This month we are pleased to feature A.C. Miller Concrete Products Inc. as part of our Meet a Precaster blog series. Answers were provided by Dave Gautreau, general manager; Ramzi Kawar, executive vice president; and Mike Buchan, vice president.
Don’t forget to check out all of our Meet a Precaster blog posts and if you’re an NPCA producer member and would like to be featured in a future Meet a Precaster post, please send an email to NPCA’s internal communication and web manager, Sara Geer.
Q: Where are you located?
A: Spring City, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia suburb) and Blairsville, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Suburb)
Q: How did your company get its start?
A: Gautreau: We started as a small septic tank producer in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s and had a vision to make underground telephone manholes from precast in lieu of cinderblocks. This helped change the underground utility market and how products were produced and supplied.
Q: What value does NPCA bring to your company and to the industry?
A: Gautreau: NPCA provides us with valuable tools to help us compete and be a state-of-art material provider. Their yearly inspection visits allow us to comply and stay up-to-date with industry standards for a safe and reliable product line.
Buchan: NPCA also promotes high quality in precast concrete manufacturing and promotes the use of these high quality products to a broad range of the construction, commercial and residential community.
Q: How have the relationships you’ve developed through NPCA membership impacted your business?
A: Kawar: Interaction with fellow member precasters and supplier members of the NPCA has allowed us to explore and implement new ideas that have helped us grow our business. While we compete with fellow members, there is also a collegial feel to the organization because we’re all trying to promote our industry. Best practices help us all succeed.
Buchan: Being an NPCA member and having all our plants certified in the NPCA Plant Certification Program generates many opportunities for us in both public and private work.
Q: What are the top advantages of utilizing precast concrete products?
A: Gautreau: The top advantages are fast, dependable product and lower costs for end user because we are producing in a controlled environment with less work site impact and weather conditions.
Q: What’s the most interesting or unique precast project you’ve worked on?
A: Gautreau: The precast concrete 50-yard markers at the new Metlife Stadium, site of 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey (art work of 50-yard-line marker visible from Google Earth on both sides of stadium). In the early 2000’s we also re-decked the Brooklyn Bridge with precast. We also donated 6 ft. by 16 ft. manholes to the Katrina New Orleans recovery for use as temporary sewer tanks in the tent cities.
Buchan: A more custom and complex job that we undertook was segmental precast emptying valve chambers that were assembled and post-tensioned while suspended above the water on the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers Lock and Dam on the Monongahela River at Charleroi, Pennsylvania. The nearly 350,000 lb assemblies were then lowered by hollow-strand jacks and positioned by divers at a precise location underwater.
Q: What drives you and your employees to produce quality precast concrete products?
A: Kawar: It may sound a bit cliché, but we have always been driven by a commitment to our customers. In our view, that means providing quality products and superior services to make our customers’ lives easier. Precast is an ideal solution. We never want to turn into a headache for our customers.
Buchan: We need to produce products that yield strength, durability, fit and appearance that rival competing methods of construction to earn broad acceptance by owners, engineers, architects and public works departments. Employees are driven by pride in their workmanship which can be maximized by identifying and rewarding their achievements.
Q: Tell us about a time when you changed a spec to precast on a project and why the change was made.
A: Buchan: The Boulevard of the Allies is a busy artery running in and out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the top of a high cliff above the I-376 Parkway. The only means to widen the highway was to cantilever a portion of a lane and the parapet wall over the cliff side. Forming and placing reinforcing steel and concrete while suspended above I-376 was dangerous, tedious and very costly. The general contractor chose to work with A.C. Miller to design, fabricate and install post tensioned, precast concrete, counterweighted and cantilevered deck slabs with exposed reinforcing bars for the cast-in-place parapet walls. The slabs were placed at night allowing normal traffic flow on some existing lanes during the busy daytime hours. Using precast concrete for this project was much safer than cast-in-place methods and saved the contractor substantial time and money. There was also less disruption of traffic along this very busy corridor.
Q: What makes precast concrete an even better product today than it has ever been in the past?
A: Gautreau: Technology has allowed us to make products that were not even imagined in past years. To name a few, products such as precast buildings, stairway systems, train platforms and even polished countertops.
Q: How do you see the precast concrete industry – and your company in particular – evolving in the future?
A: Gautreau: Being that precast is always a feasible alternative to poured-in-place products, I think as the future arrives we will be able to continue to give our customers new exciting product lines to complement our core line of underground utility standard products.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the member, and not of NPCA or any of its employees.