Last September, Concrete Construction hosted the Industry Trends Roundtable just prior to the American Society of Concrete Contractors' annual meeting. Although excerpts were presented in our November issue, that only represented a fraction of the conversation. Here is a little more.
CC: Somebody mentioned that the industry is maturing and it seems that contractors are getting more sophisticated. Do you see smarter contractors out there?
Randa: I think technology is more of an effect than a cause. Contractors are getting smarter and more knowledgeable—the information is available, it's at our fingertips. And technology is helping us eliminate workers, become more productive, more on schedule.
Lickel: Contractors today are definitely more educated about what technology and what equipment is available—how it affects their jobs, how it saves them labor. And from the equipment manufacturer's side, if you look at a successful sales force, they're no longer just salesmen, they're more specialists. There's a lot more education going on than selling.
CC: So some of the education has shifted to the equipment manufacturers and material suppliers?
Carbeau: A good manufacturer has to be promoting and teaching and developing relationships and communicating with the end user. If they're successful because they use your product, you are successful because of them, so one builds on the other. But ideally every contractor and every producer would be prequalified in some way, would show some level of expertise. If you're competing against contractors and producers that aren't trustworthy, you can't exclude them from the bidding process but you can require qualifications and that starts to level the playing field.
Randa: But being qualified goes beyond just knowing how to pour a slab. It's business and quality control and safety and administration.
Tadros: Whether you make money on a job or not has to do with how competent you are, but to bid the job you just have to put up a bond. It's that simple.
Lickel: At what pace should technology change so that the labor force can keep up with it? Is it going to take a whole new labor force of specialists to operate all the new technology?
Albinger: I suppose the good news is that technology is moving in the direction of eliminating labor.