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Technology ‘obsessed’ All Roads Construction looking to bridge skills gap

Date Posted : March 11, 2024

by Jean Sorensen in : News and Events
Source: Construct Connect

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All Roads Construction is the first western Canadian company to carry out echelon paving using four pavers in a slightly staggered formation to pave a 62-foot swath of highway lane at one time.

All Roads is the first in Western Canada to bring together three pivotal technologies to gain efficiencies in roadbuilding. They are Smoothride, the wedge notch safety system, and intelligence compaction.

All Roads Construction bills itself as a paving company that is obsessed with technology and president Rod Stephens sees it as the passing lane that will speed his business past future competitors.

Much of the paving sector, he said, is dominated by an older generation that brought decades of valued but learned expertise to the industry.

But, they are edging towards retirement, a situation he encountered working for another company that went the way of many paving companies today. The privately-held paving firm sold out to a larger corporation looking to acquire assets or secure aggregate supplies.

"A lot of the guys were in their 60s and not willing to take on new technology," said Stephens.

At the same time, the frontline employees with decades of boots-on-the-ground expertise are also retiring.

Stephens sensed opportunity.

Along with four partners, he formed All Roads Construction six years ago.

"My push was to have a culture of technology," he said, as there is not "40 years to train" up individuals to the level of expertise leaving the industry.

The strategy has enabled the company to pull in large contracts through competitive bidding. The company completed its fourth consecutive contract in fall 2023 with the B.C. government for Highway 1 resurfacing (Brunette Bridge to Port Mann) of 62.4 lane kilometres using technology for road scanning and design, tracking loads in real time and truck travel routes, rolling patterns and densities.

It was also the site of B.C. first echelon paving with four slightly staggered pavers laying a 62-foot path.

All Roads’ drive coincided with a plethora of emerging technology in the paving industry as robotics, computer modelling, global positioning systems, local positioning systems, computer assisted design, vehicle tracking and scanning technology and it’s integrated into paving equipment.

"It has really improved lately in the past five years," Stephens said, spurred by increased materials and labour costs, the overall growing need to better track project costs and the ability to stream digital information.

The push towards more technology has All Roads targeting the 30 to 50 age groups when hiring.

Individuals with roadbuilding experience but who are screen and joy-stick savvy and have no qualms about using new technology.

"They embrace the technology," said Stephens.

All Roads, said Stephens, is the first in Western Canada to bring together three pivotal technologies to gain efficiencies in roadbuilding. They are Smoothride, the wedge notch safety system and intelligence compaction.

Stephens has shown technology - even in the face of decades of knowledge - can enhance productivity. He has used the intelligence compaction system on asphalt roller compactors equipped with heat sensing capability and the ability to track the machines’ rolling patterns.

"When a guy is working at 2 a.m., he can forget where he has been," said Stephens, adding the onboard screen records paths and compaction. If an operator is going over an area where it is not necessary, there is lost productivity.

The Smoothride technology is a three-dimensional scanning system that can move quickly down a roadway picking up thousands of pieces of information including lanes. It eliminates the need to close roadways so surveyors can work. The captured information can be imported into its software design and also into the milling process.

Stephens said he is now offering that scanning system to municipalities who want to collect data on their infrastructure. Courtenay, on Vancouver Island, has been collecting road data via scanning (although not by All Roads) on road conditions to better determine budget allocation.

Such municipalities are still an anomaly, according to Stephens. But, scanning can be used in a number of ways other than to determine road condition such as replacing roadway markings after paving and also inputting such data into guided robotic lane-marking machines.

Inputting scanned data in the design stage can also determine flaws in highway design as much as the construction industry uses computer assisted design. The contract design can be inputted into the company’s design software and any deficiency identified and dealt prior to work beginning.

"This eliminates any finger-pointing," said Stephens.

The wedged notch safety system utilizes an attachment on the paver which lays down a clean L-shaped edge but the bottom wedge will aid in joining the next pass of asphalt as joins are where degradation can occur.

The safety in the system, said Stephens, is that the wedge can also serve as a road edge, as a speeding motorcycle going off the main paved area drops onto a smooth lip rather than gravel.

All the collection of data can be stored and used to better gain information on competitive bidding, cost analysis in operations, and within the company’s overall finances.

"Technology is the future," said Stephens. "We are going to lead in that field in the industry and it is going to be hard for our competitors to catch up."


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