Proper training yields best results

By Jeff Winke

Construction machines need people. The best and safest results for anything involving machines comes from skilled and knowledgeable operators. This is especially true for asphalt infrared repair crews. Repairing damaged asphalt pavement can be daunting without the right tools and the knowledge of how to use them. Knowledge comes with experience and proper training.

“Successful training for infrared repair is twofold,” stated Michael Blake, director of marketing, KM International, North Branch, Michigan. “The first aspect will be learning the functionality and operational components of the machine itself, things such as how long does the unit take to soften the area, do they have the infrared machine positioned correctly, or how many zones do they need to turn on. The second aspect is the actual infrared repair process itself. If you break the process down into detailed steps — not only explaining what needs to be done at each but why — it gives users a more comprehensive understanding of the process as a whole and gives them that extra confidence when they go to use the machine in a real-world setting.”

Looking at the training process in general, there are eight training methods considered most effective:

  1. Technology-based learning.
  2. Simulators.
  3. On-the-job training.
  4. Coaching/mentoring.
  5. Instructor-led training.
  6. Roleplaying.
  7. Films and videos.
  8. Case studies.

Each method has value and can contribute to a repair crew becoming proficient.

“In our training of infrared repair crews, we demonstrate the extremes; showing both good and bad repair methods,” stated David R. Strassman, owner, Asphalt Reheat Systems LLC, Fitchburg, Wisconsin. “We’ll show a bad patch and then show a good patch on a repair paying attention to both physical and cosmetic construction to fully illustrate the differences.”

Strassman continued: “We have in-house prepared videos of infrared repair projects we have completed over the years…along with a number of informative trade publication articles and before and after pictures we’ve printed over the years. All these resources are available and used in training our infrared repair crews.”

Although infrared repair is considered safer than traditional cut and replace methods, there are still precautions a crew should take when working with this equipment. There are hot surfaces involved with infrared patching, so crews should be aware of this and exercise good judgement and wear the appropriate clothing, eye protection and other PPE. Obviously when workers fail to follow health and safety regulations, operating instructions or choose to behave inappropriately, then accidents could happen.

“As with most equipment, or really anything for that matter, hands-on training is the best, and most effective way to learn,” Blake said. “Although there are hundreds of infrared demo, and training videos online nothing compares to actually being able to physically see and operate the machine in a real-world scenario. If a contractor is new to the infrared process, I always recommend receiving training from a manufacturer, distributor or somebody with some experience in the infrared repair process. It will make the difference.”

There is an art to infrared repair. There are key procedural steps to take which will ensure an effective repair.

“Like most asphalt related repairs, infrared repair is more of an art than a science,” Blake said. “I often tell customers that all an infrared machine does is heat up the asphalt. The rest of the repair is up to a good rake and lute person.

“But a couple key procedural steps that will set someone up for success would be making sure you are cutting the repair area in three-inches from the outside heated edge, leaving the area about ¼-inch above grade prior to final compaction, removing all the heavy stone and aggregate from the top, and applying a rejuvenating agent.”
A valid question arises — How can successful training of an infrared repair crew be documented to ensure that effective results have been achieved? Of course, the resulting work performance of the crew is the best proof. Is the crew more confident and competent?

“A lot of companies have started to transition to video documentation of training,” stated Blake. “I think this serves two main purposes. First, a video can be used for future reference, whether it is for current employees to look back on to confirm and reinforce what they’ve learned. Or used as a resource to train new employees on proper infrared repair procedures. Secondly, a video is a detailed documentation of when a training took place, who was there, what was discussed. Most people are visual learners, so other than physically going out and doing an actual infrared repair a video would be the next best thing.”

Machines are utterly incapable of thought. But fortunately, machine operators can think. A well-trained infrared technology worker can successfully repair asphalt pavement damage efficiently and thoroughly.

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through