Even before the birth of computers and the introduction of a seemingly endless array of high-tech controls, success depended as much on your sales and negotiating skills as on how deep a bite your bucket took, so in one sense what we’re seeing happen to the industry is nothing new—only different and maybe a little more treacherous to the unwary.
For decades, the introduction of new equipment meant “bigger” or “stronger” or “faster” expressed in units of size, power, or performance. While the improvements were real, they were for the most part iterative—in effect “makeovers” from the past. Not so today.
Among the seemingly endless array of challenges we face—contractors and operators alike—are getting on top of momentous changes that have already taken place in the industry and then making sure we stay there because now that the floodgates are open, the pace of change is accelerating. What this means for most of us is making sure we’re pointed in the direction technology is heading and then looking for opportunities to take advantage of programs designed to allow us, our managers and supervisors, and ultimately our operators to make optimum use of these advances. This is where education and training come in.
Many of us got our knowledge hands-on at the School of Hard Knocks—and in some respects that's still the best way—but not all of our knowledge, especially when you’re talking about operating a machine capable of putting $500/hour in your pocket and settling for half that for the first several weeks because your operators don’t fully understand what it can do or how to take advantage of its automated features.
You might not want to spend the time and money on training for your supervisors and operators—in fact, you might feel their time would be better spent moving dirt rather than developing new skills for accomplishing tasks that you knew backward and forward before you got out of grade school—but before you commit to that line of thought, make sure your people are as savvy and capable as you are…or were.
While I can’t tell you that “the old way” is wrong, I can promise you there are among your competitors those who are going to try for every little bit of advantage they can, whether its in the machinery, operator skills, or handling the paperwork. Face it: If their estimators can dig into their computer screens and find ways to have their highly trained operators on high-production machines complete a job in 45 days while you're sitting there hoping on 60, you’re going to need more than a wonderful résumé and a big smile to stay competitive.