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The Concrete Times April 2015

The CONCRETE Times • APR 2015 monthly columnist - jay shilstone our new columnist - jay shilstone jay will be writing a monthly feature for the concrete times, taking a look at concrete issues the the american perspective but also touching on europe Ja James M. “Jay” Shilstone, Jr. is the third generation of Shilstones to be involved in concrete quality control. A Fellow of the American Concrete Institute, Jay has been widely recognised as an expert in concrete quality control around the world and he is also a member of the American Society of Testing and Materials and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. He has been in the concrete industry for almost 40 years, with over 30 of those years involved in concrete quality control software. Jay works for Command Alkon, Inc. and is their technical specialist in the COMMANDqc quality control software program. A compelling writer, Jay is also a keen blogger and his blogsite on www. commandalkonconnect.com gets over 1000 hits per week. 12 When I first started blogging almost 3 years ago, I posted an article entitled “If I Ruled the Concrete Industry”.that presented 5 changes that I felt needed to be made to the concrete industry. Responses that I received to my most recent post on the fact that concrete producers are not being sent concrete tests as required by the Building Code have pushed me to recognize that the 5 changes I suggested are really symptoms of the same thing, at least here in the U.S. That conclusion is that in the U.S. we are operating under an inappropriate paradigm when it comes to designing, specifying, manufacturing, constructing and testing with concrete. We need to change the paradigm so that the entire design and construction industry takes a more professional approach to the design and use of concrete. So what is the problem? The problem is that we don’t treat the concrete industry as a professional manufacturing industry. When you buy a hamburger at McDonalds, you don’t walk into the kitchen and tell the cook what kind of meat to use, how hot and how long to cook it, you trust them to make the burger. If you don’t like it, you send it back or you don’t patronize them in the future. You also rely on an oversite group such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make certain that MacDonalds has processes in place to avoid the use of contaminated meat and provide a certain level of quality, but MacDonalds is responsible for all their internal quality control. Contrast that with the concrete industry where the specifier and designer may include requirements that may or may not be appropriate for the concrete, where anyone with a bunch of money can set up a batch plant and start producing concrete and where a third party lab tests the concrete but may or may not tell the concrete producer what the test results are. Add to this the emphasis on a low bid price and you have a recipe for disaster, or at least a recipe for mediocrity. So how did we end up this way and why change now? Pondering these questions has brought up a lot of great clichés. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” “What’s good enough for Grandpa is good enough for me.” The concrete industry in the U.S. has gotten older and is starting to look like an old Victorian mansion. And if we don’t modernize it soon, we will find that the rest of the world looks down on us as being hopelessly backward. Where did we go wrong? The reality is that we never did go wrong. We did right. At the turn of the 20th century, big business in the U.S. got to be “too big for its boots”. Charles Erwin Wilson, former secretary of defense under President Eisenhower, was frequently misquoted as saying “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” Whilst some might feel this attitude remains, back in the early 1900’s it resulted in a lot of our anti-monopolistic sentiment and laws that we now have protecting the country and the consumer from anti-competitive activity. Anyone with enough cash can go out and buy a concrete batch plant and a few trucks and serve a market that needs it. There are good and bad points to this. A person with one plant and 5 trucks can serve a small community composed primarily of homeowners and farmers. This community might not merit the attention of a big concrete


The Concrete Times April 2015
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