A visit with 2019 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Chair Keith Wallis, Jr.

The new Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute chair has likely spent less time in the C-suite than most of his predecessors, and more working directly with team members who can quip about wearing form oil as cologne. The PCI 2019 agenda warrants a leader mindful of big picture and nuts & bolts developments the Institute will confront over the next decade—from digitization of construction to assertive codes & standards measures to a more immediate labor market reckoning.

Keith Wallis, Jr.

Keith Wallis, Jr. became chair last month during the annual PCI Convention in Louisville, Ky. He brings a hands-on perspective of precast, prestressed production gained over 40 years in quality control, drafting, project management and administrative roles at Springfield, Mo.-based Prestressed Casting Co., where he is now general manager. “As with most organizations funded via a diverse membership, our goals sometimes are larger than our wallet,” he says. “In a year where my message as chairman is ‘YourPCI,’ I hope to enlighten members of the opportunities they have through committee and council participation, and ensure they realize the full value of PCI. I also want to represent those who work in the sweat side of our business, who manufacture and erect precast concrete components every day.”

“My involvement with PCI started 20 years ago, after I began writing the dues checks and wanted to find out more about a group that was upping the ante on the certification programs,” Wallis recalls. “I discovered a whole world of knowledge that could be conveyed within our plant and erection operations before it became a hard and fast requirement. Prestressed Casting grew as did I through interaction with PCI people that previously I had little exposure to.”

PCI committee and council meetings have served up teaching moments in best practices, contract language, and innovation, he adds, noting “Good ideas stick. Members compete for projects daily, but when we come together for Institute work, we refocus to better the industry.”

Like many PCI peers, Wallis is especially mindful of the extent workforce recruitment, development and retention weigh on an industry seeking to realize its full potential in construction supply and project delivery chains. In response to a question on staffing and production log balance, he tells members in his first PCI Journal chair’s dispatch: “Solving the problem of an uneven workload in a precasting plant would be like having a goose that lays golden eggs. During good times in the past, a precaster’s growth was limited by the number of forms it had. Today, capacity appears to be limited by the ability to gain and retain workers.”


Wallis seeks to tackle the labor element as part of a strategic plan he and fellow directors adopted in June 2018. It is oriented around three baseline and three strategic goals, pursuit of which will uphold these PCI priorities:

  • Core Purpose: A value proposition assuring members of the Institute’s commitment to precast, prestressed products and methods through technical support and promotion.
  • Mission Statement: “As a collaborative group of industry stakeholders dedicated to promoting the broader use of precast, prestressed concrete systems, we engage our constituents through standards development, certification, research, marketing and education.”
  • Envisioned Future: Five points firmly positioning precast, prestressed in building and transportation markets through research & development, best practices, code efforts, and workforce development initiatives.

The baseline goals are 1) Maintain the body of knowledge; 2) Maintain and advance certification programs; and, 3) Develop and maintain a first-class information technology platform and website. They underpin three strategic goals:

  • Develop and Implement a PCI Precast, Prestressed Concrete Building Code. “This will position PCI as an organization with the design theory, research and testing capability needed to be a bigger influence in the code area,” Wallis explains. Led by the Executive and Standards Committees, plus Technical Activities Council, PCI aims to codify previous and future work for International Code Council (ICC) adoption by the 2027 cycle. Producer members and Institute staff are laying the groundwork by identifying, developing and maintaining standards for structural specifications, and expanding committee participation to support content development.

“The intention of this effort is for ICC to recognize decades’ worth of PCI technical material and methodologies that have been used to design precast, prestressed concrete that are currently in PCI literature but not recognized in the building code … without replicating the fundamentals of structural design currently contained in ACI 318,” notes PCI President and CEO Bob Risser in his most recent PCI Journal message. “The PCI Design Handbook: Precast and Prestressed Concrete and other documents fill gaps that are not addressed in current American Concrete Institute documents. The urgency for PCI members cannot be overstated, as there is an increasing number of anecdotes about building officials not accepting designs using PCI methods because they ‘are not referenced in the code.’” The PCI and American Concrete Institute Executive Committees, he adds, are discussing a joint committee to advance a Precast, Prestressed Concrete Building Code.

A template for the new code premiered in 2018. Specification for Fire Resistance of Precast/Prestressed Concrete is the first document of its kind PCI has published since becoming an American National Standards Institute-accredited standards developer in 2014. Specification for Fire Resistance will be referenced in the 2021 International Building Code, and inform PCI Standards Committee, Technical Activities Council and other Institute activities supporting the Precast, Prestressed Building Code. Much work will proceed under Edith Smith, who joined the Institute in 2018 as manager of Codes and Standards.

