Phil Bahler
Phil Bahler

Relying on tools in tough times
By Phil Bahler

During this epic period in history, the hardscape industry is thriving with work, yet experiencing extremely trying times all at the same time. We are witnessing unforeseen spikes in sales while also struggling with finding loyal, hardworking employees at reasonable wages.

Contractors tell me time and time again that they have a backlog of work, which can cause overwhelming anxiety. They’re booked up for 6 months, or even a year. The big question is: How do I combat this “pallet to pavement” struggle with a limited work force?

If you are a business owner or manager, one of the best qualities you can exhibit is to be honest with yourself and your team. It is crucial that you get together with your team to identify the pain in your company. When a weakness is brought out in the open it helps us as a team to talk it out. This weakness or void can also be defined as pain. Good tools and equipment can alleviate a lot of that pain.

“Pallet to pavement” material handling is one of the greatest forms of pain that we have in the hardscape industry today. One pallet of pavers on average weighs 3,000 lbs. To physically move these pavers or block into place requires a tremendous amount of energy and strength.

Every company struggling to move materials efficiently needs to do a deep dive, and research the options to reduce the physical and mental strains. Investing in small but mighty “micro equipment” is highly recommended. Micro equipment can move some of the heaviest products into the tightest places, alleviating or minimizing hand carrying. Vacuum lifting equipment (tube Lifters) that can lift anywhere from 1-7 pavers are a perfect example of micro equipment. There are also numerous clamping and suction devices.

Mini excavators are a must have for every hardscaper. Getting these small pieces of equipment into tight confined areas alleviate a tremendous amount of manual labor.
I encourage forward thinking when it comes to excavator attachments. My highest recommendation would be for a rotator attachment that allows you to rotate, swivel and tilt any implement in almost any position.

We are also seeing many clamping mechanisms enter the market for picking products. There are mechanical clamps that allow you to pick wall blocks individually or even multiple units at one time. Embracing some of the latest technology in hydraulic clamps can excel your company beyond your competitors.

Hydraulic clamps are designed to pick retaining wall block (1-6 at a time), slabs, curb stone, and even boulders. You can not only grip your products, but you have 360° rotation all at your fingertips, in the comfort of your machine.

There are also paver laying attachments that pick entire layers of pavers off a pallet. This equipment is designed to be coupled to an excavator to lay a full pallet in less than 10 minutes.

We are seeing more contractors stepping up their game and using these clamps to move pavers from the pallet to the installer. The installer will then use a suction tool to place the pavers, eliminating the struggle of hauling the pavers from the pallet. Whether it’s a simple clamp or a more complex piece of machinery, the right equipment can ease the labor burden in many different facets.

In conclusion, take time to conduct research. Not only to stabilize your company, but to excel in this epic time of increased demand and opportunity for profitability. Leave no stone unturned when looking for equipment/tool opportunities.

Phil Bahler is the owner of Pave Tool Innovators founded in 2006. He is still involved with Bahler Brothers hardscape contractors where he was a co-owner for 33 years. Contact Phil at PB@PaveTool.com or visit PaveTool.com

Digital Edition
April/May 2023