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STANDARD BEARER

A visit with 2018 PCI Chairman Mason Lampton

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Mason Lampton

The Mile High City was an appropriate setting for the 2018 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Convention: Members confirmed how market conditions and expectations are approaching new peaks, while leadership observed progress on five new fronts—national and chapter organization partnerships, market share tracking, national standards, workforce development, government affairs—aimed at ensuring PCI plant production rates outpace national construction levels.

Reports leading up to the late-February Denver gathering indicated that producers in architectural or structural building components and systems, including parking structures, enjoyed the strongest year-over-year gains in 2017. Current plant backlogs and solid commercial project outlook suggest they will likewise lead the Institute this year. Bridge producers entered 2018 with an improving transportation market on the heels of two relatively flat years.

Overall, PCI membership reports year-over-year shipment increases exceeding those of peers in other concrete segments. “We will start collecting hard 2017 data by early in the second quarter, but confirmed in last year’s member survey and production reports that 2016 saw precast/prestressed shipments and services exceed $5 billion—ahead of pre-recession levels,” says PCI CEO and President Bob Risser, P.E. “Our forecast model shows a 4.8 percent industry advance in 2017. Once members submit sales data for the year, we’ll see how it tracks.”

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The Piedmont Road Bridges at Interstate 85 site shown in mid-April 2017 from north (top) and south. Standard Concrete Products’ deft engineering, production and shipping measures positioned C.W. Mathews Contracting Co. to deliver the replacement crossing in six weeks—five fewer than Georgia Department of Transportation’s projection. Upon the crossing’s return to service, a local journalist fittingly summed up Standard Concrete Products’ contract role in a May edition article, “How a concrete company saved Atlanta’s commute.” PHOTOS: C.W. Mathews Contracting Co., Marietta, Georgia
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“The board determined that in order to accurately measure architectural and structural precast market share, we needed to make member reporting of sales breakdowns by building and transportation segment mandatory instead of voluntary,” adds Standard Concrete Products Inc. President and 2018 PCI Chairman Mason Lampton. “Producers have a confidential mechanism to report on precast/prestressed shipments to those segments; PCI staff never sees individual plant data, only the industry-wide figures. By interfacing our reporting with Dodge Data & Analytics and Portland Cement Association methods, we can accurately measure national and state market share for the first time.

“Information down to square footage by building segment will drive how we apply marketing dollars and allocate Institute resources. We can show members progress in promotion and market development. If numbers indicate precast/prestressed production rates are increasing faster than the construction industry at large, we can reasonably assume PCI producers are gaining ground.

“I think we are taking share in certain markets and entering new segments that weren’t precast/prestressed or even concrete. Our plan is to give architects and engineers resources to design with precast concrete panels, beams, girders and columns. We are going to control our destiny by putting up the money, and demonstrating why precast/prestressed is so important to construction and how our methods shrink schedules.”

PCI recognizes the importance of supporting design and engineering professionals, Lampton notes, especially with emerging competition in low- to mid-rise buildings: “There continue to be concerns with the considerable resources the wood industry has put forward. Competition with the wood industry is forcing PCI and our industry partners to look critically at code provisions that allow taller wood buildings and larger wood structures.”

STRUCTURAL SHIFT

Adding to the productive 2018 convention mood was members’ embrace of a change in PCI structure and mission initiated last year under Risser, who arrived at Chicago headquarters in 2015, and 2017 Chairman Dan Juntunen, president of Minnesota-based Wells Concrete. The PCI Board transitioned from legacy zone representation by producers to 10 chapters and two areas still without chapters. The new structure positions the national office as a technical and standards-developing authority to support chapters with design, engineering and best practices assets. It also respects chapters’ front-line exposure to established or prospective building and nonbuilding market segments.

Each of the local organizations designates a PCI director to the national board. “This is already a great success, formally tying board representation with chapters and strengthening our relationships with those at the local level,” Risser affirms. “Chapter members can communicate directly with the PCI board through their representative. PCI members and the Board have identified market growth as a key goal in our strategic plan, and our success in growing the precast market at the national level relies on market development strategies being successful at the local level.”

“The whole dynamic of the board has changed in a positive way. The chapters are an effective outlet for national campaigns and can implement our message consistently and conversely give feedback on what is or is not working at the local level,” adds Lampton who, as PCI vice chairman, ushered a strategic plan centered on identifying optimal funding and resource targets. “My goal is to craft the plan for the next three-to-five years to ensure that PCI officer and staff efforts benefit members. We have worked in a ‘This is the way we have always done things’ manner. There are different ways to operate and different areas to put our resources to work. Bob Risser has generated much positive response to the strategic plan. He and the staff can make it happen.”

NEW CHAPTERS

A plan draft was presented to the PCI board in Denver and a final version could be formally adopted during directors’ early-summer meeting. In addition to aligning staff commitments and resource allocation with the field organizations, the document prioritizes national standards, market growth, workforce development and government affairs activities.

