Southeast Asphalt Seals with Success
BY Neal Manufacturing
When Charlie Swift started Southeast Asphalt and Maintenance LLC, Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1996, his budget determined his equipment, and his equipment determined the jobs he could take.
“Basically, I started out with the cheapest equipment I could get,” he said.
For Swift, building an asphalt sealcoating and maintenance company from the ground up meant getting things done on an extremely limited budget. Swift learned that when you rely on inexpensive used equipment, you’re only as strong as your weakest piece—and that’s not very efficient.
Projects took time to complete, and he was only able to bid on small projects, such as parking lots for banks and other local businesses.
“As I gained more experience, I kept getting better and better and saw my business growing busier and busier,” Swift said. As he sought out new business, Swift maximized what he could do with his second-hand sealcoating equipment. Finally, he reached a tipping point.
“I was getting enough work that I could start upgrading equipment,” Swift said. “It made it possible for us to handle larger jobs.” From then on, the jobs continued to line up, and Swift hasn’t looked back.
Now, two decades later, Southeast has expanded to have a national reach. Although the majority of the company’s work is in the southeast, Swift isn’t afraid to bid large projects across the country, because he knows his equipment is up to the task.
One piece of equipment that was integral to Swift’s confidence to bid larger jobs was the DA-350 dual applicator he purchased from Neal Manufacturing Division of Blastcrete Equipment LLC in 2014. It wasn’t the first time he had bought a Neal Manufacturing applicator, but it was the first one he had purchased new.
The DA-350 dual applicator is equipped with a spray bar and even-flow squeegee. With the new machine, hand spraying is only required around the edges of a project. Once the prep work is complete and the edges are sprayed, one person is able to drive the DA-350 to complete the remaining surface. Swift discovered that instead of three workers hand-spraying with three tips, one employee could conquer the same area in a fraction of the time, cutting overall project time and freeing up the additional crew members to move on to other jobs. He estimates that the dual machine allows his crew to complete a job that once took 10 to 12 hours in as little as four hours.
Pump Up Bidding
Since adding the DA-350 to the Southeast fleet, Swift has been able to place lower bids and bid on a wider range of projects, in addition to completing projects in less time, resulting in increased profits. Swift estimates that Southeast can earn 35 to 40 percent more each day.
Swift pointed out the DA-350’s heavy-duty aggregate pump specifically, which is designed to achieve 100 gallons per minute.
“The pump is the differentiating factor,” Swift said. “Their pump is capable of handling more material and heavier material than any other pump I’ve used.”
Swift also said the pump requires less maintenance and cleaning, in his experience, even though it’s designed to manage heavier sand loads.
“Diaphragm pumps work great for a standard sand load of 2 to 4 percent, but some projects require a heavier sand load,” Swift said. He will run a sand load between 4 and 8 percent through the DA-350 without hesitation.
Swift wasn’t shy about approaching the manufacturer when he had ideas for improvement. According to Swift, Neal Manufacturing engineers not only welcomed his input, but worked with him to develop custom improvements for his applicator.
“It was easy,” Swift said. “When I worked with the engineer, he had some solutions and suggestions, as did I, and we came out with a great machine.”
The most notable improvements were made to his machine’s hydraulics and switches, specifically, the hydraulic dump valve. On a standard DA-350, the dump valve is controlled by a toggle switch and manually operated with a foot pedal. However, Swift’s DA-350 features a modified hydraulic dump control. The custom control makes it possible for the operator to open and close the valve as fast as he or she wants. The modification also allows the operator to set and hold the valve at a desired rate without having to continually monitor the control.
“With the standard foot pedal, if you want it open 20 percent, you have to manually hold it right there,” Swift said. “With mine, I just open it up to the dump rate I want, let loose and it stays put. I don’t have to worry about holding a certain pressure. If I set it at 50 percent, it stays at 50 percent. The feature helps simplify things for the operator, who already has a lot going on—driving the machine, dumping sealer, trying not to dump too much. This modification makes it much easier.”
Swift will still tell you that you’re only as strong as your weakest piece of equipment, but in recent years, he’s been more concerned about reaching the full potential made possible by his best piece of equipment.