The Compaction Experts

Sakai America

Sakai, an international leader in the manufacture of compaction equipment, got its start way back in 1918 – and is still run by the same family to this day. The Japanese business’ original focus was on the manufacture and repair of diesel locomotives and their engines, and the company evolved with the times, transitioning its focus to road construction equipment as automobiles displaced rail travel.

By the 1940s, Sakai’s new area of expertise was firmly set, giving the team nearly three quarters of a century of experience in compaction to date. “The specialization is in compaction and has been for decades,” says Sakai America Marketing and IT Manager Josh Steele.

Sakai moved into the American market in 1976. “They started off with small offices in Delaware, but as things began to grow, [demand] exceeded what they were able to import,” Mr. Steele explains. The solution came in 2001, when Sakai America opened a manufacturing facility just north of Atlanta in Adairsville, Georgia. Now, the company produces over 4,000 vibratory compactors a year worldwide and is considered to have one of the most advanced product lines in the industry.

Compaction is a vital part of any construction process. “Compaction helps achieve density,” Mr. Steele explains. “It removes air voids in the soil or asphalt. It creates a stable structure for whatever you are building, whether that be a road, building, or simply a grading and excavation project.”

Using the best compaction equipment is crucial to achieving optimal results. “Ninety percent of failures in roadways are related to compaction and workmanship,” Mr. Steele points out, so ensuring that the process is carried out correctly is absolutely essential. In response, the Sakai team has made it their mission to produce the most effective and reliable rollers on the market today. “The strategy has been to build a solid, innovative product that is durable enough to withstand the conditions that it is put out in,” Mr. Steele explains.

“Keeping things simple while still staying on top of current technology” has allowed Sakai America to strike a necessary balance and create a product with the lowest total cost of ownership in the current market. “By keeping the design simple but still building a durable, stable product, we are able to reduce the amount of maintenance that’s done to the machine,” Mr. Steele explains. “It allows less down time, greater utilization of the product, and fewer hours spent maintaining.”

Sakai America’s laser focus on compaction has also been key to its products’ success. “Most of our competitors have extended their reach into other construction equipment such as excavators, planers, and milling machines,” Mr. Steele points out. Sakai America, on the other hand, only produces specialized compaction equipment. “It allows us to spend all of our engineering and research and development on compaction. Therefore we are able to provide a more innovative product.”

For instance, the company has managed to produce rollers with drums that can oscillate and vibrate. The combination makes Sakai America stand out in the marketplace. “Most competitors’ [rollers] have one drum that oscillates and one drum that vibrates – or you have to spend an arm and a leg to have it do both. But [through] great engineering, we were able to have these drums switch back and forth on-the-fly at a reasonable cost.”

A static roller depends on the machine’s weight to create the force needed to compact materials, whereas a vibratory and oscillating roller “introduce[s] dynamic forces” to produce better results with less effort.” These dynamic forces are generated by rotating off-balanced weights connected to shafts within a steel compacting drum. As the steel drum vibrates, the rotation of the weighted shafts produce a centrifugal force strong enough to lift and drop the drum as it moves through the cycle. During oscillation, the rotation of the weighted shafts creates a back and forth motion as it goes through the cycle. These cycles repeat as the machine moves forward, compacting the material beneath.

The company reports that vibratory dynamic force typically increases a roller’s compacting force up to six times the static weight of the drum assembly. The process can be likened to “shaking up a box of corn flakes,” wherein the vibrating motion rapidly moves the material inside, reducing the air voids and increasing the material contact points. As a result, vibratory and oscillating rollers are able to better rearrange material for a denser fit.

Compaction is a highly technical process and the machine’s speed, frequency, and amplitude variations must be strictly controlled to produce the desired results. Intelligent Compaction helps get it right, optimizing the compaction process as a result. This advanced technology uses vibratory rollers equipped with an onboard computer system, GPS based mapping, an integrated measurement system, and feedback control. By integrating control systems, measurement, and documentation, these machines enable real-time compaction monitoring, allowing adjustments to be made as soon as they are needed.

Sakai America’s Compaction Information System (CIS) delivers several key benefits. For starters, the Intelligent Compaction technology ensures uniform coverage of the asphalt mat. It also increases efficiency by reducing the number of passes required, which in turn reduces fuel use and lowers the environmental impact. Pre-mapping roller passes can determine weak spots and project planning can be carried out prior to the job.

Intelligent Compaction’s ongoing monitoring creates a continuous record of roller activity. The stiffness of the mat, the total number of passes made, and the exact location of the roller are all carefully identified and documented. Sakai America’s CIS machines also keep track of the mat’s temperature using a temperature gauge mounted on the front of the roller. A heavy duty, weather resistant on-board display provides the operator real time feedback. Upon completion of the job, data analysis and documentation is available in both 2D and 3D formats.

Intelligent Compaction is gaining attention from the government as well as from industry. “One of the current focuses of the federal highway administration is on intelligent compaction,” Mr. Steele reports. “And, since its introduction, they have considered Sakai a leader in Intelligent Compaction because of the data we are able to offer. That data has helped the Federal Highway Administration mold their program into what it is today. Sakai is leading the pack and helping move this thing forward.”

The company’s rollers also come with distinct mechanical advantages. The team uses a selected range of popular – and proven – diesel engines specially designed for a combination of power, fuel efficiency and long-term reliability. And, each of these engines complies with all current EPA carbon emission regulations. In addition, Sakai America is the only roller manufacturer to offer three separate braking systems (including an automotive foot brake) as a standard safety feature on each one of its machines. To increase comfort and reduce wear and tear, the company uses patented, custom designed shock isolators to lower the transmission of vibrations to both the operator and the machine’s critical components. An extremely heavy-duty, articulating and oscillating center hitch design creates superb chassis stability, ground contact and operator control. Furthermore, every machine is encased in a thick, heavy duty steel frame, allowing it to withstand the toughest conditions. A back up pumping system automatically takes over if the primary system fails, increasing reliability. Lastly, built-in winterization kits make cold weather preparation simple and easy.

With so many advantages, it is not surprising that Sakai America’s machines are gaining a strong foothold in the industry. And, after the downturn a few years ago, the company’s increasing success is good news for all. “We have slowly seen the market stabilize,” Mr. Steele shares. “That’s been a good thing for us, because we have been increasing the amount of production and the amount of sales, but that is a better thing for the U.S. economy because it means that things will slowly start to build themselves back up.”

At Sakai America, business is already booming. “We are a growing company and we are seeing increases in market share. Our production has increased over the last few years tremendously.” The company is planning on expanding its line of compaction products and is eager to continue leading the industry in compaction technology. “We see more product innovation in the future,” Mr. Steele predicts.

For more information about Sakai America, please visit

July 21, 2018, 3:51 AM EDT

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