Time to methodically shut down, prepare for next year

By Jeff Winke

Time to shut down for winter. Busy production season has finally ended and most would love to turn it all off and walk away until Spring shows any first signs. But that voice of reason in your head says “Wait, wait, hold your horses, there is plenty to do when shutting things down and preparing for the start up after the break!” And you silently curse reason and ask why does reason have to be so right!

“Common mistakes made when shutting down for winter are quite honestly due to exhaustion,” stated Kyle Ascione, owner of Integrity Earth & Asphalt LLC, Rapid City, Michigan. “Let’s point out that the asphalt paving industry is not for the weak of heart and at the end of the season, most are just ready for the finish line… so you can finally catch your breath. But the reality is that you, your business and your equipment just went through a long and hard season of use and most likely are ready for much-needed maintenance, preventative measures, and foresight into how you can be proactive versus reactive.

“This is the time to execute those ‘we need to do that’ items that you’ve been putting off all season to keep production going. Go through your equipment with a fine-tooth comb to clean, maintain, grease, change oil and tuck it in nice and tight for the winter. Trust me, winter will be over before you know it and you’ll want to be able to jump right back into it, ready to go.”

The shut-down process is critical for the asphalt paving contractor. It is the ending of a production period.

“The most common mistake contractors make when shutting down for the season is not taking the proper time to thoroughly clean their equipment,” stated Shawn Hutchings, territory sales manager, LeeBoy. “Cleaning the equipment at the end of the season will make inspection of the machine easier and help you assess whether you should replace or repair the equipment for the following season.”

A big part of properly shutting down all paving/pavement maintenance operations at end of the season, is to also get things set up for the next season… a reboot for the restart.

“Winter prep for us is a major part of our spring success,” stated Marvin Joles, owner of Wis-Coat Asphalt Maintenance LLC, Lone Rock, Wisconsin.

The shutdown needs to be methodically executed to avoid unwarranted issues

“Season shut down mistakes can cost you more money in the long run,” Hutchings said. “There can be unexpected last-minute repairs to start your new season in the spring or worst yet, the dreaded machine failure on a job early in the season. These failures or repairs can really play havoc with your season schedule as well, postponing jobs and erasing possible bonus money for early completion. You want to set the stage for the following season and unexpected breakdowns, or huge capital expenses aren’t a good start to the season.”

End of season does cause reflection on the business. The pause of the daily grind.

“The biggest thing it will cost you stays the same really… and that is time,” Ascione said. “’Downtime is what you will experience. Often the mentality of ‘I’ll do that later’ or ‘we’ve got time’ is your biggest enemy. Yes, you do have time…now. Think of it this way. You don’t actually get paid to talk to customers, work on your equipment, bid jobs, or even do the work. You get paid to solve problems and when you invoice. So, think about it in this way, ‘Where can I make an improvement to serve my clients more efficiently?’. Do you know where that area is and how to improve that? Where are you spending your time and HOW are you spending your time? Winter is where you get all of those elements out of the way that don’t get you producing quickly, efficiently, and still holding a high level of quality.”

So, what is the best sequence or process for shutting down your operation for the season?

“The best shut-down sequence to follow is to first clean the unit thoroughly,” Hutchings said. “The next step is to perform a detailed inspection and schedule any necessary repairs, including ordering parts. The detailed inspections stage is the best time to review next year’s workload for the machine and determine if the repairs are best route to take financially or should you consider purchasing a new machine.”

Ascione said the following in reference to a recommended series of steps to take when shutting down before winter: “Critical, Sizable, Desirable.
Let me explain… most likely you have some critical things that need to be done whether its communicating with clients and giving them an update of what to expect for next year or some maintenance items on your equipment that have really been in need of attention for some time… do those things first, because when they’re done, you can clear that demand out of your mind and then focus on the sizable tasks.

“The sizable tasks might be a paint project or complete rebuild of your equipment. It might be finding a (new) CRM to use and fully building that out to be easy to use and completely streamlined. Basically, the sizable items are things that are going to require the most of your time. Well, now is the best time you’ll have and you can schedule it out and work on it consistently vs feeling like you’re in a rush and you have better things to do.

“And then, the desirable things are those that you WANT to do but aren’t a necessity. The reason that you can take on the desirable tasks is because all of the necessities are out of the way.”

With the work year ending, get your plans in order for the off season. And don’t forget now is the time to look back on all that’s been accomplished this season and to thank your crew and customers for the success.