About the Author

 

Penelope B. Grenoble

Articles by Penelope B. Grenoble

Training: Getting it Write

| A few months ago, The New York Times took a hit for reporting on a recent confrontation between Palestinian and Israeli armed forces along the Gaza Strip border. The Tweet read: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the US prepares to open its Jerusalem embassy.” ... READ MORE

Training: Universal Basic Income

| Some time back, in a discussion on the changing nature of work, we introduced the concept of universal basic income (UBI). The idea is that the government (federal, state, local) provides citizens with a fixed income. A number of factors appear to have been responsible for the resurrection of this quirky idea: the snail’s pace of wage growth in recent years (less than the GDP per person), fears that digital technology—primarily robots and artificial intelligence—will be causing significant job loss in the not too distant future, and continually rising income inequality. ... READ MORE

Training: What’s Up With Simulators

| A couple of weeks back, a friend who maintains an ambitious program of forwarding emails about subjects she considers important (in this case, life after 50) sent an email with the subject line “Reaction Test.” It turned out to be an exercise in predicting your age based on your reaction time. You’re in the driver’s seat of a car heading down a two-lane highway. Trees appear and a few deer munch grass on either side of the road when suddenly a red hand appears telling you to stop. You apply the brakes, pounding a random key on the keyboard. ... READ MORE

Training: Compensation and Employee Satisfaction

| Over and over in this column, we have talked about employee development, from selecting the right employees right out of the box to partnerships with technical schools to develop potential hires with the skills you need. We’ve provided advice about online learning and email protocols and evaluated easy access to software updates, dealer sponsored courses and workshops, and the use of simulators and on-the-job learning. But by and large, we’ve said little about compensation and its role in developing an effective workforce and in employee satisfaction. This hit me the other day when an article on the “psychology of inequality” caught my eye. I picked it up thinking I would be reading about the difference between the 1% or the top 10%, or whatever it is in this country, versus the rest of us toiling away at various levels closer to the bottom than the top. ... READ MORE

Training: Getting What You Want

| A couple of years ago, we gave a heads up to Caterpillar’s high school internship program, which was established in partnership with a local community college and the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Career and College Promise Program. What caught our eye was that the program reached down into a potential labor pool that corporate recruiters typically neglect—high school students. The idea was hatched when Cat moved a skid steer assembly plant from Mexico to Sanford, NC. The new plant basically doubled the size of Cat’s Mexico facility and created the demand for an expanded workforce. What the plant needed particularly was welders, lots of welders. ... READ MORE

Training: Morale, Teamwork, and Job Satisfaction

| In past columns, we’ve examined the importance of employee development, the nature and meaning of work in the face of expanding technology (do we humans find meaning in work or is that secondary to $$$?) and the role of training in advancing job satisfaction while concurrently increasing the value of employees to an organization. How these issues intersect was recently brought home to me in spades. ... READ MORE

Training: Social Endeavors

| If you can’t beat ‘em, should you join ‘em? With everyone on your office team and your work site crews equipped with some kind of mobile device, could you be making better use of them than you are? Should you be developing social learning modules? A social media policy? Are you neglecting untapped potential? Is it worth the effort? An Internet search (where else?) suggests the affirmative on all counts, but within conditions. ... READ MORE

Training: To Be or Not To Be – And So What?

| When you’re building something smarter than you, you have to get it right on the first try,” says Eliezer Yudkowsky of Machine Intelligence Research Institute. In the last issue of this magazine (September 2017), we took a look at the expanding field of human-computer communication, one of the major benchmarks along the road to artificial intelligence (AI). We noted the advantages of computers assuming some of the more mundane tasks we humans are saddled with, freeing us up for more creative work and expanding our cognitive abilities to design a future that is beneficial and benign (and by the sound of some of it, banal). We noted that the model for building intelligent machines, whether the aim is helping us or sending us packing, is us. ... READ MORE

Training: Computer, Speak

| Maybe you heard it at a high school reunion (if you concluded your high school career sometime in the late '60s-early '70s) that your generation had it the best: immediate, personal experience with the world and technology that made life easier. Maybe the complaint circulated at a cocktail party (with a sip and a scowl) that the upcoming generation was removed, its experience of work and life in general modulated through a phalanx of digital devices. Or maybe you got it in an email from a friend who told you defiantly that they were glad they weren't going to be around to see it. ... READ MORE

Training: No Free Lunch

| Occasionally, we take a look back at some of the issues we've examined in past columns to assess their continued relevance and for insight on developments that may have evolved in the interim. ... READ MORE

Training: To Each His Own

| Vehicle simulators aren't new; they're in widespread use for teaching potential license holders how to become proficient on everything from passenger cars to trucks to well, buses. So widespread that about four years ago, I was asked to take a look at the state of the art of simulators in the heavy equipment industry. With a sense of all-knowingness, I concluded that simulator-based training was "making tentative inroads" in construction, "propelled by the need for skilled operators and increased productivity, high operating costs, and potentially looming safety regulations." ... READ MORE

