As automobiles began to roll off production lines in the early 20th century, all-weather "hard" roads were being built as fast as money would allow. Concrete was the surface of choice, and John Nicholas Heltzel realized new methods were needed to speed construction. In 1909, Heltzel pioneered the first practical steel form for the construction of concrete roads.
As the time, forms were commonly made of wood, and there was resistance to move to more costly steel forms. But Heltzel convinced contractors that the cost would quickly be offset by savings in reduced labor to set the forms.
In 1923, Heltzel ventured into other road-building products, designing and building hand-operated finishing machines that rode on his road forms. This evolved into an engine-driven machine known as the Flex-Plane finisher. Heltzel also developed machines to install expansion joints, dowel bars and sealants. He added concrete batching plants to his product line and, in 1926, introduced the mobile batch plant.