Each year, CC sponsors a gathering of a group of industry leaders to explore the issues that are inhibiting progress, that are preventing concrete from becoming a more dominant building material and contractors from making more money. We invite you to “listen in” to excerpts from the roundtable.
What's on your mind?
Randa: An issue that concerns me is the immigrant work force and how it's going to affect productivity and pricing. I'm hoping that we can figure out a way to be proactive and to make some decisions that will put us in a better position.
Lickel: An issue that concerns me as a manufacturer of equipment is the competency of the labor force with higher technology and equipment. Is the labor force able to keep pace with this and understand it, or are we, as manufacturers, outpacing the labor force's competency?
Fricks: One of the biggest problems we see is our risk as contractors in having to install a poor design; we want to minimize our risk by improving designs that we know are bad.
Fischer: I'm with Greg. Without immigrant labor, we're out of business. It's 90% of my employees so it's huge for us. And the other thing is with design—we do a lot of public schools, and the design and construction documents are just getting worse and worse.
Holland: The thing that bothers me the most is something that Greg and Clay touched on, the poor designs that are coming out. But who's paying the price? Contractors. I'm a troubleshooter and overwhelmingly I see bad designs, bad details, and specs not coordinated—or even no details, and the contractor is expected to read the designer's mind.
Garceau: In the decorative concrete business, new products and techniques are constantly being developed. More affordable training programs in the use of these new products are needed. If a contractor can get hands-on experience in the proper use of new products at a seminar, see what works and what doesn't work, he can avoid mistakes on his jobs. I think training is a big issue.
Carbeau: From a manufacturer's viewpoint, there are a lot of technological advances, and I find it difficult to communicate those to the industry. I would like to think there's a better way to communicate those advances that would benefit us all.
Baum: I would echo many of the sentiments I've heard with regard to training and education. It's something that is a constant concern to us as a manufacturer. I'm sure everyone's familiar with what just happened with the Big Dig and the tunnel failure. Everyone's wondering if it was a design flaw, an installer error, or a product problem. This is indicative of why it's so important for manufacturers to be close to contractors.
Tadros: My issues are two. The first is that the price of concrete has gone through the roof. Sure, you can pass the price increase on to the customer but the issue is that you have long-term contracts and you can't even hold a price for three months. The other issue is tolerances. What tolerances are acceptable? It goes all the way back to the ACI code—is the code reasonable?