Dos and Don’ts of Online Training

| I was sitting with a couple of friends over drinks a week or so ago listening to their complaints about the new company email system, which from their point of view was more complicated than it needed to be. Most of all, they were irritated that they were expected to train themselves on how to set it up, and any help they needed they were expected to get online. Both women were valued, seasoned employees. But when one of them asked if there was going to be any backup training, especially if they had questions about applying the new system to company operations, she was told no. When she expressed concern, it was suggested that she might be more comfortable somewhere else. ... READ MORE

Training: The Dos and Don’ts of Online Training

| I was sitting with a couple of friends over drinks a week or so ago listening to their complaints about the new company email system, which from their point of view was more complicated than it needed to be. Most of all, they were irritated that they were expected to train themselves on how to set it up, and any help they needed they were expected to get online. Both women were valued, seasoned employees. But when one of them asked if there was going to be any backup training, especially if they had questions about applying the new system to company operations, she was told no. When she expressed concern, it was suggested that she might be more comfortable somewhere else. ... READ MORE

Training: Training Operators As Customer Service

| Way back in the dark ages (about 10 years ago) when machine control was being introduced to the construction industry, the name of the game was hands-on, person-to-person training. A mainstay of the approach was to identify a champion of the new technology who would bring the rest of the folks onboard. A major hurdle was convincing seasoned operators that computers weren't going to muscle them out. Manufacturers were tripping over themselves trying to get a hearing. Contractors complained about having to take people off the job to learn computer-assisted grading, and for a while getting machine control into the market was a long, slow slog. ... READ MORE

Training: Watch and Pray

| In the last few issues we've been looking at automation in the workplace, speculating on its effects now and in the future. We reported estimates that in the next two decades, as many as 47% of the jobs in this country will be candidates for automation. We talked about how technology is changing the workplace, helping humans problem solve and accomplish tasks more efficiently and cost effectively. And, computers—which increase our individual capacity to perform discrete skills—have the potential to make us more expert at what we do, even as what we do changes in approach and content. ... READ MORE

Engine Block Heaters: Quick Starts for Standby Power

| Typically they don’t land on the desk of top decision-makers or lend themselves to innovative applications. Andy Rudderham, vice president of sales for Total Systems Ltd. in Mississauga, ON, says equipment dealers and genset packagers are the only ones likely to get fired up about them. But whether you call them block heaters, water jacket heaters, or engine preheaters, they’re essential to getting diesel-fueled gensets up-and-running at full power in the 10 seconds that are standard for emergency power applications. ... READ MORE

Training: Interns Are Worth the Time and Treasure If You Do It Right

| This past summer, the son of a friend of mine got on an airplane and left southern California to work at an aircraft parts company in Indiana. He spent the first half of the summer working with a group of other interns in the warehouse. The second month he snagged an assignment as an assistant to the president of the company, helping organize marketing spreadsheets. At the end of the summer, he stepped back on an airplane for the return trip west with a reference from a multi-million-dollar company and enough money to buy himself an Apple watch. His goal is business management, and his stint with the company president gave him valuable experience. The question is: what did the company get out of it? Did it optimize this young man's skills and enthusiasm to benefit its operations? Did it get sufficient return on the price of that Apple watch and the ancillary expenses it invested in training, supervising, and evaluation? ... READ MORE

Training: Sliding Into the Brave New Automated World

| In our last issue we talked about something called “universal basic income.” The idea, promulgated by some sociologists and economists, is that government provides its citizens with a fixed monthly income to help compensate for jobs lost to technology. ... READ MORE

Training: When Money Grows on Trees

| The cartoon on the first page of the article I want to tell you about is all bright colors and happy faces. People sit under a verdant tree picnicking and snatching dollar bills from the tree's green crown. But turn the page, and you'll see the grass below the tree where the happy guitar-playing, poetry-writing picnickers once sat is worn into a rut by a troop of despondent, stoop-shouldered, glassy-eyed, and generally bewildered-looking people caught in a haze of dirty gray-green. ... READ MORE

Training: Unstructured Data Part 2

| Two issues back in this column, we took a look at the confusion generated by the proliferation of mobile devices on construction job sites. One attraction of project management software is the possibilities it offers for field-office communication and for keeping a real-time eye on how jobs are going. But just as we can be compulsive about our private use of mobile devices, it's become almost knee-jerk to record job site data, whether or not we know how it might be utilized. More inconvenient than catastrophic when it comes to our private data, the practice of recording details digitally and broadcasting them to a wide audience has actually made decision-making more difficult. ... READ MORE

Training: We’re All In It Together

| OK, OK, it’s a broken record—the very slow trickle of trained, competent, and responsible operators entering the construction industry—and all those jobs out there waiting. Construction isn’t alone. Health care and municipal utilities are facing the same challenge. Junior colleges and trade schools are often held up as prime sources of trained and qualified applicants, and mega-equipment manufacturers ... READ MORE

