The chief priority of the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA), according to its new chairman, will be staying on target by maintaining focus on
The chief priority of the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA), according to its new chairman, will be staying on target by maintaining focus on its Strategic Plan for market growth. First and foremost, we will continue to focus on the execution of our Strategic Plan, says Lynn Schuler, vice president and CFO of Cretex Companies, Inc., Elk River, Minn., and 2006 Chairman of the Board of the American Concrete Pipe Association. We embarked on the plan three years ago, and its goal was to increase the market share claimed by concrete pipe and precast box culverts for state DOT and municipal projects. We will increase our technical promotion and marketing efforts to bolster our relationship with these specifiers and increase our market share.
Emphasizing ACPA’s outreach initiative, he adds, Our members work directly with the DOT, the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and municipal parties. To help improve standards applied to the evaluation of products used in highway construction, our AASHTO task group collaborates closely with highway officials. And, his endorsement of ACPA member offerings is unreserved: We feel that reinforced concrete pipe and precast box culverts are the product of choice in those markets.
As production of concrete pipe and precast box culverts undergoes a sea change by virtue of applied technology, new methods of automated manufacturing promise significant economic benefits for the end user. ACPA members are proactive in inviting specifiers to tour their manufacturing facilities, so these officials can see first hand how the industry has embraced technology to maximize product quality. These technologies will further enhance the inherent strength, durability and long life of precast concrete pipe Û the traits of our product that set us apart from the competition, Schuler observes.
That thorough execution of the ACPA Strategic Plan in 2006 will build on the efforts of immediate past Chairman Ron Metzger (see Pipeline to progress, Concrete Products, April 2005; or visit www.concreteproducts.com/mag/concrete_pipeline_progress).
ACPA STAFF OUTREACH
Both ACPA professional staff and producer members are actively engaged in technical outreach. The AASHTO task group comprises participants from our member companies who volunteer their time and work with the staff, Schuler notes. ACPA has a full-time, registered professional engineer whose primary focus is to interface with those same officials as a technical resource. He’s assisting them as they make critical decisions about public investment in transportation infrastructure, besides working with them to develop and improve specifications to ensure the drainage products they specify will perform in accordance with the design life of the roadways.
If the design life of a roadway is 40 or 50 years, for example, but the project includes a drainage pipe under the pavement that will last only 10 or 15 years, the financial consequences could be staggering. ACPA helps to educate specifiers about how proven products, like concrete pipe and precast box culverts, will perform reliably in an unforgiving environment Û and for a longer time, compared to alternative flexible products.
Our staff engineers educate specifiers on long-term cost effectiveness of concrete products, Schuler asserts. The life-cycle costs of different products vary widely, and we want to make sure that public-works officials know which products are cost effective, environmentally friendly, and sustainable.
Accordingly, ACPA staff engineers routinely schedule visits with state DOT officials and their staff members, Schuler reports. And, we encourage local producer members to have their personnel accompany them, he adds. Our members generally know the DOT staff members well, because they deal with them on an ongoing basis. Having a resource present from the national association is beneficial, when local members talk about issues that the specifier may have, to provide additional technical expertise on a wide variety of topics. The specifier, then, has an opportunity to inquire about our products and what’s going on in the industry throughout North America. We strongly encourage specifiers, if they need assistance, to contact ACPA staff engineers Mike Beacham, P.E., director of State/Federal programs; Josh Beakley, P.E., director of Technical Services; and, Engineering Services Manager Kim Spahn.
In 2006, ACPA members will attend and host hospitality functions at the AASHTO Bridge Committee meeting in May in Snowbird, Utah; the AASHTO Materials Committee meeting in August in Overland Park, Kan.; and, the AASHTO annual meeting in October in Portland, Ore. For the first time, ACPA will have a presence also at the AASHTO Construction meeting in July in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Additionally, Beacham, Beakley, and Spahn monitor regulatory code changes and legislative developments. Josh Beakley works closely with DOT officials and attends American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) meetings, Schuler tells Concrete Products. Many of our member companies also have representatives who attend these meetings and work with the respective committees to review and update product specifications. In 2006, ACPA plans to boost marketing efforts by hiring two technical marketing engineers.
