Relationships can be valuable, and volatile. Take for example, the relationship you have with your ready-mix supplier. One day, every truck is on time, the mixes are the perfect slump, and your pour goes smoothly; your relationship with the supplier is great. Consider the opposite—when the trucks are late, the mix is poor, and your jobsite a disaster. You're about to hop in the cab and drive it back to the plant to have a few words with the owner.
I am fortunate that I have many opportunities to interact with general and concrete contractors, usually at St. Louis-based American Society of Concrete Contractors' (ASCC) CEO Forum or Annual Meeting, World of Concrete, or other association-related meetings.
Same goes for another sector of the concrete industry: the engineers. Many of which I meet at the spring and fall meetings for the American Concrete Institute (ACI), Farmington Hills, Mich., as well as other select association-related meetings.
So, here you have two distinct groups: on one side are the contractors, the other side the engineers, both working toward a common goal—the betterment of the concrete construction industry. Yet, they could accomplish much more by working in concert.
Contractors, how often do you see engineers at contractor-related events? Same question to engineers: how often do you interact with contractors? It happens, but not very often. There are a select few contractors and engineers that crossover to the others' events, but those numbers are low—way too low.
Ken Hover, professor of Civil Engineering and Construction at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., echoed this theme during a presentation at the recent ASCC Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City. Hover mentioned that contractors need ACI, and ACI needs contractors. The contractor can provide critical input to the ACI guides and specifications—the very guides and specs that tell a contractor how to perform a job.
I have sat through many ACI committee meetings regarding guides and specifications, and those meetings can be tough. But as Hover went on to discuss, it is imperative that contractors attend these meetings because ultimately it is critical to not only the completion of the project but the success of your business.
“Contractor input is invaluable for realistic documents and construction requirements. Contractors should be part of the group that helps write the rules,” says Hover.
ASCC should be applauded for taking the reins on advancing the contractor-engineer relationship. The association has been proactive in recruiting engineers to not only speak at their events but also become active members. ACI has encouraged contractors to be more active within their organization, and they have been. I have noticed a number of contractors in attendance during ACI 302 and 360 meetings.
But ultimately, the decision is yours as to whether you want to become involved with ASCC and ACI. Based upon the feedback I have gotten from contractors and engineers involved in both associations, they wouldn't have it any other way.
Interested in making the crossover? Check out the ACI-ASCC Task Force.