Training: Beware the Quagmire of Unstructured Data

| Wayne Newitts is up to his ears in information, surrounded by data—his, his staff's, his clients'. E-mails, text messages, meeting notes, white board jottings. All of it related to some aspect of what he does for a living, which is market software for Dexter + Chaney. What worries him is that he will lose some important gigabyte swimming around in the weeds, file it in the wrong place, delete it, or send it to someone he shouldn't and not to someone who's likely to fall off the cliff without it. ... READ MORE

Training: To Each His Own

| Standing on the beach watching clouds scuttle across a post-storm sky, I asked the lifeguard standing next to me what he did on his days off. “Watch the weather, ” he said. “Can’t help it.” Like a bus driver rides the bus and a magazine writer gobbles up other magazines. Which was how Idiscovered a company in Canada that’s ... READ MORE

Rethinking Takeoff Software – Part 1

| “If you don’t have confidence in your takeoff, it’s worthless,” says Coy Lowden, estimator/project manager at Lowden Excavating Inc. in Kyle, TX, “You might as well not have done it.” True enough, but how do you get there? Four years ago onscreen takeoffs all but made digitizers obsolete. The current standard, from Roctek to Trimble, ... READ MORE

Engine Block Heaters: Quick Starts for Standby Power

| Typically they don't land on the desk of top decision-makers or lend themselves to innovative applications. Andy Rudderham, vice president of sales for Total Systems Ltd. in Mississauga, ON, says equipment dealers and gen set packagers are the only ones likely to get fired up about them. But whether you call them block heaters, water jacket heaters, or engine preheaters, they're essential to getting diesel-fueled gen sets up and running at full power in the 10 seconds that are standard for emergency pow... ... READ MORE

Training: The Odd Couple—Training and Customer Service

| The press release was meant to call attention to one of Terex Corp.’s special training programs: its Annual Service School for mechanics and service technicians. I’m always interested when manufac­turers talk about providing training through their own “schools” so I bit. But when I called for more information, I was surprised to find myself talking to the company’s ... READ MORE

Training: Jobs Go Lacking, Opportunity Knocks

| At first glance the press release that landed on my desk didn’t look particularly notable—a Cleveland, OH-based marketing company announcing that it had just made a donation to the Construction Program Scholarship at a local community college. Given that the amount wasn’t large, it seemed more gesture than substantive action, and I was about to toss it when I remembered a recent jobs market report, which put Sonnhalter’s $2,000 donation to Cuyahoga Community College in a larger context. ... READ MORE

Training: It’s Not What You Say, But What You Do

| One thing that often puts people off training is the set of terms the industry uses to describe what it does, which can appear vague and removed from the on-the-ground reality. Metrics, for example. What ever happened to plain old measurement? ... READ MORE

Training: McCarthy Construction Named in Top 10 of Employee Development— and Training’s Only Part of It

| For the fourth year in a row, McCarthy Building Companies Inc., a St. Louis-based construction firm with 2014 revenues approaching $3 billion, has been named in the top ten of Training magazine's Top 125 training programs. The highest-rated construction company, this year McCarthy held the number seven slot on the list. Critical criteria for award selection included "demonstrated effectiveness" of training programs that contributed to achieving "key corporate strategic goals." ... READ MORE

Training: Enough Is Enough

| Sometimes it's worth it to stop and take a look at where you're headed, where you've been, and whether that sharp left turn you took along the way worked out the way you thought it would. With that thought in mind, I took a quick trip back through the training columns we've presented here. It was an enlightening experience. ... READ MORE

Rethinking Takeoff Software – Part 3

| “What we’re working on is a start-to-finish Topcon solution. If you only do data prep, you get the data prep package. If you do site takeoff or road takeoff, we have different packages for that. We have workflow guides and wizards built into the program to guide you through each of those steps. Say you’re ... READ MORE

Rethinking Takeoff Software – Part 2

| “Takeoffs using our software can be done from image files—PDF, TIF, JPG or CAD (.DWG) files—or from paper plans using an optional digitizer. When we do demos, I ask customers to send us PDF of their job because when they see our demo file and how it behaves, they think it’s some magic file I ... READ MORE

Training: Innovative Training Programs 3
—A Man Who Speaks His Mind

| In our quest to discover innovative training opportunities in the construction industry, we’ve looked at a New Hampshire grade foreman’s boot camp that’s taught in an indoor soccer field and a learn-by-bus program that comes out of the water industry. Along the way we’ve established some training universals, including live instruction that facilitates instructor-student interaction, hands-on experience and the chance for participants to swap knowledge and experience. Veteran construction industry educator Harry Ward would add two more: 1) respect the people you aim to train, and 2) be opportunistic. ... READ MORE

Training: Caterpillar’s Training Program Reaches Down to High School for Manufacturing Talent

| You're world leader in heavy earthmoving equipment and you relocate a skid-steer assembly plant from Mexico to a small town in North Carolina. You build a new building, basically doubling the size of your existing campus, and suddenly you need welders-a lot of welders. How do you handle it? "We recognized a need for a sustainable pipeline of talent," says Korey Coon, lead human resources manager for Caterpillar's Building Construction Products Division, "not just for when we open... ... READ MORE

