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Autonomous Technology Helps Ajax Paving Overcome Labor Challenges and Reduce Costs

Ajax Paving’s Caterpillar 966XE Wheel Loader operated with Teleo technology loads their asphalt plant.
Ajax Paving’s Caterpillar 966XE Wheel Loader operated with Teleo technology loads their asphalt plant.
Teleo-equipped Caterpillar wheel loader working in the midst of other operations at an Ajax Paving asphalt plant.
Teleo-equipped Caterpillar wheel loader working in the midst of other operations at an Ajax Paving asphalt plant.
Caterpillar 966XE Wheel Loader equipped with Teleo Supervised Autonomy at an Ajax Paving asphalt plant.
Caterpillar 966XE Wheel Loader equipped with Teleo Supervised Autonomy at an Ajax Paving asphalt plant.
Asphalt manufacturing is a time-sensitive business — when you need asphalt, you need it right away.

Ajax Paving operates eight asphalt manufacturing plants across the state of Florida and has paved thousands of miles of roadways. But the just-in-time nature of their business is hampered by the ongoing labor shortage that makes heavy equipment operator roles tough to fill.

To help overcome that challenge, Ajax turned to Teleo and became the industry’s first company to use remote operations to load an asphalt plant.

Labor Solutions
The company outfitted a new Caterpillar 966XE Wheel Loader with Teleo Supervised Autonomy — technology that enables remote and autonomous operation of the machine from a comfortable command center — and is in the process of outfitting a second wheel loader.

The loaders are stationed at two of the company's asphalt manufacturing plants, roughly 80 miles apart. Once the second wheel loader is outfitted with Teleo’s technology, a single Ajax operator will be able to work across two job sites simultaneously from one of three Ajax command centers.

“We'll be using Teleo at two of our asphalt facilities to remote-operate the loader which feeds the plant,” said Andy DeCraene, Executive Vice President of Operations at Ajax Paving. “This is going to allow us to not only staff the facility with just local folks, but we can do remote working from other places around the state.”

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Having one operator able to control machines across multiple sites offers many advantages. If an operator isn’t available on one site due to a general staffing shortage or an operator calling out sick, another operator at a different site can step in and operate the machine.

While it may seem that younger, tech-native operators — those who are more familiar with gaming and technology — would be the ones to quickly adapt to this new technology, that hasn’t been the case.

“Even some of the older-generation operators have picked it up within 20 to 25 minutes,” DeCraene said.

Helping Operators and Lowering Costs
The job of a heavy equipment operator is extremely stressful, both physically and mentally, because of heavy machine vibrations, secluded job sites, and more. Ajax Paving President Vince Hafeli is a vocal advocate for mental health in the construction industry and he quickly recognized how Teleo could help both the business and its operators.

“One of the perks of integrating Teleo’s technology is that it takes operators out of the cab, making their lives easier,” Hafeli said. “By removing the physical aspects of doing this job, the mental demand automatically decreases. It’s a welcome benefit of the technology.”

For the business, one of the unintended gains Ajax realized after implementing Teleo’s technology was the savings that could be achieved in maintenance costs.

“If we're running the machines only when we truly need to run them, we’ll get more production out of them while putting less hours on them,” said Ajax Paving Fleet Manager Dan Maitland. “That efficiency is going to lower our maintenance costs.”

“The Future Is Now”
Ajax Paving may be Teleo’s first customer in the asphalt industry, but entering a new industry wasn’t a concern.

“One of the things that was exciting about Teleo is that they're willing to come to your industry and learn your business,” Maitland said. “Teleo came to our site, observed, met with operators and key personnel, and then began to address our needs.”

The Teleo technology helps Ajax broaden its hiring pool, reduce the need for additional operators, improve the health of current operators, and lower maintenance costs.

“We say that the future is riding on Ajax,” Hafeli said. “Well, the future is now at Ajax!"

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SITECH Northwest
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SITECH Northwest