Preferred Future

The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) will stick to its Preferred Future game plan as it grows in 2008 and launches a new trade show in 2009.


The National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) will stick to its Preferred Future game plan as it grows in 2008 and launches a new trade show in 2009. NPCA has laid out its strategic goals, which have been guiding us for the past six years, says 2008 NPCA Chairman Philip Burkhart, who is vice president and general manager of Utility Concrete Products LLC, Morris, Ill. Our visionary leaders set out a path, and we will follow it.

Burkhart was installed at NPCA’s 42nd Annual Convention Oct. 23-27 at the Grand Wailea Hotel in Maui, Hawaii. Also installed as NPCA officers were Randy Lindsay-Brisbin, Firebaugh Precast Inc., chairman-elect; and, J. Kirby O’Malley, Garden State Precast Inc., secretary/treasurer. In addition, four new board members were elected: Kurt Burkhart, Arrow Concrete Products; Mimi Coles, Permatile Concrete Products Co.; Larry Ebert, Elk River Machine Co.; and, Eric Wheeler, Hanson Pipe & Precast.


Among initiatives set out in NPCA’s plan was an ambitious quality assurance (QA) program that has grown steadily as more plants take up the challenge and, according to Burkhart, is now expanding into prestressed product certification. NPCA’s Plant Certification Program sets high standards for plant facilities, production operations, and quality control procedures. Through random annual inspections by an independent nationally accredited engineering firm, plants are graded against these standards in the evaluation of critical plant operation aspects, including safety, materials, mixing and batching, and quality control.

As part of its mission to continually raise industry quality standards, NPCA recently released the sixth edition of its Quality Control Manual for Precast and Prestressed Concrete Plants, also known as the NPCA QC Manual. Requirements stipulated in the manual’s sixth edition Û effective Jan. 1 Û will be used for all 2008 plant inspections.

NPCA’s Prestressed Plant Certification Program is detailed in Chapter 7 of the QC Manual. An expansion of the already mature Precast Plant Certification Program, the prestressed component was approved by NPCA’s Quality Assurance and Technical Committees in October 2007. Because quality is a primary aim of the association, NPCA offers the manual as a free download at its web site,

I have been associated with the NPCA Plant Certification Program since its inception in 1987, Burkhart tells Concrete Products. Our company, Utility Concrete Products, along with many other NPCA producers, chose to be certified long before any customers required it. At that time, our NPCA leaders saw that if precast concrete was to take a position of prominence and continue to gain market share, then we had to promote and ensure its quality. And, this meant introducing things that we normally might not have had to do otherwise, including allocating manpower, tasks, and reviews for the certification process. That investment in the future is now recognized and required by a growing number of DOTs and specifiers. Those users of our products demand and deserve quality and now trust the NPCA plant certification program to deliver it.

To support the program, NPCA is working to establish in all 50 states requirements for precast supplied only by certified plants. By October 2007, greater than half of state DOTs required precast suppliers to operate NPCA-certified facilities Û and, more are on the way (see map, page 30).


Another area of prospective growth for NPCA is enhanced marketing of precast, founded on quality-assured products. A major fundraising effort now under way for NPCA’s Educational Foundation aims to further advance the marketing initiative. We want to make sure those who will be specifiers throughout their careers are introduced to the superiority of precast from their earliest association with the construction industry, Burkhart affirms. Then, precast concrete will be their design preference.

It’s an aggressive program to create eye-catching, attractive messages that emphasize the benefits of precast as a versatile, high-tech building material, Burkhart asserts. Visionary leaders before me said we had to step up and do more than we were doing, creating an impact with ÎpunchÌ. We’ve developed a whole new take this year, aimed at reaching specifiers and helping them understand the benefits of precast, plus tools that will allow individual producers to market their own companies to a targeted list of customers.