Innovative Training Programs 3: A Man Who Speaks His Mind

| In our quest to discover innovative training opportunities in the construction industry, we've looked at a New Hampshire grade foreman's boot camp that's taught in an indoor soccer field and a learn-by-bus program that comes out of the water industry. Along the way we've established some training universals, including live instruction that facilitates instructor-student interaction, hands-on experience and the chance for participants to swap knowledge and experience. Veteran cons... ... READ MORE

One More Time: Training As Career Development

| At Grading & Excavation Contractor we have long made the point (expressed repeatedly in this column) that training is not just about getting employees up to speed on how to use a new software program or operate equipment. Really good training, worth the time employees spend on it and the treasure management directs toward it, involves investing in your employees as critical and valuable assets to your organization. What this takes is an expanded view of employee education-awa... ... READ MORE

Why Don’t We All Work Together?

| In the last issue we announced our intention to spotlight innovative training programs that might provide good models for the construction industry. We indicated there was a need for this based on the generally dismal and uninspiring status quo of training in the industry, where training is often an afterthought and the first to go when resources are stretched. We also suggested that contractors might benefit from focusing more on the employee development aspects of training, pro... ... READ MORE

Software Set for Takeoff

| Still digitizing? Considering onscreen? Ready to integrate everything from takeoff to project management? Whatever your goal, there's software out there for you. To help you decide, we crossed-referenced the features software manufacturers talked about with benefits contractors say they liked. From Paper to Onscreen Andrew Koehn, cofounder of Keystone Excavating in Versailles, MO, thinks going digital with Maxwell Systems software was one of the company's best investments. Koehn ... ... READ MORE

New Frontiers in Energy Management

| "Utilities continue to find it extremely challenging to fund and manage capital projects while keeping rates low and stable. They're embarking on asset management programs while finding ways to reduce operating costs and increase revenues through energy-related projects. . . . These programs are increasingly delivered through public private partnerships with alternative means of financing," says Steve Tarallo, North America Business Lead, Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, B... ... READ MORE

In the Know: Small Classes and Hands On

| When it comes to training, it helps to know what you're talking about, to stop a minute and evaluate what you think you know. We know, for example, that training involves the presentation of information, and hopefully opportunities to practice, and that the goal is to develop a minimum standardized proficiency among employees tasked with similar jobs and responsibilities. In the construction industry, this mostly involves learning new or different software, equipment, technology,... ... READ MORE

New Frontiers in Energy Management

| "Utilities continue to find it extremely challenging to fund and manage capital projects while keeping rates low and stable. They're embarking on asset management programs while finding ways to reduce operating costs and increase revenues through energy-related projects. . . . These programs are increasingly delivered through public private partnerships with alternative means of financing," says Steve Tarallo, North America Business Lead, Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions, B... ... READ MORE

Training: Employee Buy-In—Closing the Loop

| It appears 2013 was the year Hollywood decided that we dispirited humans, confronted with a variety of forces beyond our control-a lagging economy, social unrest, and dysfunctional government-needed to be reminded of the value of individual determination and perseverance in the face of difficult odds, of how well we can cope if we just put our minds to it and summon our individual talents and capabilities. In Captain Phillips, perennial good guy Tom Hanks showed us what it takes ... ... READ MORE

Setting Up for Precision With GPS and Lasers

| Although the terms accuracy and precision get tossed around interchangeably, contractors are wise to be aware of the difference. Precision refers to the repeatability or reproducibility of measurement, accuracy to the degree to which a specific measurement represents a true value. Precision is a function of the system. Achieving accuracy is a matter of operation. "It's hard to make a GPS system more accurate," says Chris Mazur, product marketing manager at Leica Machine Control. ... ... READ MORE

Private-Public Training Partnerships

| One of the fundamental questions arising in the development of training programs is how substantial the program should be, and the even stickier wicket: how to build it to address long-term objectives you may not even be aware of yet. Occasionally, serendipity brings together factors that result in development of a model that not only addresses these questions, but also proves useful beyond the immediate situation it was designed to address. A case in point is the Applied Associa... ... READ MORE

Training for a Change

| To change is to make something different from what it was, perhaps install something in place of something that appears to have been tried and true. To cause things to be different. In the construction industry the biggest changes have evolved around software for handling administrative data, tracking assets and project management and software and equipment that automates site surveying/management and the machines in the field. Contractors are told (sometimes incessantly) that wh... ... READ MORE

Utility Detection Is Not a Crapshoot

| Utility detection is serious business. Poor utility location and management during the design and construction of a project, and when doing maintenance and repairs, can result in job shutdowns, liability claims, injuries, and even death. The bad news is that when it comes to detecting underground utilities, there's no silver bullet. There's no technology that works in all conditions, every time. And to hear the professionals tell it, even if the full arsenal of what's available i... ... READ MORE

An Abundance of Riches

| The idea had been to talk to business and estimating software manufacturers about their web-based learning aides and then advise contractors what they can do to make the best use of what's available in free or low-cost resources. But Chris Henry, director of technical services at HCSS software, suggested another, deeper challenge he sees surfacing among customers in the construction industry. "I don't know that our customers have taken the time to actually assess where their pers... ... READ MORE

