Capping a 2015 convention that drew 500-plus producer and associate members to San Antonio, the National Concrete Masonry Association board elected Joseph Bowen as chairman for a one-year term, during which he envisions a strategically driven approach that engages and leverages members to push market growth in an improving economy. Bowen is executive chairman of Auburn, Wash.-based Mutual Materials. A leading source of concrete or clay unit masonry for Pacific Northwest building and hardscape markets, it runs one paver, one architectural slab, three brick and four block plants, plus a mortar and grout bagging operation, in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Joining him as 2015 NCMA officers are Chair-Elect Pat Sauter of King’s Materials, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Past-Chair Dale Puskas of Basalite Concrete Products, Dixon, Calif.
Based at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in conjunction with the ICON-Xchange B2B meetings and Marketplace, the convention saw the premier of Concrete Products University Online, succeeding NCMA’s webinar series. A Level 1 overview and three courses populate the charter offering of the on-demand portal for materials, construction and systems education. CPU Online, www.ncma-cpu.org, has debuted with a free introduction, plus NCMA Materials and Resources, Introduction to Concrete Masonry Production, Concrete Masonry Overview courses, each available with one-month access for $25 per company. Build out of the portal’s Concrete Masonry module will continue through mid-year with Level 2-6 course offerings, followed by courses in multiple levels of Hardscapes, Manufactured Stone and Production/Operation modules.
Under Block USA’s Hal Webster, the Production Technology and Operations Committee outlined for convention attendees the NCMA Quality Control Plant Certification Program, a voluntary undertaking with forthcoming templates and educational materials. The inaugural version provides operators of candidate plants a step-by-step process toward audit; an emphasis on quality control will serve producers in markets favoring or requiring manufacturing certification. The Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute is co-sponsoring the Quality Control Plant Certification Program, additional details on which are available from NCMA Director of Research & Development Nick Lang, P.E., 571/224-0935; [email protected].
Three major NCMA associate members guided participants through representative block and hardscape equipment installations during the Virtual Plant Tour program, with Besser Co., Columbia Machine and Pathfinder Systems presenting, respectively, Fay Block Materials in Fayetteville, N.C., Mansfield Block Co. in the United Kingdom, and CalStar Products in Columbus, Miss. Live streaming video afforded interaction with plant personnel. Rounding out the convention’s plant agenda was the Production Boot Camp, where Besser’s Ron Scherer reviewed dry-cast concrete raw material sources and properties.
Expanded from 2014’s two-day format, this year’s ICON-Xchange spanned the 1.5-day B2B Exchange and one-day Marketplace. The former connected producers and vendors from around the globe in more than 650 individualized meetings. Structured around the business-to-business format, equipment manufacturers, material suppliers and service providers hosted producers for intensive 25-minute meetings. They were followed by the seven-hour Marketplace, providing a conventional tradeshow format for idea and information exchange. The centerpiece was the Knowledge Bar, with rotating education sessions from industry leaders offering perspectives and best practices in design and construction; new products, equipment and services; and, industry trends such as sustainability, quality control, and building information modeling for masonry (BIM-M).
Planning is under way for ICON-Xchange 2016, February 23-26 at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando.