Robinson Paving

QUALITY WORK IS THE CALLING CARD OF THE COLUMBUS, GA., ASPHALT-PAVING COMPANY

Jan 7, 2011

Reliable, productive Komatsu equipment

When it comes to asphalt paving in and around Columbus, Ga., Robinson Paving and its sister company, Southern Asphalt, are unquestioned leaders. From just a handful of people back in 1971 when Clarence “Peewee” Robinson started the company, Robinson Paving has grown to employ more than 200 people today. The company has had a hand in most, if not all, of the major paving projects in the Columbus area during the past few decades.

“I think one of our strengths is that we do all aspects of our jobs in-house with our own personnel,” said Vice President Darrell Robinson. “We do the earthwork — the clearing, grading and drainage. For resurfacing jobs, we do our own milling. We make our own asphalt and lay our own asphalt. We also do concrete curb, gutter and sidewalks.”

“We’re a turnkey contractor,” added Vice President Jackie Robinson. “We take it from the very beginning and leave customers with a finished product. Whether it’s a four-lane highway, a city street, a subdivision or a parking lot, we take a lot of pride in the quality of the work we do. We don’t leave a job unless it meets our expectations as well as the owner’s expectations.”

Jackie and Darrell are Peewee’s sons. At 71, Peewee remains President. He still comes to work every day and is involved in all major decisions but he’s turned much of the day-to-day operations over to Jackie, who oversees earthwork activities, and Darrell, who handles the paving and asphalt operations. In addition to Peewee, Jackie and Darrell, other Robinson Paving owners are Ken Powell, Robert Wolford and Peewee’s brother, Rainey Robinson.

“We’re a family business,” said Darrell. “We grew up around here and, compared to our top competition, we have a really strong connection to Columbus and this part of the state. People trust us to do the right thing. They know they’re never going to have to chase us down to finish a job or repair something that wasn’t right. We’ve been here all our lives. We all still spend most of our time out on jobs rather than behind a desk. To this day, my dad is almost always in coveralls. That’s just who we are and who we’ll always be.”

“We attribute our success to the good Lord,” said Jackie. “We try to do what’s right by everyone — our employees, our customers and the general public. Our philosophy is to treat people as we like to be treated, and that’s always paid off for us.”

Resurfacing projects

Robinson Paving runs four paving crews and 14 grading crews. Southern Asphalt owns three plants located in Fortson (Harris County), Rupert (Taylor County) and Talbotton (Talbot County), which allows i to bid jobs within about a 50-mile radius of Columbus. Each plant has its own lab with a full-time quality-control specialist to ensure that mix specs are correct. The Fortson plant does most of Robinson Paving’s private/ commercial mixes. The other two plants do primarily DOT mix.

Most of the company’s work load in recent years has centered around public jobs, such as state highway work, street work for the City of Columbus and other nearby municipalities, and paving-related projects for the federal government at Fort Benning.

“With the stimulus money that’s out there, we’ve done a lot of resurfacing projects, including a contract for 120 city streets in Columbus,” reported Darrell. “In the past, the city just kept adding asphalt, so today, some of the curbs have all but disappeared. With this contract, we’re milling off all the old asphalt before resurfacing. And all that milled material comes back to our plant in Fortson where we recycle as much as 20 to 25 percent of it back into the mix.”

“We almost always have something going on with the City of Columbus,” said Jackie. “The same thing with Fort Benning. It’s such a big base; there’s always maintenance of some type needed. We’ve also done a lot of work through the years on highways around here that have been upgraded to four lanes such as U.S. 19 and State Route 96.”

Valued work force

Robinson Paving relies on a veteran work force to accomplish jobs large and small, and represent the company in a positive way.

“The vast majority of our people are long-term employees,” said Darrell. “They’ve either been with us many years, or they’re going to be with us many years. We don’t want much turnover. In fact, when we hire somebody, we tell them there’s going to be a trial period where we’re going to be checking them out and they can check us out, just to make sure we’re a good fit for one another. If it is a good fit, we’re going to do our best to keep an employee happy and keep him with us.”

“The benefit of having employees stay with us for the long term is that they learn what we expect and learn to share our attitudes toward job quality and customer relationships,” added Jackie. “Our employees are absolutely crucial — not just in the work they do, but in the way they represent us. We can’t be on every job every hour of every day. We count on our people to treat the job they’re on as if it’s their own and, fortunately, we have many individuals who do just that. It’s because of them that we have a good reputation and so many repeat customers.”

Robinson Paving’s growth has been gradual through the years, But Jackie says that doesn’t mean it’s been accidental. “It’s always been part of the plan. The Columbus area has grown tremendously since we’ve been in business and we’ve been able to grow right along with it.”

Reliable, productive equipment

Robinson Paving’s large fleet of equipment includes Komatsu and Wirtgen Group machines from Tractor & Equipment Company.

“We have a number of Komatsu pieces, including hydraulic excavators (two PC400s, a PC300HD and a PC270), two wheel loaders (WA450 and WA250) and a D65 dozer,” listed Darrell. “I’ve been very pleased with our Komatsus. I especially have to brag about our oldest PC400, which has upward of 11,000 hours on it. It’s been incredibly reliable. Now that we have a new PC400 for loading trucks, we’ve put the old one out with the crusher, but it continues to work all day, day-in and day-out, virtually trouble-free.

“We also have a Wirtgen W 1900 milling machine, which is our second Wirtgen miller, and it’s top-of-the-line,” he added. “Until this year, we contracted out our crushing, but as it was becoming a larger and larger part of what we do, we decided we should get our own crusher and start doing it ourselves. We got a Kleeman crusher (part of the Wirtgen Group of products) specifically because of the success we had with the Wirtgen milling machines, and because of the support we receive from Wirtgen and TEC.”

Robinson Paving has its own shop and team of mechanics, but also counts on Tractor & Equipment Company to provide backup support.

“They do a great job,” confirmed Darrell. “Whenever we need them, they respond quickly. Our TEC salesman, Randy Holland, is excellent. He always gets back to me right away, and most of all, I know I can trust him. He’s like us in that you can count on him to do what he says he’s going to do and to stand behind his products and services.”

Optimistic about the future

Despite the difficulties caused by the worldwide recession, Robinson Paving had fairly good years in both 2009 and 2010.

“Last year, we did around half a million tons of asphalt production and we’re on track to do about the same amount this year,” said Darrell. “On the asphalt side, we’re booked almost solid through the end of the year. We think that’s good in a struggling economy.”

“Grading is still rather slow, but overall, I’d say we’re optimistic about the future,” added Jackie. “Our plan is to be here for many years and remain a tight-knit family business. Darrell and I are still young and we like what we do. Frankly, I think we both hope to still be doing it when we’re dad’s age, just like he’s still doing it.”

“The key for us down the road will be to continue to focus on quality,” observed Darrell, who serves on the Board of the Georgia Highway Contractors Association and is also active with the Georgia Asphalt Paving Association. “No matter where I am, and no matter whether it’s our job or somebody else’s, I’m always judging asphalt work for smoothness, longevity and how it looks. We’re not perfect, but as a whole, I’ll be happy to have our work judged against anybody else’s. And as long as we keep quality and customer satisfaction as our top priorities, we think our future will be just fine.”