Early in my career in the asphalt and emulsion industry, “innovation” seemed like a dirty word. It meant putting more work into something that was just a commodity. No one seemed to be thinking about a commodity product as something that could make a positive difference for communities.
But innovation is important in the asphalt industry – very important. Can you think of many other products that people interact with every single day, that cost so much in manpower, taxes, time, and resources?
While reflecting on the changes in the industry, I began thinking more about what innovation really means. Innovation isn’t something unattainable or innate in a person. It’s spending hours and hours and hours assimilating to a product. At Blacklidge, we are so close to our products that we literally build them from the ground up.
Another layer of innovation is listening. When we talk to customers and learn their struggles, we are inspired to improve our products and know where to focus. Innovation is at the heart of problem solving; we are always focused on making sure customers get the best products and results.
Yet another layer of innovation is trust. Ours is an industry with an incredible amount of collaboration – between engineers, D.O.T.’s, agencies, and more – and it is important for everyone to trust one another with change. If a customer of ours has a problem, it’s our problem, whether the problem is with our product or not. Integrity cannot be overstated in our field.
For me, the most important part of innovation is the ability to help people. Blacklidge products have the potential to help everyone who rides on our roads. Better roads are safer, longer-lasting, and more cost-effective, and drivers experience less congestion and a smoother ride. As we continue to incorporate more and more recycled materials into our products, our environment will benefit as well.
One organization that spearheads innovation in our field is the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Auburn, Alabama. Blacklidge is one of the largest suppliers of innovative materials to NCAT’s pavement test track for real world, rigorous field testing. Additionally, we provide our innovative materials to the NCAT labs for state-of -the-art laboratory analysis, university academia, and support research projects that benefit our industry as a whole.
At Blacklidge, it’s critical that we continue to learn how to make our products more user-friendly, safe, and durable. Our obsessive attention to detail, quality and performance means we make premium products out of what used to be considered a commodity, and I couldn’t be more proud of that.