Close Work at Malibu

| Long before the job finally got under way in June 2012, the restoration of Malibu Lagoon, a 31-acre shallow water embayment formed where Malibu Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean, had accumulated a reputation as of one of California's most ecologically sensitive and politically contentious construction projects. Ecologically sensitive, because the object was to restore ecological balance to one of the state's last naturally functioning lagoons; contentious, because opponents cl... ... READ MORE

Changes in Project Management Mean Training Challenges

| Although in this column we have typically focused on training at the execution level, that is, at the level of the folks who are out there doing the work, a new report from ESI International suggests a neglected segment of the work force: project management and the need to take a look at various aspects of job procurement and execution and subcontractors and vendor management. ESI's bailiwick is just that, project management, and each year it issues a report on evolving trends in... ... READ MORE

Machine Control: On-the-Job Training That Works

| You've read in these columns that when it comes to machine control, manufacturers warn contractors about one-stop training-give the operator a quick run-through and let her rip. You've also heard manufacturers say it's essential to have a champion, someone who understands the value of the technology, will do what it takes to learn it, and be a resource for the rest of the crew. Mike Wahlin, GPS grading systems engineer at Reynolds Brothers Inc. in Salt Lake City, is just that kin... ... READ MORE

Closing L.A. County’s Largest Landfill

| Southern California's Puente Hills Landfill, one of the largest landfills in the country, will shut down operations on October 31, 2013, with 127 million tons of waste in place and 10-plus million tons short of its permitted capacity. The site has been in operation since 1957, first as a private dump, and since 1970 as a sanitary landfill owned and operated by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County (LACSD). According to LACSD Division Engineer Robert Asgian, ... ... READ MORE

Close Work at Malibu

| Long before the job finally got under way in June 2012, the restoration of Malibu Lagoon, a 31-acre shallow water embayment formed where Malibu Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean, had accumulated a reputation as of one of California's most ecologically sensitive and politically contentious construction projects. Ecologically sensitive, because the object was to restore ecological balance to one of the state's last naturally functioning lagoons; contentious, because opponents ... ... READ MORE

Training: Spring Training

| Time to gear up, get the equipment in shape, start lining up the operators, and get them up to speed. And that means training: at the least a refresher course for the guys who are coming back and a little this-is-how-we-do-it-here advice for new hires. The question is not only what you think you want your crews to know, but also why, and how you're going to get them what they need. Otherwise you're wasting their time and your money. What follows is a compilation of the best tips ... ... READ MORE

Rethinking Takeoff Software

| "If you don't have confidence in your takeoff, it's worthless," says Coy Lowden, estimator/project manager at Lowden Excavating Inc. in Kyle, TX, "You might as well not have done it." True enough, but how do you get there? Four years ago onscreen takeoffs all but made digitizers obsolete. The current standard, from Roctek to Trimble, is the ability to import and work with vector PDFs. Three-D is another feature, and depending on how far you want to go, both Topcon and Trimble are... ... READ MORE

Coming Into Their Own

| One fallout from the devastation Hurricane Sandy, caused on the eastern seaboard in Fall 2012, was the realization of a need for better systems to keep power up-and-running during natural disasters. "There's been a new focus on microgrids," says Rich Shaw, General Manager of Domestic Sales at UTC Power in South Windsor, CT. "And in Connecticut, there's been a move to make fuel cells a major contributor because they can provide clean power close to where it's needed, and th... ... READ MORE

Training: The New Hampshire Grade Foreman Boot Camp

| Once in a while you hear about someone taking the bull by the horn and stepping in to fill a gap. A case in point is the New Hampshire-based Construction Education Academy, the brainchild of Tim Edes of Eastpoint Lasers LLC, a laser, construction layout, and engineering supplier in Hooksett, NH, and Kent Brown of Brown Engineering LLC in Meredith, NH. Edes has 30 years experience training construction personnel how to use layout tools and software and Brown has spent three decade... ... READ MORE

Integrated Waste Management: What It Takes

| "Renewable Portfolio Standard credit is big money, but what's surprising is a lot of these companies are banking on it to help them put their business plans together."  -Caroll Mortensen, Director, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery "It's going to take some incentives. The subsidies have to come from somewhere."  -Charley Tripp, Bureau Manager, Southeast Resource Recovery Facility, Long Beach, CA What does it look like when a co... ... READ MORE

Ten Dos and Don’ts

| From the top on down to superintendents in the field, management has a crucial role to play in training. There are multiple levels all along the way that require input and decision-making, and passing these off to a trainer or neglecting them because of perceived time or commitment pressures can be a recipe for failure. Here's a summary of critical management responsibilities recognized by the companies who take training seriously and the training experts who serve them. 1. Do kn... ... READ MORE

From Takeoff to Project Management: What’s New In Software?