Like the move to QA certification, or creating the original Manufactured Concrete Products Expo (MCPX) trade show, risks were involved in ramping up NPCA’s marketing outreach. Many years ago, when NPCA leaders proposed the QA program or even the trade show, there were big risks for the association at the time. Today, if we look back, we easily can see they were the right thing to do. Those programs are at the core of what we do as an association, Burkhart observes. Now, as we look forward to expanding the Educational Foundation and our government advocacy program, those initiatives, too, will one day be at the heart of our work as an association that contributes to the growth of the precast concrete industry. Part of my message is to thank our members for the support they have given in the past to these programs, and to ask for their continued support now and in the future.


A key marketing initiative in 2008 will be the creation of an innovative brand for NPCA’s new convention and exhibition, The Precast Show, debuting in February 2009 in Houston. Targeting precast and concrete pipe producers, NPCA’s new trade show will feature the latest equipment, products, and services throughout an expansive exhibition area, plus technical education programming, networking events, and much more. The show will replace the existing MCPX.

We’re trying to better serve both our producer members and our associate members with the new show, Burkhart says. Our particular vision of how a show can provide the best experience and opportunities for producers and associate members is driving the new show and will grow it.

Cosponsored as well by the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA), The Precast Show will be staged Feb. 20-22, 2009, at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. Future shows are scheduled for Phoenix in 2010; Charlotte, N.C., in 2011; and, Orlando in 2012. In conjunction with the trade show, NPCA and ACPA will hold a variety of additional meetings, special events, plant tours, and training for their members. More information can be obtained by contacting NPCA’s Brenda Ibitz, tel.: 317/582.5109; or, e-mail: [email protected].


Self-consolidating concrete (SCC) is the wave of the future, Philip Burkhart maintains, and Utility Concrete’s new plant was designed to take advantage of the mix technology. Constructed four years ago, the ultramodern greenfield facility employs the most advanced production equipment.

One reason we went to the new technology was to make products out of self-consolidating concrete, Burkhart tells Concrete Products. The equipment we had was inadequate to do that in a consistent fashion. We could have upgraded, but we really wanted to do it right. We needed new, dependable capacity. Our new location and plant let us take advantage of arising opportunities.

A major change from conventional production is the nature of the SCC mix, Burkhart reports. The precision of the mix is the primary difference, along with the automation, he explains. We try to minimize handling of raw materials, to the point where it is not handled from delivery by truck to the mix. While SCC is still more expensive than conventional concrete, Burkhart says, the cost premium is declining.


Just-in-time delivery to construction projects requires just-in-time production in the plant, Burkhart emphasizes. As a subcontractor, we recently produced Super-Slab precast pavement panels [on behalf of] The Fort Miller Co., Inc., for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, he says. There is more to success than making a consistent, quality piece of concrete. You have to get it to the job site exactly at the time it has to be there. The purpose of precast slabs is to be able to repair a road overnight. The Authority has determined it will get longer service life out of a conventional mix than high-early strength concrete, which might be poured in place to quickly open a pavement to traffic.

NPCA’s trade shows have been a boon to Burkhart as Utility Concrete reconfigured production equipment for its new plant. Certainly, through MCPX Û soon to be The Precast Show Û we were able to view the newest equipment, and we also could see it in operation through NPCA plant tours, Burkhart attests. NPCA is very much an association that’s open, through which members network and share what they know works well, what equipment is dependable, and how to get it installed in a timely fashion. As a result, we knew who the players were, and they invited us to see their installations throughout the Midwest. We toured those locations and determined what was best for us.



Utility Concrete Products, LLC, is a premier Midwest producer of utility vaults for the communication, electrical and transportation markets, among other precast offerings. Located in Morris, Ill., the company serves the Chicago area and surrounding region.

Utility Concrete’s high production capacity enables it to supply standard items in large volumes on short notice. Immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, for example, Utility was the only local precaster able to meet high demand for precast barrier walls. Responding to requests from Chicago high-rise buildings, such as Sears Tower, John Hancock Center, and the Dirksen Federal Building (above), the producer delivered barriers around the clock.

