Emulsion chip spraying niche market
Since returning from five years working in Australia in 1980 Michael Barker, of Hawke’s Bay-based Barker Contractors has evolved and devolved his busy contracting business, seizing opportunities as they presented over a 35-plus year career.
The journey has seen the very much handson and busy entrepreneur grow, then reduce his company from nearly 30 staff to the 10 he now has on his books, and Michael says he’s now happy with the niche service his company delivers around the region.
“At one time we were involved in a wide range of operations, from forestry roading, agricultural contracting, general earthmoving, fibre, drainage, council and roading work, quarry ownership and it just felt like it was getting out of hand.
“It doesn’t take much to trip you up when you’re running several operations under the one business so early last year I employed a general manager who had recently retired from a corporate situation.
It was the best thing I could have done,” Michael explains.
Just having the ability to talk through what was and wasn’t working so well in terms of business provided Michael with the information he needed to make the decision to reduce to a small core of services he now offers.
“We retained the building platform work we have always done and got rid of forestry, the bulldozers, transporters, some truck and trailers, ‘the big diesel items’, reduced the quarries down to just one and looked toward delivering specialised chip sealing service, servicing a market that the larger roading companies weren’t interested in, and using emulsion chip surfacing technology that is becoming very fashionable.
It has the Clean Green tick. Barker Contractors use a product called CRS-2, supplied to them by Higgins, to seal over the highgrade aggregates we produce from our own quarry.
The CRS-2 is heated in a unique 6000 litre stainless
steel spray tanker Barkers had built.
Unlike traditional Bitumen, which is heated to around 170 and 180 degrees celcius, before spraying, Barker Contractors uses a totally different technology.
Another point of difference is the power supply they installed for heating the CRS-2.
Rather than the traditional butane flame methods used on Bitumen tankers for heating, a 30Kva generator was fitted which not only heats the CRS-2 but also
powers all the tankers operations.
The process is known as emulsion spraying and Michael says, as far he is aware, his company is the first in New Zealand to build a tanker unit to use a generator of this size to provide energy to all the operating systems.
Another huge plus Michael says relates to Health and Safety for the public and those working on the sealing operation.
Because the CRS-2 only needs to be heated to 75 degrees celcius risks of being burnt are eliminated.
The quality of finish, ease of application and providing a service that was thought of as being unaffordable to the home owner has been very rewarding.
In days gone by, concrete, asphalt or gravel finishes were really the only options. Since building the emulsion spraying unit all expectations have been exceeded.
“We knew there was a niche market because the bigger roading companies just weren’t interested in taking on smaller jobs like sealing driveways and the like and so far, since starting this operation last year, we’ve been very busy, and certainly getting more and more enquiry.”
The potential to use Emulsion Spraying in subdivision projects they currently work on is the next evolution Michael is looking toward.
Outside of work, Barker Contractors is committed to helping young sports people achieve their goals in the sporting world.
Barkers have been sponsoring the Central Hawke’s Bay Rugby Club Senior grades for some years now, along with helping individual players achieve their goals, like Lucy Owen, a young Waipukurau girl, who is playing golf with an American University.