| " We've seen small companies who weren't competitive and who have invested in software, and suddenly we're competing against them. And they compete very well." -Monty Claar, Project Estimator/Manager, Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. "I can say right now our software is one of the only reasons we survived the economic downturn." -Casey Dillon, Project Manager and Estimator, Atlas Excavating Inc. Okay, we'll say it again: The right software, configured to fit your business and well integrat... ... READ MORE

Thinking Long-Term

| Water conservation, as the industry has known it, has typically focused on short-term programs to cut water usage in the face of drought. Low-flow fixtures and other residential innovations (such as dual-flush toilets) have done their job, conserving 4,883,734,221 gallons in the US alone. But, as evidence of climate change and global warming accumulates, water purveyors are beginning to realize they must take a more holistic approach to demand side, with projects and programs dev... ... READ MORE

A Zero-Sum Game

| From net zero energy buildings come strategies that can help make for smaller mechanical systems in a building's interior and help reduce energy costs overall. While a net-zero energy building may not be your goal, adopting strategies from the net zero energy template can go a long way toward energy efficiency and reducing costs. The Warren County, KY, Board of Education has collaborated on a number of successful sustainable schools over the years. Five of them have received the... ... READ MORE

Training: Now’s the Time to Invest

| In the last issue we reported on projections for the construction industry from the perspective of four economic experts. Their prognosis was for a very guarded optimism, but since then the news from Europe and elsewhere suggests things are sliding from bleak to couldn't-be-much-bleaker. When the economy tanks like this and you're looking for places to cut, it's tempting to target "soft" expenses like employee training and development. But don't do it. We're in a situation ... ... READ MORE

Software Training: Tips from the Pros

| Professional trainers know things you and I don't. They know how people learn, when and why they can falter, and what makes a software-training program successful. We asked four veterans for their behind-the-scenes tips. What they said was mostly common sense, yes, but how easily we forget. 1. Executive buy-in-Let your staff know the boss is behind them and why . "Executive buy-in is critical," says Chris Henry, director of technical services at HCSS. "And this includes transmitt... ... READ MORE

Which Way to Go?

| Written by  Penelope B. Grenoble In the first of this series of articles on emerging trends toward integrated systems of waste management ( MSW Management, June 2012), we spotlighted plans by both the city and county of Los Angeles to utilize waste conversion to clean energy technology (WTCE) to help reduce landfill volume, meet state diversion regulations and mine the energy potential of the MSW stream. Although, when completed, these projects will be among the first of their kind in the United St... ... READ MORE

Cool Kids and Efficient Generations

| The optimum word in the fuel cell industry these days is commercialization, followed closely by incentives . Among manufacturers, early adopters, and government agencies there is little doubt about the efficiency of the technology across a wide variety of applications, but the question remains how long before demand drives costs down. Meanwhile, a host of clean air initiatives backed by federal and state support for new technology and sustainable energy alternatives are driving i... ... READ MORE

Batting the Dirty Dozen

| According to the US Conference of Mayors, local governments spent $105 billion in 2010 to provide water and wastewater services in this country. Although the figure includes infrastructure, there can be little doubt that a good chunk of that change went to meet federal and state drinking water standards and maintain water quality, a challenge that is becoming increasing complex. As Mark LeChevallier, Director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship for American Water, an inve... ... READ MORE

Toward Truly Integrated Waste Management

| Two municipal jurisdictions in Southern California are nipping at the heels of integrated waste management in this country with plans to utilize waste-to-clean-energy (WTCE) conversion technologies (non-incineration thermal, chemical, biological, or mechanical conversion processes, singly or in combination, that produce a clean-burning fuel to generate electricity and/or renewable fuel and excluding mass burn technology) to reduce landfill volume. The city of Los Angeles's ... ... READ MORE

Missing Link

| "It's interesting that our electricity system has lasted 150 years without storage as a major component," says Sam Jaffe, Research Manager in Distributed Energy Strategies at energy consultants IDC Energy Insights. "That's due, in part, to the nature of electricity, which can be created and delivered and consumed instantaneously." But while conventional utilities may have been slow getting on board, storage is critical for other aspects of energy delivery, such as UPS and in off-... ... READ MORE

Training: For the Love of the Job

| Over the course of last year, we've occasionally received news about winners of Case Construction Equipment Triple Threat Rodeos across the United States and Canada, regional competitions that qualified 60 top operators for a showdown in the North American Championship at this year's World of Concrete in Las Vegas. The more we thought about it, the more we wondered what kind of background and training propelled these operators into the winner's circle. To find out, we tracked down t... ... READ MORE

Matching Site, Material, and Demand

| St. Paul, MN, has been doing it since the early 1900s. The Primland Resort in Virginia does it. So do the US Forest Service; the city of Denver, CO; and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District in Texas. A Home Depot outside of Sacramento, CA, does it. Wal-Mart has been known to do it, too.  With all this activity, you might think what the industry calls "in-ground," "buried", or "underground" storage would be pretty much cut and dried. But buried in-vessel wat... ... READ MORE

