The incoming chairman of the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) asserts that the association can provide precasters considerable help in surviving
The incoming chairman of the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) asserts that the association can provide precasters considerable help in surviving today’s lean business climate, and he will promote such benefits in 2009.
NCPA has a lot to offer precasters in this type of environment, says 2009 NPCA Chairman Randy Lindsay-Brisbin, who is vice president and general manager of Firebaugh Precast Inc., in Colorado Springs, Colo. In some areas of the country, residential construction has dropped 30 percent or more, he notes. Local public works spending is projected to drop in 2009. While some tough issues confront us, we have a new administration coming in with big plans, and as precasters we are looking closely at the economic stimulus package discussed in January. Hopefully, it will bring quick and significant capital funds for infrastructure.
Thus, both challenges and opportunities await the precast industry, Lindsay-Brisbin emphasizes. That’s where NPCA is so important, he tells Concrete Products. Under my tenure, we will be driving home the message that NPCA is a great resource to the precast concrete community to help it determine how to better control costs, including labor, health care and insurance, and improve work force education.
Many precasters, Firebaugh included, have ridden the big wave of residential construction in the United States, the new chairman attests, but the wave has crested. In our case, all those subdivisions and their needed infrastructure going up in Colorado have been our bread and butter, but we have seen that decrease significantly over the last couple of years, Lindsay-Brisbin reports.
We’ve spent a lot of time looking to diversify and expand our reach into nonresidential, government and military markets, and highway work, so we would not be so focused on residential. NPCA has done a lot to educate and help us in that effort. Moving forward, a lot of other precasters in a similar situation will need information and resources to take advantage of opportunities presented by forthcoming infrastructure spending, and NPCA can help.
A challenge for NPCA is providing needed services Û whether trade show, educational resources, technical assistance or committees Û in a way that adds value for both producer and associate members, Lindsay-Brisbin affirms. In these economic times, companies have a choice in where to put their money and what associations they want to be part of, the chairman observes, and one of our core challenges is to determine how to best provide value to our members. I’d like to see us find ways where it makes sense to work together with other associations in the area of environmental stewardship, for example, to promote sustainable products as a benefit of the precast and prestressed industry.
Along those lines, in 2008, NPCA released a publication, The Little Green Book of Concrete: Precast Concrete for Sustainable Construction. A companion to its Little Book of Concrete, the 112-page Green Book provides engineers, architects, specifiers and environmentalists information on precast’s sustainable attributes.
Elaborating on ways that precasters are aided by NPCA membership, Lindsay-Brisbin notes, One significant benefit is the networking NPCA provides. I’m a relative newcomer to precasting, having been involved now about 15 years. What’s struck me is that even though many precasters compete against each other, they’re still NPCA members, and when we come together at NPCA, I’ve been impressed by the level of information sharing on technical matters, such as mix design and tricks of the trade. The networking that NPCA offers is unparalleled for a trade association.
NEW PRECAST SHOW, UNIVERSITY
The other way [NPCA assists members] is via trade shows that the association sponsors, Lindsay-Brisbin explains. This February, we are sponsoring the inaugural Precast Show, Feb. 20-22, in Houston.
Future Precast Shows are planned for Phoenix in 2010; Charlotte, N.C., in 2011; and, Orlando in 2012. American Concrete Pipe Association is a cosponsor of the Precast Show, and Concrete Products is a media partner of the event.
It will be a great trade show for producers, giving them an opportunity to meet a lot of associate members and suppliers, as well as see the latest equipment and technology, the chairman affirms. For myself, it will be an occasion to get out and see a lot of the materials, equipment and services available to my company, in one location, in a compact way. It also will allow me to educate my employees via the Precast University.
New at the Precast Show, Precast University represents an expansion of classic industry continuing education sessions often seen at trade shows. It will feature technical course curricula that start with a series of fundamental core classes at the initial level, where plant employees receive instruction in basic principles of quality precast production.
Intermediate and advanced level coursework will follow, providing the option to specialize or even earn Master Precaster rank. The first new courses in the series will be unveiled during the Precast Show. Precast University creates a clear career path that enables employees to advance to higher technical levels and prepare for managerial positions, says Lindsay-Brisbin. In addition to Precast University coursework, the show also will offer expanded training opportunities in six tracks, including a new Sustainability series.
