Buoyed by a strong economy, much needed road construction is back underway in the United States. Governments at all levels have money again, and public-private partnerships (P3s) are growing. It’s a marked shift from just a few years ago when things were stalled to a near standstill across the country.
Crews are busy and workers are scarce. These are great problems to have. However, it is also time to make hay while the sun shines and every advantage helps.
After skilled labor, the next biggest investment that effects a road construction company’s ability to drive profit is its equipment. Road crews run a lot of equipment. It’s expensive and cumbersome, making innovation in the highly competitive industry an important endeavor.
Aaron Warren and his brother Doug have built their business on pushing road construction innovation. They design and manufacture road patching equipment through their company, Total Patcher™. Their products make patching potholes, alligator cracks, shoulder failures and other damage efficient and easy.
When they design their products, they are constantly looking for ways to deliver more value to their end-users. It was that motivation that inspired the brothers to come up with the Vortex Pothole Patcher.
Most damage on roads occurs in the winter, but crews are usually required to wait until Spring to get out and make repairs. Warren and Doug were set on developing something that would be robust enough to work all year round, and easy enough to use that anyone could quickly become safely trained on it.
The result was their series of Total Patcher Road Patchers, including the Vortex. The systems are pulled behind a dump truck, and produce a spray injection made from the aggregate in the dump truck that creates a permanent road repair for basically any damage, which does not require a pavement roller to follow. The worker uses what amount to a “wand” hanging from an arm above the worker’s head, making it easy to direct the aggregate and fill the repair. It is easy on the body and is mess-free.
An air compressor pushes the fluid through the system. Doug and Aaron Warren realized that although the air compressor they were using was performing ok, it was a potential area of weakness on an otherwise strong system. They needed something that could handle cold weather or hot weather, run at 100% duty cycle and had a reputation for longevity, just like the rest of the Vortex.
They figured out that if they started manufacturing the product with an air compressor that provided more CFM than the Vortex needed, they could eliminate another piece of equipment crews use all the time.
“All we needed was an air compressor with more capacity,” says Aaron Warren. “However, we didn’t want to add a lot of extra weight and take up more space on the Vortex.”
That’s when the Warrens researched and discovered VMAC air compressor solutions. VMAC had a proven track record working with other OEMs, which met the Warren’s requirements: compact, lightweight and powerful.
Pretty soon VMAC’s engineers had devised a perfect solution for the Vortex. A stand alone, engine-driven compressor unit with 60 CFM at 100 psi, providing the extra CFM for road crews require to run their air tools as well.
“The compressor provides extra air, which crews can always use, but it also decreases maintenance requirements,” Aaron points outs. “It’s one less piece of machinery to keep in working order because it eliminates what most crews have; a standalone diesel drive air compressor. That makes a difference, saving time, money and down time.”
He says crews have come up with more ways to use the extra CFM than he ever thought possible. Lots of guys have also used it to streamline their practices, getting jobs done faster than they did before.
“We have heard of applications where one guy walks in front of the dump truck with a jack hammer running off the air compressor on the Vortex. He breaks up the road, and the guy behind comes along with the Vortex and fixes it,” Aaron explains.
Since no roller is required, the job is done.
He says VMAC was also really easy to work with on the project.
“It was a good experience. Nice people, easy to work with, willing to do what it took to get the job done,” Aaron says. “The engineers we worked with know their stuff.”
In fact, the system took some redesigning. Initially, it was built with a Kubota engine, but after about a year of selling the Vortex with this engine, the Warrens decided they needed to change the engine.
“The Kubota engine vibrated too much for our use in this application,” Aaron says. “So, the team worked with us to develop the same application, but using a John Deere 4045 engine and the system has been great ever since. This newly designed equipment has proven to be far more reliable, which resulted in far less field visits to repair the equipment.”
Aaron was impressed by VMAC’s willingness to go back to the drawing board. “They worked with us until it was perfect.”
Total Patcher and VMAC have a lot common, which made the project a natural fit. Both manufacture powerful, application-driven equipment. Both are family businesses. Doug and Aaron started Total Patcher on their parents’ farm, where it still exists today. VMAC is family-owned 30 years after it started. Both companies are run and staffed by people who have a deep love of all things with engines.
“We were born gearheads,” says Aaron.
But, above all that, is a passion for constant improvement that both companies are rooted in.
“Working with people like the guys at Total Patcher, who make the best products in their industry is great for us because we feed off that desire for excellence,” says Dan Hutchinson, VMAC OEM Manager. “We build the best products in our industry and we got there by being pushed. It opens doors for learning new best practices and sharing ideas.”