Options for Equipment

| No doubt about it, the times are a-changin'. Actually, they've changed. Credit is tight and tax revenue is down, but the trash keeps piling up, equipment ages and new technology beckons. What to do? There have long been alternatives to the old cash-on-the barrelhead routine for buying or replacing collection equipment, and with the economy in the shape's it's in, now's as good a time as any to dip into this varied bag of tricks. Leases, when properly managed can get you the truck you need and with a lit... ... READ MORE

Training: Redefining the T Word

| Listening to Steve Neal and Wayne Tomlinson talk about what they do at the Road Institute-a kind of mini-asphalt paving university for contractors, DOTs, municipalities, engineers, material manufacturers, and just about anybody who has a connection to or an interest in the asphalt paving industry-it's easy to understand why for many people, "train" has become a four-letter word.  Train. Train. Train. We hear it everywhere-how important it is, how we're not doing enough. What you can expect if you d... ... READ MORE

Training in the World of Asphalt

| Listening to instructors Steve Neal and Wayne Tomlinson talk about what they do at the Road Institute, a kind of mini-asphalt paving university for contractors, DOTs, municipalities, engineers, material manufacturers, and just about anybody who has a connection to or an interest in the asphalt paving industry, suggests another look at what good training can be about. Train. Train. Train. We hear it everywhere-how important it is, how we're not doing enough. But too often the nature of training ends up b... ... READ MORE

Lean and Mean: Training in Tight Times

| Common wisdom has it that when times are tight you pull in and cut expenses. Forgo new purchases, avoid discretionary spending, and, most of all, do more with less. But common wisdom can be wrong. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, a down economy is a great time to invest in training. In fact, say the experts, you avoid it at your peril.  If the 1990s were the years of global abundance, the 2010s will likely go down as the age of scarcity, which means there's no doubt that trimming waste, tigh... ... READ MORE

Whither Tech Support

| Anyone who takes a close look at the current state of technical support in the heavy equipment industry will notice a number of trends that have the potential to affect changes in how equipment is serviced. First the machines-they're more and more complicated, which means the technology to diagnose and trouble-shoot has become more sophisticated, specialized, and expensive. Second, a constant the stream of upgrades and add-ons requires technicians be constantly on their toes. Third, the work force is ch... ... READ MORE

Simulator Training: Where We Are, Where We’re Going

| Although earthmoving simulators provide an opportunity for safe and cost-effective training of beginning operators and for seasoned operators to cross-train, upgrade skills, work off bad habits, and become familiar with new technology, the construction industry has been slow to jump on the bandwagon. But the good news is that while manufacturers struggle to sort out the market and iron out kinks in delivery systems, a group of enthusiastic early adopters is applying simulators to a variety of training s... ... READ MORE

Training- Productivity: Think Small

| A study by ESI International, a management firm that specializes in staff development, recently established that, despite the billions of dollars companies spend annually on training in the United States, too little of what they pay for actually gets applied on the job. Common missteps include insufficient involvement on the part of management in how training melds with a company's goals, the lack of a companywide strategy, and insufficient feedback mechanisms to determine whether training has been effe... ... READ MORE

Training: Free, Easy, and Effective

| Training has a reputation for being expensive, time consuming, and often less than productive. Absolutely not, say the producers of software for the construction and dirt-moving industries. The critical word is "essential." The software developers call it implementation and insist that this kind of training is key to a successful software installation and critical to protecting your investment. Most software companies design training programs with individual clients in mind, but as a service to their cu... ... READ MORE

Training in Construction: Necessary, Important…and Possible

| “When it comes to training, doing nothing is costing you something.” —Dan Abbott, director of learning services, Knife River Corp. “If you play the old game of ‘I know what I’m doing’ and turn the monitor off, you’re already losing money.” —Gene Kidd, field staff supervisor, IUOE Local 701 “Ignorance is expensive,” says Dan Abbott, ... READ MORE

Compact Equipment: News From the Front

| “Eventually, almost every contractor is going to buy, rent, or lease a piece of compact equipment,” says Jason Williamson, compact excavator marketing supervisor at Caterpillar. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, the capability, productivity, and versatility of these little machines have increased almost exponentially.” So what’s new, different, and exciting in the compact equipment ... READ MORE

The Future Is Here: The Digital Job Site

| Five years ago contractors might have thought digital terrain mapping, 3D machine control and computerized data management were too far down the pike to be bothered with, and in any case would divert time and money from the real business of moving dirt. But technology and the software that makes it sing have continued their ... READ MORE

Five Steps to Keep Things Moving

| Sorting and baling are at the heart of any recycling operation. And whether your goal is disposal or recovery, the principles are the same. It’s not rocket science, not much more than common sense, but neglect this critical checklist at your peril. Manufacturers and system operators remind us what it takes. 1. Get the Right ... READ MORE

Keeping the Moving Parts Moving

| Maintaining an excavator's moving parts (stick and boom, tracks, chassis, bucket and attachments) isn't rocket science. But it takes time, attention to detail, and being diligent about following manufacturer specifications. Maintenance is critical. Read the manual, schedule according to manufacturer-recommended intervals, operate your machines properly and do visual inspections daily to catch small problems before they become big ones. You'll be a long way ahead of the game. Make Maintenance a Priority ... ... READ MORE