I’ve had a lot of my people go through various NPCA educational programs, Lindsay-Brisbin reports. It includes everything from executive and management levels to the guy on the production floor, who gets a good overview of precast concrete and learns why what he does every day is important: Why not to put oil on the steel, and why the mix must be just right, and how to do QC testing, and how it all fits in the big picture. Every year, I find people coming back to the plant, excited and energized with ideas they’ve learned.
UNSETTLED ECONOMIC OUTLOOK FOR 2009
The Precast Show notwithstanding, Lindsay-Brisbin foresees an unsettled construction economy in 2009. It’s unclear whether we’ve seen the bottom, he tells Concrete Products. We certainly hope we have, but many of us thought by now we would have seen an improving residential market, versus 12 to 18 months ago. The take-away is that we need to diversify product lines and markets as much as possible, while monitoring the markets and investing in the company, so we are ready for a market comeback in late 2009 or in 2010.
Lindsay-Brisbin identifies precast pavement slabs as a product that may benefit from an infrastructure program that focuses on highways. Road and highway work would require subsurface reconstruction, and we would be able to take advantage of storm and sanitary projects, he notes. One of the newer NPCA committees focuses on precast pavement slabs, which allow overnight repairs to highways with durable and high-strength, high-quality concrete panels that are grouted into place. A highway could be closed at night, the panels installed, and the highway opened the next morning. With the emphasis on getting projects up and running as soon as possible, precast pavement slabs may get some attention.
Additionally, an infrastructure package would stimulate demand for underground utility products, such as electrical vaults and storm/sanitary manholes. There are so many products that we make that fit the program, Lindsay-Brisbin affirms.
Stakeholders already are publicizing infrastructure projects that await implementation. In December, the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials promoted 5,000 ready-to-go projects for the infrastructure package.
Recently, the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified more than 11,000 Îshovel-readyÌ infrastructure projects in over 400 cities across the United States, Lindsay-Brisbin observes. They say the projects will be viable as soon as money becomes available. And, NPCA has put a list of some of those infrastructure projects on its web site. It’s another way precasters can use NPCA as a resource to see what kind of products might be in demand in their areas in the next couple of years, and to start research and get their sales people ready.
STORM WATER STORAGE, TREATMENT PRODUCTS
An infrastructure funding package also would provide a boon for precast and prestressed product markets offering precast bridges, box culverts, and storm products, the chairman emphasizes. One of the things we’ve seen in the last few years is a demand for structures that deal with storm water treatment, quality and storage, he says. Our members make a number of products for dealing with storm water treatment. It’s a market that’s grown over the last several years and one that will see an increase.
Facilitating precast production is the introduction of self-consolidating concrete (SCC) into the market, Lindsay-Brisbin tells Concrete Products. Certainly self-consolidating concrete has changed a lot of product lines, he asserts. We moved to SCC for a majority of our pouring years ago. It’s impacted manufacturing lines by easing the pouring. Plus, it’s made the workplace safer, both by less reliance on internal vibration and fewer employees being required. We’ve seen productivity increases, but also a reduction in repetitive motion injuries from somebody running an internal vibrator day in and day out. Its benefit of a quieter workplace has been significant, and it’s much more prevalent than it was five years ago.
AWARDING INNOVATION TO BOOST PRODUCTIVITY
Another way that NPCA assists the industry is via its Pinnacle Awards program for innovation. In 2008, Firebaugh Precast Inc. was the recipient of a first-place award in the Production category for its Utility Anchor Boot Tool.
Firebaugh invented a device to remove the setting plug for utility anchors, replacing an employee using a screwdriver that invariably would damage the setting plug beyond repair. Firebaugh’s tool applies even pressure on the plug and enables it to be stripped without damage, extending the life of the plug indefinitely.
Utility anchors often are requested for custom projects where job sites do not have a wide selection of rigging, Lindsay-Brisbin reports. Using one of the most versatile lifting embeds for casting in concrete, we needed to save the boots from destruction. The tool saves these inserts. There is no damage to the boot, as the bolt threads grab onto the holes in the back of the insert. Apply a little leverage on the tool toward the anchor, repeat on the other side, and the boot comes free.
