Mar 24, 2023
The CONEXPO Rundown from AsphaltPro Magazine
BY Sandy Lender
CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023 was electric
Everyone’s shouting their “Top 5 Key Takeaways” from CONEXPO-CON/AGG & IFPE this week. To be honest, I can’t narrow the five days of scheduled appointments down to a “top anything” list without missing something and feeling fussy about it later.
I’ll make you a deal. The plant-related product gallery in the May issue of AsphaltPro and paving-related gallery in the June issue will include some top picks from the tradeshow. Watch the magazine’s pages for feature articles from interviews Digital Editor Sarah Redohl and I conducted during the week. And watch the Monday Morning Toolbox Tips for info we picked up throughout the conference as well.
What I’d like to share with you today is a Quick Capture of two overarching themes from the week of March 14-18, 2023, in Las Vegas.
I’m going to exaggerate and say every third equipment booth had the word “electric” in it. It seems everyone was advertising “the first electric [insert machine here] in the xx-class range.” You get the idea.
Whether it was a concept machine finished in time to announce at the show—as in the case of LeeBoy’s 8520C paver with its Ultium Charge 360 unit designed with the assistance of General Motors—or a fully operational and ready-to-ship device—as in the case of Meeker Equipment’s Patriot-E hot oil heater for the asphalt plant—original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were proud to display their electric offerings and talk to attendees about lowering the end user’s carbon footprint.
What you might find interesting is the collaboration between OEMs to get the electric job done. A few years ago, we reported on the use of Process Heating Company’s Lo-Density® rigid tubular drywell tank electric heater elements in the distributor trucks from BearCat. Now you can find PHCo drywell heating elements in Etnyre’s emulsion tanks and tanker trucks, according to PHCo’s Dan Simpson. And you’ll find them in the Electric Max 2 Distributor from LeeBoy. You’ll also find them in the Meeker Patriot-E hot oil heater. It’s a proven technology that makes sense for the asphalt industry.
We’ll have additional electrification information coming up.
The other overarching theme at CONEXPO-CON/AGG was that of workforce development. At the safety and health panel titled “Constructing a Culture of Suicide Prevention” Thursday morning, fellow panelist Aaron Witt told our audience that it’s smart for us to nurture and care for the workforce we already have. It’s our desire to show the incoming workforce that we care about our employees; we have a caring culture. We call our employees our greatest assets; it’s time to show we mean it by developing safety programs for the whole employee, including their mental wellness.
Alongside the whole-person concept, OEMs are still designing operator stations with comfort and ease-of-use in mind to keep workers from experiencing repetitive injury, discomfort and long learning curves. Plant controls manufacturers are finding new and creative ways to design their operating systems for easiest interface with humans. And associations are looking at ways to encourage and “grow” employees. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) California chapter has launched its leadership development program, Project Engage, to develop leaders in the industry.
All that doesn’t mean recruitment was ignored. Conversations around attracting new blood to the industry took place throughout the week, including the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) press conference rounding off Media Monday March 13.
However we find the workers, we have an aging workforce retiring and a younger workforce “bouncing” shortly after training. It’s time to attract and retain, with ideas percolating everywhere you looked during the show. Check out the Off the Mat department of AsphaltPro for some of those ideas.