By Brent Dezember | Chairman, National Precast Concrete Association
There has been much talk in the last few years about the post-recession construction economy and quite a bit of crystal ball gazing from economists and other analysts who are looking for trends and new paradigms in the industry.
Those of us who make our living supplying precast concrete products to the construction industry have been waiting for our sector to rebound. Well, if the Precast Forecast is correct (see page 24), the rebound is happening right now. So instead of wondering what the new post-recession construction economy will look like, let’s assume that we are now in the midst of it.
The precast business is for the most part local and regional, so it is natural that most precasters are deeply embedded in their own companies and their own communities. As the chairman of the Board of a national association for the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to look at the industry from the 30,000 foot level, and there are a few things that are increasingly obvious as we look to the future.
- Quality product is now simply expected by your customers. It is the difference between being in business in a few years and going out of business.
- Technology drives change. The construction industry is undergoing a technological revolution. The blueprints of yesteryear are the 3-D BIM modeling images of today, and it is changing the way we work. Eventually, technology will separate the “haves” from the “have nots” in our industry, as it is already doing in other sectors of the construction industry.
- Marketing sophistication is a prerequisite for doing business. A website is just one component. Every company needs a big bag of tools that includes all the components of a strong marketing campaign. The new NPCA marketing campaign urges DOTs, specifiers and regulatory agencies to “Take a New Look at Precast,” and your company should do the same. See precast.org/newlook for an example of where the industry is headed. The Marketing Toolkit of resources and training on how to use the toolkit is a free member benefit available to every NPCA member at precast.org/education.
- LEED v4 is driving material selection, job-site economies, lifecycle costing, wise use of water resources and lean practices throughout the supply chain. The LEED v4 philosophy interlocks with precast concrete construction in many instances and will offer new opportunities to savvy precasters.
- Excellence is the desired outcome for companies that want to fully participate in the new construction economy. Business may be increasing, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to take shortcuts. The economy of excellence means supplying your customers with what they want and being fanatical about customer service.
The reality is that we have to do all of these things in the face of an increasing regulatory environment, uncertainties regarding health care, a possibility of increasing minimum wages and a shortage of skilled labor. Nobody said it would be easy, right? But one thing I do know in taking a 30,000 foot view of the industry: There will be no sub-quality producers in the business a generation from now. They will have been passed over by customers, litigated to death or fined out of business. It’s not a pretty picture, but the flip side is that for those who commit to the economy of excellence, there are boundless opportunities in the future.
The start of a new year is a great time to pull your team together and imagine the future. The possibilities are exciting. Are you ready? Let’s build the future!