Soft Heat Manufacturing’s innovative approach is cooking up change
When Ted Price needed a “game changer,” he knew exactly where to turn.
Ted had recently purchased Diamond Pavement Maintenance Solutions, a once successful residential sealcoating company he’d been working for since graduating from college. After just a few seasons under his employer’s ownership the company was floundering, but Ted could see that it wasn’t due to a lack of potential.
“I was shocked by the inefficiencies of the processes used, as well as major aspects of each job that we were not able to handle in-house,” said Ted. “We were hiring paving companies to do small repairs for ridiculous prices or settling for poor results by burning up asphalt for hours with torches. Our market was begging for a solution.”
That’s where Ted’s dad, David, provided the game-changing innovation he needed: the AR55, a portable reclaimer that uses revolutionary infra-red heating technology capable of getting 200 pounds of new or recycled asphalt ready to use in just minutes. Even better, the torch-less heat source did this without burning the product. This meant the repairs would last and their reputation for quality work would return.
“This was a total game changer”, said Ted. “ Our average gross per job rose by $300 with only 15 minutes of additional labor time. I seemed to get every job I bid.”
The AR55 worked so well that the pair decided to share their product with the rest of the industry, and Soft Heat Manufacturing was founded in January 2019.
The AR55 — or “Cookie Box,” as David affectionately calls it — utilizes stockpiled asphalt often left over from larger jobs, which eliminates wasteful dumping and man hours. Painstakingly designed for ruggedness and simplicity, the portable AR55 is also capable of reclaiming pieces of asphalt removed from broken surfaces.
Using asphalt purchased from a plant? No problem – Soft Heat offers 1.1-ton hotbox configuration built from a second AR55 set side by side that fits in any full-size pickup truck.
David has even developed a handy, labor-saving Cookie Shovel to shuttle asphalt or RAP to and from the box. It also doubles as a mold to shape the asphalt into easily stored “cookies.”
Soft Heat has recently taken their innovative approach a step further by offering an equally revolutionary in-place unit, the SH-24×48 IR Recycler. The new offering produces seamless 2-foot by 4-foot welded patches — in just minutes. It utilizes the AR55’s patented venting features and, best of all, David claims the sturdy and simple design is a perfect match for the
“The advantages of the AR55’s burner system were so obvious that I had to develop a line of crack sealant melters and applicators,” said the elder Price. “This has been desperately needed for a long time.”
Many companies, like Ted’s, have opted to convert their current equipment with Soft Heat’s retrofit kits, which David said is a great way to make the less-efficient older equipment more profitable. He also said the SH-MA10 melter outperforms torch-fired units by melting material in half the time — while using a fraction of the propane. The new design takes care of the age-old problem of torch blow-outs while creating levels of reliability and in-field serviceability that are unmatched.
“Most melters are burning some percentage of the material they melt when a flame directly contacts the steel,” explained David. “The infrared heat source produces an even temperature across the entire burner face while no flame ever contacts steel. This is why we named the company Soft Heat Manufacturing.”
The biggest benefit
Since his early days in this business David has continually obsessed with finding ways to supplement hard work with better tools and equipment. His path has ultimately led him to 23 years of supplying materials, tools and advice to contractors in the Midwest.
In that time, however, the pavement maintenance business has become a competitive market where promises of hard work and a willingness to do a dirty job are no longer enough to secure a contract. “Today, customers want a one-stop-shop, and the contractors who are able to adapt and efficiently provide complete service within their own abilities are winning the day”, explained Ted.
“The larger 30 and 55 gallon melters are posting far superior performance numbers than our conventional burner units,” said Ted. “We are competitive on commercial work now and have cut man hours in half.
As for asphalt repairs, “We don’t have to become a paving company to service our customers properly and winter patching with permanent hot asphalt is now possible. It is a whole new revenue stream for this business”.
Their insightful sales representative Ben Cotten puts it like this “a successful business is not measured in its ability to just keep up – it must be allowed to expand its marketplace through innovative solutions– in such a competitive environment, real solutions are rare. Soft Heat is providing its customers a clear competitive advantage”.