The Ag Side of the Water Crisis

| In the 1960s, Californians voted on a massive infrastructure to move water around the state. Since then, lawmakers have not retooled the system to meet increased demand from agriculture and urban growth along with the state's environmental commitments. It has been almost three years since Judge Oliver Wanger ordered a one-third reduction in pumping from California's Sacramento--San Joaquin Delta to customers in the Joaquin Valley, southern California, and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. The ruling c... ... READ MORE

Digital Takeoffs Toward Paperless, Stakeless Job Sites

| Plan rooms, electronic files, portable takeoffs: while some contractors have jumped on the digital bandwagon faster than you can say jackrabbit, applying onscreen technology requires an understanding of such issues as file types and where paperless takeoffs fit in the emerging digital job site. And contractors should be clear about their goals. Are digital takeoffs all they're after? Or are they aiming to get beyond staking and into machine control? "When CAD was first available and could be imported in... ... READ MORE

Earthwork Software

| Earthwork software-is it for you? What can it do for you, and what's the best way to use it? Digitizer? Onscreen takeoffs? We asked the providers where they think the industry is going and how their products fit in. "I think the most important question," says Gregg LaPore, chief executive officer of Trakware Inc., providers of Earthworks and EarthworksPro, "is how earthwork software fits into everything else contractors are doing. "Our target market is people who want to have straightforward, easy-to-us... ... READ MORE

Technology in Construction: Connecting the Office to the Field

| Trimble calls it the Connected Community (a derivative of its Trimble Connected Site). Topcon talks about starting simply, while Cat aims to take a lead with its dealer network. Leica says it's taking it slow, "future proofing" what it will offer. All of this is aimed at achieving what many are calling the "integrated job site," an approach to real-time, two-way communication of data from field to office enabled by advances in communication technology. Primary goals are those of keeping everyone up to da... ... READ MORE

Telematics

| Less than five years ago, Tim Lewis, then the senior director of construction equipment for Qualcomm Inc., was marketing GPSs to the construction industry as  critical “management tools” for tracking and monitoring, predicting that within the next four years they would be standard. “It’s a matter of controlling operational efficiencies,” Lewis said at the time. ... READ MORE

Going Tankless

| Energy-efficient hot-water heaters are making inroads in the US market. But when is tanklessness the right thing to do? ... READ MORE

Density, Density, Density

| "Compaction pays for itself," says Johnny Poole, executive director of the Cedar Grove Landfill in Lamar County, GA. "It's the one thing you can control in a landfill." Poole takes in 250 tons of mixed MSW and C&D a day. His operator typically makes more than five passes in the landfill's 120,000-pound Al-jon 600 and the landfill keeps the trash damp by circulating leachate. "We've got wet garbage, we've got a narrow working face, we spread it thin and I over-roll it. B... ... READ MORE

Beyond Interlocks: What’s Up With Collection and Transfer Vehicle Safety

| “We’ve taken the driver from being a garbage man to an equipment operator,” says Rob Strange, western regional refuse manager for McNeilus Companies in Los Angeles, CA. For solid waste managers, both challenge and opportunity lie therein. As Strange suggests, recent trends in the solid waste industry have focused on what he describes as a ... READ MORE

Distributed Generation Onsite Power Takes the Load Off Office Buildings

| Chicago, ILbased Equity Office is the nation's largest owner and manager of office buildings with more than 721 properties and 124.4 million ft.2 of office space in 19 states. It therefore was no small decision when the company committed to a program of distributed generation (DG). Through its wholly owned subsidiary, On-site Energy Providers LLP, Equity Office currently has 12 buildings with onsite power plants installed or in progress and another eight buildings targeted. The company's eventual goal ... ... READ MORE

Construction Work at Night: The View From Under the Lights

| “Working at night is totally different from anything you’ve done before,” maintains Tony Bodway, crew superintendent for Payne and Dolan Inc., a paving operation in Waukesha, WI. “Until you do it, you can’t fathom working at night.” Rick Longstaff, president of Vista Training Inc. in Burlington, WI, agrees. “Crews working at night are usually under ... READ MORE

To Train or Not to Train: It’s No Longer a Question

| If you’re considering a heavy-equipment operator training program for your employees, the first questions to ask yourself are whom do you want to train, why, and what return do you expect for the time and money you invest? “In my opinion, no more than two-thirds of the dollars people invest in equipment around the world ... READ MORE

Maintaining Turf on Golf Courses and Playing Fields

| You've got bald spots around the soccer field goal posts, bare spots in the middle of the football field, a path worn through the grass in a favorite community park, three golf course fairways that look like Hannibal just trekked through trailing 30 elephants. What can you do? A lot, it seems (aerification, topdressing, overseeding, extra water, and fertilizer), as long as you first acknowledge that maintaining high-traffic areas means taking a good, solid look at what you're up against and keeping your... ... READ MORE

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