Standards. After a two-month comment period that concluded earlier this year, PCI is set to release its first national standard, Specification for Fire Resistance of Precast/Prestressed Concrete. PCI MNL 124-18, the first document the Institute prepared as an American National Standards Institute-accredited Standards Developer, updates 2011 design procedures and addresses two precast/prestressed concrete engineering approaches: “calculated” fire resistance, encompassing prescriptive provisions with tables for selecting concrete mass or protection of steel; and, “rational design,” a true fire resistance calculation procedure referenced in PCI manuals and the charter International Building Code (2000).

PCI opened Specification for Fire Resistance of Precast/Prestressed Concrete to member, non-member and public comment and review per ANSI requirements. The PCI Fire Resistance and Standards Committees- and Technical Activities Council-approved MNL 124-18 will be eligible for reference in the 2021 International Building Code. Committees and staff have commenced the multi-year process for a second PCI national standard, covering glass fiber reinforced concrete, and will proceed with similar endeavors where ANSI-modeled documents can advance precast/prestressed concrete. Technical Activities Council members have identified 12 additional PCI standards to be produced over the next five years.

Workforce development. Helping attract, train, and retain employees has been identified as a key value proposition for PCI members. The first program for plant employee training was rolled out at fall 2017 committee meetings and further detailed in Denver, where PCI Convention educational offerings included “Attracting and Training Tomorrow’s Workforce” and “Manufacturing Engagement: A Plan for Retaining Good Talent.” Convention attendees could also participate in workforce and leadership development plus plant operations sessions presented by the National Precast Concrete Association, with whom PCI has successfully teamed for The Precast Show, staged annually on late-winter windows and pacing attendance of 4,500.

“Recruiting and retaining workers is one of our members’ biggest concerns. We are creating training materials to develop their staff and production teams, whereas past PCI educational efforts were geared primarily to architects, engineers, agencies and owners,” says Mason Lampton. “Workforce development support is a new value in a PCI membership; a really tangible benefit.”

Government affairs. A group of officers, directors and member representatives will participate next month in PCI’s first official Washington, D.C. fly in, joining the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Portland Cement Association, NPCA and other allied groups for 1.5 days of Capitol Hill meetings.

“We are educating our members on how to participate in federal government matters and encouraging them to tell their representatives the story behind precast/prestressed plants, products and markets,” Lampton observes. “We need members weighing in on issues of industry benefit and concern.” To the latter, he adds, PCI is among a group of downstream users formally opposing tariffs President Donald Trump applied to certain steel imports.

That action aside, PCI producers are encouraged by White House moves to a) spur infrastructure investment through innovative financing methods, including those that prompt state and local agencies to rethink old cost-sharing models with Washington, D.C.; b) streamline construction schedules through expedited permitting; and, c) facilitate appropriate use of design-build and public private partnership delivery methods. Under the Trump administration, Lampton notes, communities and states that adopt new project funding channels and demonstrate how they will contribute to major infrastructure contracts “are going to be rewarded.”

BULB-TEES’ FINEST HOUR

Among PCI membership, Standard Concrete Products anchored one of the most impactful government affairs exercises in recent years—garnering praise from the Georgia Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration staff and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

When a ground-level fire brought Piedmont Road/Interstate 85 bridge girders to the point of failure in March 2017, Georgia DOT envisioned an 11-week rebuilding period for a 700-ft. stretch of four-lane northbound and southbound sections. Standard Concrete’s mobilization of engineering and production resources at Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., plants netted 61 prestressed girders, typically 40 tons, on a schedule whereby the state and C.W. Mathews Contracting Co. could reopen I-85 at Piedmont Road in six versus 11 weeks. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Michael Kannell astutely documented the Standard Concrete feat in “How a concrete company saved Atlanta’s commute.”

“The I-85 Bridges at Piedmont Road contract is a great example of why PCI producers have better solutions for transportation construction,” says Lampton. “We were on the phone with DOT officials as crews were still contending with the fire and traffic rerouting. We looked at girder designs that could be cast immediately—in this case the Tuesday following a Thursday night fire. You can’t do what we did on the Piedmont crossing with steel girders.”


PRECAST/PRESTRESSED CONCRETE INSTITUTE At-A-Glance

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Built primarily with components from Gate Precast’s Kissimmee, Fla., plant, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami took the Best Government and Public Building category in the PCI 2018 Design Awards and the competition’s top honor, the Harry H. Edwards Industry Advancement Award.
2018 CHAIRMAN IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN CHAIRMAN-ELECT
Mason Lampton Dan Juntunen Keith Wallis Jr., FPCI
President President/CEO General Manager
Standard Concrete Products, Inc. Wells Concrete Prestressed Casting Co.
Columbus, Georgia Albany, Minnesota Springfield, Missouri

 


STANDARD CONCRETE PRODUCTS INC. At-A-Glance