In addition, Firebaugh tied for second place in the Pinnacle Awards Safety category with its Cable/Chain Hanger Rack. The invention is a device to consolidate and organize cables for easy access and storage, along with quick lubrication and maintenance. The Cable/Chain Hanger Rack uses a pulley system for easy access of cables, and a man-lift can be used for easy lubrication and maintenance repairs.
The rack prevents damage and missing cables, Lindsay-Brisbin affirms. Do you constantly look for your cables and chains? We were finding them in the yard, under the snow behind a tank, or left on the floor to be run over. If you can’t find them, you can’t use them. The designs for either invention may be used by any plant without license, the chairman states, and schematics and designs are available at www.firebaughprecast.com.
Firebaugh Precast Inc. is a subsidiary of Canal Fulton, Ohio-based Lindsay Concrete Products, a family-owned business with a long history of support for the National Precast Concrete Association. In 1996, Lindsay Concrete reached well across the country to acquire Firebaugh Precast. The late NPCA member Bill Firebaugh was owner of the Colorado Springs-based enterprise.
Firebaugh Precast’s three locations in Colorado encompass about 60,000 square feet of production space on 87 acres. Those three facilities produce a wide range of precast concrete products, including underground utility structures, box culverts, retaining walls, and bank/security vaults.
Today, Lindsay’s six locations ship precast products nationwide and abroad. Starting nearly 50 years ago with five products fabricated at one location, Lindsay expanded its product line to 200-plus offerings that include high-strength concrete vaults used by banks all over the country. Its locations now include Lindsay Concrete Products plants at Canal Fulton; Stay-Right Precast, Franklinton/Raleigh, N.C.; Southern Precast of Alachua, Fla.; two Firebaugh plants at Colorado Springs and Dacono/Denver-metro; and, Firebaugh Precast- Southwest, Phoenix.
Lindsay was founded by Roland and Linda Lindsay in 1961. A septic tank installer hard-pressed to find quality tanks for his customers, Roland started his own precast operation. The company grew by introducing new products, further expanding in 1986 when Southern Precast was launched near Gainesville, Fla., to supply a customer of bank vaults concerned about paying shipping fees from Ohio. Stay-Right Precast is a 72-year-old company that Lindsay purchased in 2001.
NATIONAL PRECAST CONCRETE ASSOCIATION
RANDY LINDSAY- BRISBIN
V.P. and General Manager
Firebaugh Precast Inc.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN (2008)
V.P and General Manager
Utility Concrete Products LLC
J. KIRBY O’MALLEY
Garden State Precast Inc.
Farmingdale, New Jersey
The National Precast Concrete Association represents manufacturers of plant-fabricated concrete products and suppliers to the industry. Founded in 1965 with 75 members, NPCA today represents more than 1,100 member companies worldwide.
Dedicated to expanding the use of quality precast concrete, NPCA provides industry leadership in tackling opportunities and supporting members’ success by means consistent with the public interest.
NPCA develops educational seminars, sponsors an annual trade show, and operates a technical services hotline. Its publications include industry newsletters, two magazines targeting the manufactured concrete products industry and specifiers, plus technical/sales literature.
Additionally, the association operates the industry’s largest precast and prestressed certification program, encompassing 360-plus plants to date and recognized in the majority of the United States. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires NPCA certification for precast units used in any military or Corps-related construction.
Further, Above Ground and Underground product committees provide technical and product information. The Underground division includes individual committees for grease interceptors, manholes, stormwater treatment, septic tanks, reinforced concrete pipe, and underground utility structures; and, the Above Ground division committees address buildings, retaining and sound walls, and, most recently, paving slabs.
NPCA President Ty Gable, C.A.E., has led the association staff for more than 15 years. During that time, the association has built a team of technical experts; expanded the NPCA Plant Certification Program; developed an ever-growing technical library offering books and videos; and, in 2009, produced the Precast Show, the largest trade exposition specifically for the precast concrete products industry.