While working with various committees, ACPA staff and members emphasize the life-cycle cost benefits of concrete pipe and precast box culverts, alerting their audience to performance issues involving flexible products. Schuler elaborates, If specifiers do allow flexible products as an alternative to concrete pipe, we work with the design engineers to ensure that proper specifications for bedding, backfill and compaction are required.
We also encourage them to specify mandrel or laser testing to determine the deflection of flexible pipe. Once pipe is deflected, it begins to lose its capacity to handle the amount of water designed to pass through and often begins to fail structurally.
Schuler contends that Mandrel testing uncovers many problems. Many agencies are also beginning to require laser video inspections to identify and measure deflection and alignment problems in flexible pipelines, he notes. These inspections are helping specifiers discover and document failures of flexible pipe installations nationwide.
Flexible pipe itself is merely a conduit, requiring careful selection, placement and compaction of bedding and backfill materials, as it relies on a soil envelope around the pipe to provide the necessary structure to perform successfully, Schuler explains. In contrast, concrete pipe is rigid: structural strength is inherent in the pipe itself. We don’t have to rely on bedding and backfill to provide strength and structural integrity.
Concrete pipe is more forgiving if the backfill is not placed perfectly, Schuler observes. Because concrete provides the majority of structural strength otherwise supplied by the pipe-soil envelope, it does not require the detailed care in installation that flexible pipe does.
In fact, ACPA staff and members routinely assist design engineers in writing specifications to ensure the drainage products they specify will perform as intended for decades. This is one way that our members and staff help to inform and protect specifiers from the potential risks and liabilities that they as engineers would incur by specifying a product that ultimately fails, Schuler affirms. We minimize such perils by helping to educate specifiers on the front end, as we partner to ensure our public-works funds are invested wisely for generations to come.
TECHNOLOGY BOOSTS QUALITY
The concrete pipe industry is rapidly automating, benefiting from a wide variety of new manufacturing processes and equipment available from around the world, Schuler tells Concrete Products. The industry is embracing new technology in all aspects of our operations, including concrete mixing and batching, reinforcing cage fabrication, production, vibration, curing, handling and quality control testing. As a result, he contends, Our concrete mix designs and moistures are tightly controlled, and we adhere to very tight tolerances in quality control and testing to ensure the customer receives a quality product.
We supply a very good product, Schuler enthuses, and member companies are focused on continuously improving their products through participation in our Quality Cast Plant Certification Program. Eligible for Quality Cast (QCast) plant certification are facilities producing storm sewer and culvert pipe; sanitary sewer, storm sewer and culvert pipe; box culverts; and, manholes. The QCast program is a 124-point audit-inspection program covering the inspection of materials, finished products and handling/storage procedures, as well as performance testing and quality-control documentation. Last fall, QCast was updated to Version 3.0 to include certification for additional precast products, allowing a producer to obtain plant certification for a full range of offerings under one program. The QCast manual may be downloaded at no charge from ACPA’s web site at www.concrete-pipe.org/pdf/qcastmanual_v3-0.pdf.
The QCast program is one more example of how our industry continues to raise the bar for the quality of products we supply in the marketplace, Schuler says. Plants must meet stringent criteria and successfully pass a comprehensive quality-control audit conducted by independent, third-party auditors in order to obtain and maintain their certification. We encourage all of our members to have their plants QCast certified. In particular, Schuler challenges the ACPA membership to increase the number of QCast-certified plants to 100 by the association’s 100th anniversary in 2007.
