The Batch Report

Best Practices Lead to Solutions

(Part 1 of 2)
By E. Max Hoene - ACT Chairman

POSITIONING PRECASTERS FOR LONG-TERM SUCCESS

We are now in the midst of turbulent times. While many precast companies are continuing to function as essential businesses, there’s little doubt that there will be a shakeout in the next couple of years with marginal companies struggling to survive. We’ve been in the trenches with precasters for over 30 years, and have successfully gritted through tough times arm-in-arm with our producer customers before. It is in the spirit of long-term thinking and partnership that I’d like to share some thoughts on positioning your company for the new normal.

Management experts say that in a down economy, the objective of the savvy owner is to be totally focused on reducing costs while at the same time growing market share. In the precast industry, that means competing on price, improving quality and adding value for your customers, which points directly to the equipment you’re using to make your products. Is now the right time to update your plant to reduce waste, reduce labor, reduce cost? It’s a big decision, and making the wrong call could haunt you for many years. However, making the right decision pays dividends for years! Believe me, we understand that, and we’re here to help.

PLANT ASSESSMENTS - A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO OPERATIONAL IMPROVEMENT

Precast managers often come to us with three big questions:

  • Is now the right time to make an investment in modernizing my plant equipment?
  • Where should we invest to achieve the greatest return?
  • How can we relieve intense pressure on unit cost that is eroding our profits?
  1. Is the concrete plant a bottleneck? Are workers waiting around for the concrete? Could more be sold if the plant could produce more?
  2. Does quality suffer from inconsistent concrete output? Is there a higher-than-normal scrap/disposal cost and higher labor costs associated with patching and re-works?
  3. Does the concrete plant have a high cost ownership? In other words, are maintenance costs high, with downtime causing low plant utilization? Are labor costs high because of obsolete equipment? Is the plant keeping pace with today’s safety and environmental standards?
  4. Is in-plant concrete distribution inefficient, adding to production costs?
  5. Are information systems inadequate? Is management getting the hard data needed to make continuous real-time improvement decisions?
  6. And finally, is the plant losing market share and missing out on opportunities because of plant equipment constraints? Does management want to differentiate their company from the competitor through better quality, more value, and faster turnaround but can’t?

The goal of a plant assessment is to identify the issues and then find the best solutions that fit within a given budget and timeline. Often, we can modernize existing plant infrastructure, updating only a few key components. Is it time to evaluate how an investment in the right plant equipment can deliver results? We’ll take that up in Part 2.

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL - LONG-TERM CUSTOMER PARTNERSHIPS

At ACT, we’ve been developing, engineering and delivering complete concrete plant solutions for three decades. That’s a long time in this industry, especially for an equipment supplier. But it’s not surprising if you know two things about ACT and our parent company, Wiggert & Co.

  • First, we take a long-term approach with our business and our customers. We look at our customer partnerships as long-term commitments – almost like a marriage really. Our equipment is built rugged and engineered for reliability and decades of hard duty. So, when we start working with a precaster, we’re in it for the long haul.
  • Second, concrete technology is always evolving, and so are we. We’re always looking for ways to perfect our equipment and control systems, adding new features to reduce labor, increase efficiency and improve quality.

It’s a never-ending quest, those two things have enabled us to serve and support our customers for three decades and counting. We are boldly committed to the future and the success of our customers, during the COVID-19 crisis of spring 2020 and far beyond.

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