BRAZIL: Volvo’s new Road Institute is paving the way to success
by Tony Lawrence
People often talk about ‘win-win’ situations, but Babliton Cardoso, Volvo CE head of the Road Machinery Division for Latin America goes one step further when he refers to Volvo CE’s recently launched Road Institute in Brazil – he is talking “win-win-win”.
“The facility will turn operators and executives who attend its courses into winners,” says Cardoso. “They’ll build better roads, which means vehicle owners in the region will benefit as well. And ultimately, Volvo CE wins when people see what our state-of-the-art road machinery can really do.”
The new center, which opened earlier this year in Brazil’s southern city of Curitiba, is committed to teaching operators and crews how to efficiently, economically and safely exploit world-class machines to produce top-quality road surfaces. It is a sister facility to the Volvo CE Road Institute in the United States, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Cardoso, a mechanical engineer with more than 12 years’ experience working with heavy construction and road-building equipment throughout Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, adds: “The Road Institute will be key to implementing and developing Volvo CE’s long-term strategy for road machinery here.
“It will be very similar to what we have in the US and we will benefit from their experience, although we will of course adjust our approach to fit the needs of Latin America, which can sometimes be quite different.”
The Institute’s fundamental mission in Curitiba is to teach paving and compacting best practice and best principles. Some employers can be tempted to put the emphasis on speed, expecting their operators to learn on the job. “But we think it’s best to get things right from the very start,” Cardoso says.
The US Road Institute, which runs courses at Chambersburg in Pennsylvania and Phoenix in Arizona, dates back to 1965, when leading road-building equipment manufacturer Blaw-Knox set up a training program in response to a marked expansion in road building in North America.
Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, is a perfect base for a second such facility. Around two-thirds of Brazilian goods are currently transported by road, while billions of dollars are being pumped into infrastructure projects by the government, and supplemented by private-sector investment. The Latin American economy as a whole has been growing significantly in recent years.
THE REAL THING
Reaction to the new Institute, which will also offer seminars on soil compactors and motor graders, has been enthusiastic, with customers set to visit from all over Latin America. Employers see the training as a valuable way to improve, inspire and retain their staff in an increasingly competitive environment.
The Institute provides a vast area where trainees can practice handling road-construction equipment. There are several tracks designed to help them learn how to adjust, operate, and control typical equipment such as motor graders, vibrating rollers and compacting machines.
“We are particularly proud of our compaction and paving simulation area – it’s unique,” says Luiz Vieira, Volvo CE’s Head of Competence Development in Latin America, who has been with the company for six years. “It takes up 9,000m² of the 10,000m² site. Students can operate our pavers in external conditions that simulate the real challenges faced every day on a job site. It’s been built to resemble a real road as closely as possible, loaded with curves and elevations. The training is performed with wet sand that perfectly simulates asphalt. Sand is easy to work with and when the class is over it’s easy to clean everything and start over,” says Vieira.
“We began by offering five different training and seminar sessions for customers, ranging from paver, grader and asphalt and soil compactor operation and application techniques to best practices in road building and basic paver maintenance.”
The training, which combines theory and practice, also includes the options presented by wheeled and tracked pavers, different types of mixes, compaction densities, screeds, and vibratory and tamper technologies.
In reality, laying roads is an unforgiving business. Mixes, heated to 95-150ºC, have a limited shelf-life, so good operating disciplines, matched with excellent machine reliability and maintenance, are key. If pavers break down, whole crews are affected – compactors as well as the delivery trucks.
Many people are surprised at just how much science and technique are involved. They are also surprised that owning a Volvo is not compulsory. “Any customer can enroll,” says Cardoso.
“The idea is to help customers deliver a better job. Although the techniques discussed can be applied to any machine, we want to help customers working with Volvo road construction equipment to get the most out of it. Our high-quality machines are loaded with simple yet highly sophisticated resources that deliver a superior-quality job. We aim to bring customers closer to Volvo and its Road Division – in that way, everyone wins.”