How learning infrared patching done right can bring profits
By Jeff Winke
Infrared patching is a method of blending new asphalt with existing to create a joint-free integral patch. The truck-mounted machine is capable of heating the existing pavement material to a depth of approximately two inches without oxidation or burning. There is no flame in direct contact with the existing pavement surface. The truck unit is also equipped with multiple heated chambers capable of storing and transporting up to four tons of asphalt materials, while maintaining a consistent materials temperature.
There are numerous advantages of infrared patching:
- Time – Depending on air temperature, the entire process will take from 10 to 20 minutes. The traditional method, involving sawing-cutting, excavating, and repaving, typically requires much more time.
- Convenience – There is the ability to complete the repairs during off-hours even when asphalt plants are not operating.
- Quality – There are no new cold joints created, which means finished quality is better since there are no open seams between the old pavement and the infrared patch.
- Cost – Infrared patching is a cost-effective alternative to traditional patching.
Infrared pavement repair method has numerous uses. The method is used to repair holes and surface deteriorated areas; to eliminate depressions, water holes, and tripping hazards; to achieve smooth black top at transition joints; and for repairing newer pavement without any sawing or cutting. Infrared patching is also used to adjust pavement height to manholes, lower high areas, and repair deteriorated paving seams.
Receiving proper training for infrared patching methods is critical for the success of this asphalt pavement repair methodology.
“When done right, infrared training should consist of two parts,” stated Cliff Cameron, president of KM International Inc., North Branch, Mich. “First, should be training on the infrared repair process itself. This would include a comprehensive hands-on demonstration of the process from start to finish, taking the time to explain each step in detail to the customer. The second part, should consist of the actual operation and maintenance of the infrared machine itself. Each manufacturer’s machine works differently, so this step varies depending on the manufacturer, but should include the start-up procedure of the machine and onsite operation, as well as general maintenance tips and common troubleshooting practices.”
Roger Filion, president of Kasi Infrared, Claremont, N.H. offered his thought: “The best way to learn how the infrared pavement repair method works is to first research the infrared process to learn how it is used. Understanding the fundamentals will help in appreciating how it is applied to asphalt repair.”
Equipment manufacturers are the best source for learning infrared patching. They will typically provide on-site, hands-on training to make certain their new purchasers are becoming safe and comfortable operators.
“If training is not offered by the manufacturer, that should be a major red light warning you that you may what to rethink where you bought your equipment,” Filion stated. “Getting properly trained is that important!”
Jeff LeClair, senior business development & sales, with Ray-Tech Infrared Corp., Charlestown, N.H. stated that training from the equipment manufacturer can address the specifics about their equipment. They are the best source for learning how to achieve the best results and how to effectively operate their device.
“Training should be carried out by a factory rep who has at least three years of experience repairing asphalt pavement using infrared patching technology,” stated Tom Allen, general manager, with KASI Infrared Corp., Claremont, N.H. “The rep should emphasize safety and warn against taking any shortcuts when completing a job.”
Krystal Strassman, marketing manager / project estimator with DRS Paving, Fitchburg, Wis. suggested using resources readily available such as trade magazines and demos on YouTube to fill out, supplement, and reinforce the hands-on and classroom training received.
“At the end of the day, you have to get out, kick the tires, get your hands dirty, and get a feel for how the product operates in real life,” Strassman said. “It also helps to find a good teacher, someone who has proven they know what they are doing. Soak up everything possible from this mentor… what kind of asphalt do they order? How long are they setting the timers? Do they always set the same time–why? And after that, it is practice that becomes your best trainer and will make you better.”
Considering that infrared patching equipment is being used in every state, Filion suggested that it won’t hurt to find an existing, operating infrared business outside of the market to talk with.
“In most cases you can talk with the owner and introduce yourself as a new infrared company looking for a little training,” Filion said. “From past experiences, I have found that if you are not located too close to them most will be happy to help. This also builds a good relationship with an industry colleague with whom you can exchange ideas, experiences, and problem-solving solutions.”
Filion also offered another creative idea for companies that are when first starting out: “I recommend finding an old parking lot nearby and get permission from the owner to do some free repairs. Get a ton of fresh 3/8 mix to start with and just practice, practice. practice. I’ll tell you that within a few hours you’ll be ready to go to work.”
Clearly, being well trained on techniques, procedures, and the process will yield the best results. There are dangers in not being adequately trained in infrared asphalt patching.
Matt Kieswetter, an owner and VP of technical sales with Heat Design Equipment Inc., Kitchener, Ont., Canada, stated the three biggest dangers of not having a well-trained operator are (1) the danger of an accident, (2) the potential of performing a poor-looking and performing fix, and (3) the potential for loss of performance, so that the company does not get production.
Kieswetter also warned that an ill-trained operator producing shoddy work not only reflects poorly on the company, but will likely create rework, less profit, and shut out future business.
Cameron added: “A lot of users think that infrared is the answer for all asphalt defects. Although infrared can be used in several different applications, it is not a fix all. It is important to train users to evaluate pavement defects prior to deciding to infrared the area.”
When completed correctly, infrared training can foster knowledgeable, productive, technically-adept workers. Training can be highly effective when the participants commit to learning and understanding the process.
Training can create the foundation for gaining experience and developing expertise in infrared patching.
Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org