Concrete Products

APR 2012

Concrete Products covers the issues that attract producers of ready mixed and manufactured concrete focusing on equipment and material technology, market development and management topics.

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CHAIRMAN'S REPORT BY STEVEN PROKOPY READY FOR BUSINESS Greg Force is 2012 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Chairman While the still slumping economy continues to be a point of focus throughout the con- struction industry, an increasing number of associations that count construction mate- rials manufacturers as their members have made the necessary efficiency adjustments to not only maintain their ranks but in some cases grow and have budgets enough to keep valuable programs afloat. Newly elected Precast/Prestressed Concrete Insti- tute Chairman Greg Force, president & chief operating officer of Tindall Corporation, gives all credit to his predecessors, includ- ing Jim Sorenson of EnCon United and Donna Reuter of Oldcastle Precast, and PCI President James Toscas, P.E., who were "for- ward-thinking and conservative" in their approach to running the organization in the early days of the financial downturn. "They took the necessary steps to con- sider how we would function with reduced revenues," explains Force. "As a result, at this time fiscally, the Institute is in good shape. Of course now that we've been aus- tere in terms of budget over the last several years, we're still trying to be cognizant about keeping programs funded. We really haven't had a major cutback in program- ming at all. We had some staff reduction, and that was painful, but even that was several years ago. But we haven't seen much reduction in membership [currently about 150 domestic producer members; 100 affiliate members] for the last several years. I think that speaks highly of the strengths of the companies in the Institute. "Everyone is getting used to working under lean principles, and PCI is a shining example of that. These folks are doing quite a bit of work with a smaller staff. I think when the economy does return, one of the first things we need to pay attention to is building up our staff to more viable levels. We've watched our cash flow and we've de- layed a few initiatives, such as overhauling our website, which is something we fully in- tend on doing, but bringing it to completion is taking longer than we'd intended." With PCI's website, Force says the group would like to increase its user friendliness, the opportunities to capture and exchange information, the amount of data that is ac- cessible, and the number of offerings, par- ticularly from a technical standpoint. "We are going toward electronic publication of some of our new manuals and technical pub- 28 | APRIL 2012 lications, and we want people to be able to acquire those in a more straight-forward manner on the site," he says. "We want peo- ple to know they can go the site, not just to see fancy pictures, but to get usable data that they can put to use for their benefit." Force acknowledges that forecasting and gauging the strength of the financial up- swing is a difficult prospect, with cautious optimism being the order of the day. "We've fairly well determined there isn't going to be a significant upswing the next couple of stay afloat and come out the other side are going to be better, stronger companies as a result of operating this way." FINDING NEW MARKETS Greg Force years," he admits. "It's the rate of growth that is still a question. PCI is still taking a conservative view in terms of making its plans for the next budget cycle and the one after that. We want to make sure we aren't doing anything that would allow us to get too far ahead of ourselves, and we're watch- ing revenues very closely. "There are certainly pockets of the coun- try that are seeing or anticipating things to be very good, particularly in the upper Mid- west, where there seems to be a lot of ac- tivity. I don't know if other parts of the country will see things quite as robustly come back, but I think people are getting a sense that things have leveled off and are making progress in the right direction. Both for Tindall and the PCI membership, there has been quite an emphasis on Lean princi- ples, doing more with less, and being fo- cused on creating efficiencies. I think that's the truth of manufacturing businesses across the country. And I think those who According to Force, most companies are turn- ing over any rock they can in the hopes of finding new business, perhaps in areas where they had not looked before. "I've been in the industry nearly 30 years, and I know that one of the challenges is asking, 'How can we make this out of precast, and how can we do it better than the more traditional types of construction?'" he says. "I've heard people talk about making log cabins out of precast, and they're very successful with that. I'm also hearing about projects in transportation, including high-speed rail and prefabricated or precast pavement, in addition to things in the bridge industry. "Over the past several years, there has been much more reliance on work in the public sector, particularly with military construction. Precast has always been a good solution for multi-family housing, and that goes back 30-40 years. There was a time when we were so busy that is was dif- ficult to be more forward thinking and at- tack potential new markets sooner. That's too bad, because the result is playing catch-up, since many of these areas need the seeds planted early on, especially with some of the government work. "At this point, people are focused on the manufacturing sector, industrial, energy, data centers—those are going up like 7-11s all over the country. And precast's speed of construction, integrity of construction re- ally lend itself to that. These projects re- quire design for extreme lateral load situations, and heavy gravity loads ele- vated off the ground. That plays to pre- cast's sweet spot. "On top of that, being able to integrate the sustainable approach—something that is very much on people's minds these days—helps people look at the long-term assessment of the cost to have this struc- ture in operation. We think that also plays to precast's strengths. In many cases, ar- chitects and precast manufacturers are looking beyond even what LEED certifica- tion demands. The owners are demanding that the designers and contractors come up with solutions that give them those long- term benefits of sustainable construction. WWW.CONCRETEPRODUCTS.COM

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