CONCRETE PIPE UNIVERSITY
Expanding its commitment to education, ACPA aims to ensure the skills of its employees are on the cutting edge. We developed our Concrete Pipe University (CPU) seminar program to instruct our members’ employees in all aspects of the concrete pipe industry, Schuler reports. We offer courses that provide technical training on sales and marketing, engineering design, software applications and production techniques. To train our quality-control technicians in QCast plant-certification requirements, he adds, we recently introduced our ÎQuality Aspects of ProductionÌ CPU, which covers the processes, procedures and documentation required to obtain and maintain QCast certification. [QC technicians] are thereby given the tools they need to consistently monitor their quality system to ensure compliance with the certification program.
By way of continuing education for its members, ACPA each year holds a Production Short Course School and a Fall Short Course School, focused on sales, marketing, and engineering design. ACPA has extended its education outreach to the engineering community by inviting them to attend our Fall Short Course School, Schuler notes. Plans to expand our web site to include technical ÎwebinarsÌ are being developed to provide an educational opportunity for engineers and specifiers and offer them a convenient way to earn CEU’s.
Working to enhance ACPA’s ongoing safety program is another of Schuler’s goals. Our industry has made significant progress in improving the safety in our workplace by making it a priority, he asserts. We have a moral obligation to our employees to provide safe working conditions. And, we know a safe operation means a more profitable operation. Our association is demonstrating its ongoing commitment to safety by creating a stand-alone Safety and Environmental Committee in 2006.
The concrete pipe industry has worked hard to earn its reputation of providing a superior product of lasting value, Schuler tells Concrete Products. Many inferior products, trying to compare themselves to reinforced concrete pipe, fall far short of measuring up to RCP’s inherent strength and long service life. We must work hard to maintain that leadership position in the marketplace.
A family of diverse manufacturing entities, Cretex Companies, Inc. provides quality products to a worldwide market. The enterprise was founded by L.D. Bailey and D.W. Longfellow in 1917, as the growing nation developed a sturdy, reliable public-works infrastructure to service expanding urban populations. Cretex supplied the need for quality concrete pipe products, enabling the growth of Minnesota communities. Today, the founders’ vision of providing customers with the highest-quality product continues.
While Cretex now supplies world markets with products ranging from heart pacemaker components to concrete pipe to prestressed concrete bridge beams, concrete production is the foundation of its business. Cretex facilities produce reinforced concrete pipe and other precast/prestressed concrete products to fulfill the infrastructure needs of the central U.S. Among the group’s concrete pipe producers are Cretex Concrete Products North, Inc., in Maple Grove, Minn.; Cretex Concrete Products West, Inc., in Rapid City, S.D.; and, Cretex Concrete Products Midwest, Inc., in West Des Moines, Iowa. The construction products subsidiaries Û J.W. Peters, Inc. and IPC, Inc. Û specialize in providing precast/prestressed concrete products for parking structures, bridges, office buildings, hotels, stadiums and correctional facilities.
More information is available at www.cretexinc.com, www.jwpeters.com, or www.iowaconcrete.com.
Vice President and CFO
Cretex Companies, Inc.
Elk River, Minnesota
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIRMAN (2005)
Chief Operating Officer
Hydro Conduit Division/Rinker Materials
INCOMING CHAIR (2007)
Hanson Pipe & Products, Inc.
AMERICAN CONCRETE PIPE ASSOCIATION
The American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) provides technical and marketing support to encourage use of concrete pipe for culvert, storm and sanitary sewer applications. The association supplies marketing, technical, statistical and industry expertise to the industry, as well as governmental and legislative relations.
Founded in 1907, ACPA represents manufacturers of concrete pipe and related products throughout the U.S., Canada and dozens of countries worldwide. ACPA membership also includes equipment manufacturers and suppliers of products and services to the industry. Around the world, over 400 facilities are owned by ACPA members.
ACPA President is Matt Childs, P.E. More information can be obtained by contacting the American Concrete Pipe Association, 222 W. Las Colinas Blvd., Suite 641, Irving, TX 75039-5423; tel.: 972/506-7216; fax: 972/506-7682; e-mail: [email protected]; or visiting ACPA’s web site: www.concrete-pipe.org.