Yet, Utility Concrete is more than a quality producer of commodity precast products. Its professional design staff provides precast solutions for nearly any special or unusual engineering requirement. Many custom designs the company developed and engineered for precast construction are featured in the What’s New section of its web site,

Utility Concrete’s engineering team, for example, collaborated with the Cook County (Ill.) Department of Highways to custom design seven junction chambers for the intersection of 79th St. and Wolf Road. As the project was surrounded by housing, a special precast junction chamber was incorporated, allowing builders to open the hole, install the structure, and backfill the same day Û with no safety concerns for nearby residents.

For Wisconsin Electric’s Lake Side Substation Replacement in Milwaukee County, Utility Concrete fabricated a Wisconsin Gas 18- _ 6- _ 6-ft. one-piece dog house manhole to install over an existing 138-kV unit that remained at full power. The manhole design saved the installing contractor several hours, while enabling Wisconsin Electric customers to remain at full power.

In 1970, Bill Hawken founded Utility Concrete, the culmination of an industrial career including eight years with American Pipe & Construction Co., as well as 3_ years as national production manager for American Marietta, where he oversaw 126 precast plants. Hawken became sole owner of Utility Concrete in 1980, and now his son, Russell Hawken, serves as chief executive officer.

In affirmation of its ongoing commitment to excellence, Utility Concrete is a charter member of NPCA’s 20-year-old plant certification program. The company is also certified under the requirements of the Quality Assurance Program of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

Utility Concrete occupies an attractive, new office building of Prairie School design (above) on the plant grounds, located at 2495 W. Bungalow Road, Morris, IL 60450; tel.: 815/416-1000; fax: 815/416-1100; e-mail: [email protected].



V.P. and General Manager Utility Concrete Products, LLC Morris, Illinois


V.P. and General Manager Barbour Concrete Co. Independence, Missouri


V.P. and General Manager Firebaugh Precast Inc. Colorado Springs, Colorado

The National Precast Concrete Association is an international trade group representing precast producers and suppliers to the industry. Today, NPCA represents 1,100-plus companies worldwide

Dedicated to expanding the use of quality precast and prestressed concrete, NPCA pursues its mission by providing industry leadership and promoting members’ success in ways consistent with the public interest.

The association offers its members educational seminars, an annual industry trade show, industry newsletters, publications targeting the manufactured concrete products industry, plus technical/sales literature, and a technical-services hotline.

Providing industry leadership, product committees focused on specific lines in two divisions Û Above Ground and Underground Û facilitate NPCA’s dissemination of technical and product information. The Underground division includes individual committees for grease interceptors, manholes, stormwater management, septic tanks, and concrete pipe. The Above Ground division includes committees for buildings, and retaining and sound walls.

At NPCA’s 42nd annual convention in October 2007, the Robert E. Yoakum Award Û the precast industry’s longest-running and most prestigious honor Û was presented to Mel Marshall, principal of Mel C. Marshall Industrial Consultants of Delta, B.C., Canada. An industry professional since 1960, he was recognized for a wide-ranging involvement in the precast and concrete pipe fields as consultant, standards developer, and instructor.

Over the course of his career, Marshall has trained thousands of production and management personnel in the fundamentals of quality precast fabrication through NPCA’s Production and Quality School and other trade association educational programs. One of the foremost experts in the precast and concrete pipe industry, he remains active on a number of standards committees and with a variety of trade associations. Marshall has been honored by ASTM C-13 and by other institutions for his lifetime of industry service.

Earning NPCA’s top membership award Û the Douglas G. Hoskin Award Û was Robert Waterloo of Hill and Griffith Co. The association’s top recruiter during the past 12 months, he has sponsored 129 members during his career.

Ty E. Gable, CAE, is NPCA president. More information is available from the National Precast Concrete Association, 10333 N. Meridian St., Suite 272, Indianapolis, IN 46290; tel.: 317/571-9500 or toll-free: 800/366-7731; fax: 317/571-0041; e-mail: [email protected]; website: