As a growing flatwork contractor, George J. Shaw Construction, Kansas City, Mo., goes through lots of riding trowels. “We currently have about 25 double riding trowels,” says Steve DeGraeve who runs Shaw's concrete operations. “We may have 15 to 25 jobs going on at one time and we try to distribute the trowels out to the jobs so we don't have to move them around all the time. At any given time, we might have 20 machines in here or none, depending on how big the jobs are and how long they last.”
With a fleet this size, Shaw must replace machines on a regular basis. “We try to replace equipment every year or two: add to the fleet and replace some of the older ones,” says DeGraeve. “We had Wacker machines a few years ago but weren't too satisfied, so last year we got rid of our old Wacker trowels and bought four Allen trowels and four big Whitemans.” This year when the time came to buy some new trowels, DeGraeve got several different finishing machines and had his finishers try them out. “We let them pick ‘em,” he says.
Randy Eubank, Wacker's jobsite specialist for the Kansas City metro area provided two trowels as demos for work Shaw was doing at Bartle Hall, part of Kansas City's convention center. “Wacker was really willing to work with us,” says DeGraeve. “We gave our finishers the Wackers, and three others, and they picked the Wackers. Now we are trying to help them improve their product line. We even sent a guy up to their factory. They are listening to us and changing some things.”
Shaw ended up buying six new Wacker trowels with electronic steering. “I think they liked these machines because with the electronic steering, the operators have less fatigue than when using stick controls,” says Eubank. “Also, because the machines are lighter, they are able to put them onto metal deck floors.”
“The jury's still out on the electronic steering with some of the finishers,” says DeGraeve. “There's a learning curve, but I think they will get over it and like them. They're used to the manual steer on the Allens and the hydraulic steer on the big hydros. The Wacker machines respond more quickly so it's going to take them a little time to get used to them.”