By TY GABLE
President, National Precast Concrete Association
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”
That famous quote from Apple founder Steve Jobs came to mind recently with the news that Apple had passed Microsoft in the company’s market value. Apple’s constant innovation, continual reinvention and its corporate culture of no boundaries have created products that changed the world.
That’s a pretty big dent for Steve Jobs, but what about mere mortals like those of us who get up every morning thinking about precast concrete? We have a dent to make too, in an industry where it has become increasingly difficult to survive. Nothing pains me more than hearing about the shutdown of a plant, especially when it‘s a precaster who is doing it the right way. You can watch every penny, manufacture quality products, stay on top of technology, adapt your product line, treat your employees well and work safely – and still not make a profit. It’s tougher, tighter and trickier than ever to make it in this business. In times like these, where survival is the first priority, making a dent might not seem important, but I would argue that it’s more important than ever.
Jobs went through some rocky times at Apple, but less than a year after the company’s stock price hit an all-time low, he introduced the iPod, and the race to the top was on. In that spirit, here are five examples of resources that NPCA offers to companies (and their leaders) to navigate these difficult waters and help make a dent in the precast industry.
- Education: The key to success in any company is the ongoing development of highly skilled employees. That’s why we’ve created a clear career path for the industry. Precast University provides training from the production floor to the management table, and we’re backing that up with a new Learning Management System and a whole host of specialized educational courses offered at the NPCA Convention and The Precast Show (visit www.precast.org for details).
- Quality: NPCA has a world-class quality assurance program that members can plug in to their plant and customize. It’s all based on the Quality Control Manual for Precast and Prestressed Concrete and it’s free to all NPCA members.
- Networking: We learn from each other, and in addition to the face-to-face opportunities provided during the year, we’re building a new online community where you can track what’s happening in the industry any time. Join us online – find out how at www.precast.org.
- New Technology: The Precast Show features the latest technology in the industry. The precast industry may not have iPads or iPhones, but we have our own new technology and equipment launches every year, and there’s no better place to discover it and see it than at The Precast Show.
- Safety and Sustainability: Inside the plant, these two items will become more important every day. As OSHA and the EPA increase their reach, precast companies will have to work safer and reduce their environmental footprints. NPCA’s world-class safety program and ongoing resources developed by our Safety, Health and Environmental Committee help plants continually improve their safety records. And our Sustainability Committee is undertaking an ambitious agenda to develop resources that not only will help members achieve sustainable practices, it will also help them save money. That’s good for the environment, and it’s good for the bottom line.
We may not all be able to make an impact like Steve Jobs. But on the local level – in our own plants and communities – we can make a dent.
By never compromising on quality, you’re making a statement that quality, integrity and your reputation are more important than price. By providing a clean, safe workplace, thorough training and ongoing opportunities for advancement, you’re making a statement that your employees matter – and that you understand the importance of your investment in their ongoing development. By keeping up with technology, opening your mind to new opportunities and looking to innovate, you’re showing your customers that you’re embracing the future and not just clinging to the past.
It all boils down to two things: quality and excellence. And as you might expect, Steve Jobs has something to say about both in his advice to business leaders. “Be a yardstick of quality,” he said. “Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”