Companies seek a number of qualities when looking for employees — strong work ethic, the ability to apply knowledge to solve problems and a willingness to assist coworkers are some of the traits in a good employee.
Recently retired Bob Boche embodied all these traits for the Kokosing Group Inc. for approximately 20 years.
Boche grew up on a ranch in Wyoming. After a tour in the Army, where he learned about electronics and served in Korea, Boche fixed televisions before going to work for Gilpatrick Company, based in Wilmington, Wyo.
At Gilpatrick, Boche operated the company’s asphalt plant, helped the paving crew set up and maintained asphalt production and laydown equipment as a fleet mechanic. Boche also spent time working for an aggregate company as a crusher operator.
In 1988, Kokosing hired Boche to work in the company’s Texas division. His stay lasted only a year and a half before moving with the company to Ohio. However, in Texas, Boche was exposed to the Blaw-Knox PF-220 paver.
Kokosing stopped using the PF-220s in the late 1990s and purchased new pavers. In putting the new equipment to work, discussion focused on making the new pavers perform like the PF-220s.
“We talked about auger size, the size of the screeds, the diameter of the auger, auger speeds, gearing and pumps on the new pavers, but what we really wanted was the PF-220 back,” said Wayne Brassell, vice president of Kokosing’s highway asphalt division.
“After two years with the new pavers, I asked Bob if he could rebuild one of the PF-220s. He said he could do it. The project succeeded because of Bob’s electrical and mechanical expertise.
“Bob had support while rebuilding the PF-220, but if it wasn’t for his talent, electrical ability, experience with hydraulic pumps and his mechanical genius, I would not have taken on this project,” Brassell Said.
With only a frame to start from, rebuilding the first PF-220 proved no small task.
After blasting, priming and painting the frame, Boche added electrical and hydraulic components.
Retired from production by the manufacturer, Kokosing relied on Boche’s memory to rebuild the PF-220s.
“All the wiring schematics were in his head. It was incredible,” said Brassell.
The rebuilt PF-220 lays an average of 4,000 tons (3,628 t) a day with a total of 75,000 tons (68,039 t) of asphalt paved since the rebuild.
“In Ohio, the maximum you can achieve is 105 percent smoothness, and we’ve attained that on one job already and our averages are in the neighborhood of 104.8 to 105 with Bob’s rebuilt PF-220,” said Brassell.
Brassell cited a job on a race track as an example of what the rebuilt PF-220 can do.
“We had choices of several other pavers, but chose to pave the track with the PF-220,” said Brassell. “We have incredible smoothness on the race track and they set speed records on the new surface. The customer speaks highly of the work we’ve done.”
Due to the success of Boche’s first rebuilt PF-220, Brassell decided to rebuild two more pavers.
“It was easy for me to make the decision because of Bob,” said Brassell. “We are fortunate to have Bob rebuild the pavers for us because new pavers cost a lot more and we get a lot less out of them.”
Utilizing his experience to rebuild the PF-220 saved Kokosing money, increased company profitability and provided an opportunity for Boche to pass on his experience and expertise to others in the organization.
“Bob has not only taught me so much, he’s taught the entire company, from the people on the paving crew to the mechanical group and the equipment management team. He’s a great teacher, mentor and trainer,” said Brassell.
“It’s hard to put into words all the things Bob’s taught me,” said Carl Uhinck, asphalt equipment manager. “He’s always teaching and reminding us to slow down and look at the problem being fixed so nothing is missed. You’ll learn a lot just in spending an hour with Bob working on a machine because he’s been there. He knows all the wire numbers already, he knows all the hoses. He’s probably fixed the same problem you’re looking at 20 times. If he hasn’t encountered the problem before, his way of troubleshooting, where to start and stop, is a learning experience.”
Brassell believed it is unique to have someone with Boche’s experience rebuild the pavers.
“I’m not being critical,” he said, “but a lot of maintenance groups or mechanics, they remove and replace components. I think the real craftsmanship happens when you take on the effort of rebuilding something like this from the ground up. To have Bob pull off the rebuild so we can use a 1968 frame in today’s environment, with today’s specifications and risk of warranty, is something the whole organization benefits from.”
That sentiment echoes in the advice Boche offers those working in the industry.
“If you can develop something, no matter how small, that saves the company time and money, you will have a steady job,” Boche said. “If you have a problem with something, start thinking of how to improve it and make it better. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to improve equipment. No matter how well it runs, there’s always something that you can do better.”
Even in retirement, Boche anticipates improving equipment on a consulting basis (though he does plan to spend more time with his family and go fishing with his father).
“We thank Bob for his many years of service, especially the generosity shown to his co-workers, his dedication to improving machine productivity and his mentorship,” said Brassell.