  • Increase Relative Market Share of Precast, Prestressed Concrete. PCI Strategic Plan Goal 2 addresses member opportunities in bridges, buildings, building enclosure systems, parking structures, and other transportation, infrastructure and industrial applications. Among top deliverables, it calls for identifying, funding and managing “Research and development projects for industry information, products, materials and systems that could expand the use of precast, prestressed concrete.”

The Market Share goal emphasizes an organizational structure adopted in 2018. It positions PCI Chicago headquarters as a national office for technical support and standards development functions, and tasked with channeling design, engineering and best practices assets to 11 regional Chapters or Partners, each represented on the PCI Board. The goal calls for developing and sustaining “a network of highly effective local promotion organizations by optimizing national support to maximize local effectiveness.”

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PHOTO: Gayle Babcock, Architectural Imageworks LLC, Springfield, Mo. The Kickapoo Performing Arts Center in Springfield, Mo., demonstrates Prestressed Casting’s capacity for architectural and structural precast, and delivering a finished structure embodying Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for a public facility in a zone subject to F-5 tornado exposure.
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PHOTO: Prestressed Casting

Market Share hinges on aligning resources with priorities revealed in the Market Survey Report. Now in its third year, the report compiles segment and product category data from shipment figures PCI members provide in confidence to an outside accountant. When crunched with Dodge Data & Analytics and Portland Cement Association figures, uniform data collected from about 280 member plants enables PCI to calculate precast, prestressed concrete share across construction markets at national and regional levels. Such figures justify resource allocation as determined by the PCI Board with Chapter and Partner input.

Collection of 2018 precast, prestressed shipment data has commenced. The current Market Survey Report shows that precast, prestressed deliveries were up a little over 3 percent in 2017 from the prior year, just slightly ahead of the pace of total U.S construction activity. Parking structures and bridges remain two of the industry’s largest market segments, but PCI members also cite ongoing opportunities within the warehouse, data center, and manufacturing segment as well as in systems designed for public and institutional markets.

“Members generally have full plants and healthy backlogs,” affirms Risser. “Based on previous economic conditions and other forecast model variables, sales of precast concrete systems are predicted to continue increasing annually for the next five years to more than $7 billion in 2021. However, we carefully monitor markets in which members compete, and strive to continuously look for ways to address regional capacity issues and develop new technologies that address marketplace needs.

“The industry is also maintaining a clear-headed view of how the most recent recession impacted the construction and manufacturing sectors of the economy, including PCI members, and the PCI Board of Directors is working hard to build reserves as well as identify opportunities that keep the Institute and industry stable even in difficult economic periods.”

“During the next 12 months,” adds Wallis, “PCI leadership will be evaluating the Institute’s place in marketing: What is the national office responsible for, what areas or targets will our regional groups cover, and what is the responsibility of the boots on the ground via each member’s sales force.”

The Market Share goal also compels PCI members and staff to engage in more government affairs outreach at the state and federal levels, the latter including participation in the spring Cement and Concrete Industry Washington, D.C. fly-in and related North American Concrete Alliance activities.

  • Enhance Members’ Businesses. The third strategic goal entails preparation and promotion of surveys, tools and other timely mechanisms supporting workforce development plus safe and productive plant operations.

    “A precaster’s most valuable asset is its workforce,” Wallis contends. “Workforce development is key area where best practices can be shared among PCI members. Our company was not limited after an excellent year in 2018 to form capacity as typically was the case during busy periods, but to the number of employees we could hire and retain.” Despite a sustained, healthy production schedule and backlog, he adds, tightness in the local labor market has limited Prestressed Casting to keeping a current payroll at around 80 percent of historic peaks.

    Workforce development, safety and plant operations were addressed during the 2019 PCI Convention as part of a new schedule of winter and fall gathering events. Staged in tandem with The Precast Show on February-March timeframes, the convention will have sessions emphasizing human capital, innovation, production plus technical non-peer-reviewed topics and presentations. The National Bridge Conference and peer-reviewed paper presentations, traditionally aligned with the annual convention, move to a September-October schedule under the banner of “PCI Committee Days and Technical Conference.”

    Between convention and committee day activities, along with Chapter and Partner participation, Wallis notes, “Our institute is a body of knowledge and experience. There are many areas we as members can come together and ‘invent the wheel once’ and not through the ‘school of hard knocks’ in 280 locations.”


Over a three-year period that saw the worst effects of the recession subside, Prestressed Casting installed structures for 75 shelters built to Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for F-5 tornado zones. Public and private construction stakeholder interest in buildings designed for tornados was an outgrowth of the May 2011 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo. Prestressed Casting serves markets at or near the center of the highest tornado and seismic zones in the U.S. The seismic factor reflects proximity to the often-overlooked New Madrid Fault, stretching from northeast Arkansas to southern Illinois. PHOTOS: Prestressed Casting

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