The rest of the 2023 annual meeting of the National Asphalt Pavement Association was great.
In case you missed it, see this newsletter for a recap of five themes from day one.
In this newsletter I’ll cover three additional themes from the last day and a half:
1. Sustainability might be the focus but it's still blurry.
To be clear… As a software company dedicated to optimizing horizontal construction operations, sustainability has been a significant area of focus for XBE's entire existence. That's one of the reasons we're pleased to sponsor The Road Forward, NAPA's initiative to make asphalt a net zero carbon industry by 2050.
It would be hard to overstate how much time was spent on sustainability for the rest of the conference. It was the primary topic of the NAPA business meeting session, the only topic of the next general session, and the only subject of discussion at the 90 minute luncheon for The Road Forward supporters.
While sustainability will probably matter quite a bit to most NAPA members, it's not yet clear how or what should be done now. For example, there was a steady drumbeat regarding environment product declarations (EPDs), but I'm not sure if the time is right to submit EPDs for public review. In case you're unfamiliar, EPDs provide information on the life cycle environmental impact of asphalt products including resource consumption, emissions, and waste generated during production, use, and disposal. While I could imagine EPDs helping the asphalt industry or individual asphalt producers, I could also imagine them hurting. Too much is left to figure out to do so in public.
And so, I'd recommend three sustainability actions for asphalt producers now:
- Create an internal committee focused on sustainability. Their charter should be to understand the carbon footprint of the operation, to identify opportunities to reduce the the carbon footprint, and to track progress against internal goals over time.
- Reduce excess energy use in your operation. There are plenty of opportunities to reduce wasted energy in manufacturing, trucking, and construction. Most of these solutions will also improve short term financial performance. That should be enough incentive, but the sustainability benefits are a nice bonus. Relatedly, you might want to look into the EPA's Energy Star program - it sounds quite helpful.
- Get involved through NAPA and your state asphalt pavement association to stay on top of this topic. Given the volume of discussion and funding related to sustainability, meaningful change is bound to happen. You don't want to be caught flat-footed.
2. Smooth and quick is the performance advantage.
In the business meeting session, NAPA shared some statistics regarding the ways in which the public prefers asphalt pavements.
The data was clear. Asphalt is popular because it's smooth to drive on, and quick to construct.
I wonder if most contractors intentionally manage to these two outcomes.
That's what "quality" means to the customer, and I'd judge every project accordingly.
3. When someone states a position, see through to their interest.
As always, the closing reception on Tuesday night was a great time. There was a large band and lots of dancing.
In between sets, a group of 10 of us stood on the dance floor chatting.
A man in his 50s approached our group, made eye contact with me, and motioned me over to the side. I didn't recognize him, but the moment had the feeling of someone trying to get in touch all day at a busy conference.
Him: "Are you with the band?"
Me: "How can I help?"
Him: "It's my anniversary. I'd like you to call me out to the dance floor first. Once I'm down on one knee, then call out my wife. Play 'Truly, Madly, Deeply' by Savage Garden. It's our favorite song. Can you do that?"
Me: "Will it be just as special if we need to play a different song?"
Him: "Yes, of course. Especially if you could call me out first."
Me: "You've got it."
And, after some band management, that's exactly what happened.
I share the story because it's funny, and because it's a great example of one of the best problem solving techniques I know.
When someone makes a position-oriented statement or question, try to see through it to their interest. Regardless of what they specifically asked, see if there's a way to use your resources to give them what they want. If there is, do it.
It didn't matter if I was actually with the band.
It was great to see so many friends and colleagues. I wish there was more time to spend with more people.
The 2023 midyear meeting is in Kansas City, and we have some great things planned.
We're excited to see you there.
Founder & CEO, XBE