as a guide when lining out the job because it offers all the specs, amounts, and details.
As we look at the work order, we know who the foreman is, we know the date of the project, the site contact, the scheduler’s name, how many trucks are lined up for the job, the type of mix the project requires, how much mix the project calls for, whether sealer and striping paint is needed, and other specifics. I can see in the left column that we’re fine grading, removing a berm and so on.
On the right side, we see the equipment for the job listed. This is also where T&K lists the people—with their cell phone numbers—who are working the job. (We’ve redacted names and numbers for publication, but having their contact information right there on the work order makes it easy for the foreman or superintendent to check in on anyone who’s running late or to ensure all the needed laborers are accounted for.)
Full Employee Effort
Overall, the T&K Asphalt team works together like a well-oiled machine. They are particular about how they go about a project to get the job done right and to care for the employees they’ve brought on board. The website states they employ more than 125 people, including many year-round workers, and take great pride in the longevity of their employees. Many have been with the company for at least 10 years, some for more than 20 years. Through the T&K Training Academy, employees have the ability to improve their skills for both self-improvement and new opportunities within the company. To date, T&K has conducted more than 2,000 hours of training. It’s a pleasure to assist with that training on-site.
T&K Asphalt has been serving New England since 1987 and is one of the premiere pavement maintenance companies in the area, providing commercial paving, sealcoating, line striping, concrete, construction/repair and snow removal services for business owners and property managers throughout New England and across the United States through their national division partners. “We Make You Look Tremendous” is more than just a tagline for them; it’s a commitment they make to each and every customer.
Kevin Gosnell founded the company back then as a driveway sealcoating company. Since then, they’ve become New England’s largest commercial parking lot maintenance company, but they’ve had to do it without their founder since 2016. Aug. 8 of that year, Gosnell lost his battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—at the age of 48. When Gosnell learned of his diagnosis, he jumped into action to help others. The T&K website explains Gosnell used time in the last 15 months of his life to create a non-profit organization called ALS One, which is dedicated to raising funds and fostering scientific collaboration to accelerate the pace of ALS research and providing support to others suffering from the disease.
“Kevin knew he would never see a cure for himself, but he could use his business skills and network of relationships to bring awareness and much-needed financial support to the research effort. He still had time to put in place a program that would eventually help others who may face the same diagnosis down the road. ALS One has raised over $10 million and is now T&K Asphalt’s core charitable partner.”
T&K Asphalt honors its founder’s legacy to this day. “[W]e remain committed to all the people who work here at T&K. Kevin would often say the employees are ‘our most important asset.’ He wanted T&K to be a place where people wanted to work, where employees were respected and had opportunities to grow and learn and be a part of a larger family.”
John Ball is the proprietor of Top Quality Paving & Training, Manchester, New Hampshire. For more information, contact him at (603) 493-1458.