Wondering how the Internet will change concrete production? Get ready for fundamental changes in the back office, the quality control department, and dispatch, says Wallace H. "Wally" Johnson, chair of the newly formed NRMCA Information Technology Committee and director of supplier development for concrete with commercial construction marketplace BuildPoint.com. The Web will affect us in two major areas, he says:

  • Process improvement. Faster invoicing; mailing submittals to the general contractor, subcontractor, and engineer; quicker lab test results; improved input test results for statistical analysis reports; and 24-hour/7-day-a-week material ordering capability.
  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions. According to Johnson, more than 60% of BuildPoint.com subcontractor members have Internet access. "I would even foresee integration right into dispatch systems so you bypass the dispatcher completely," Johnson adds.

B2C is not some far-off phenomenon. It's going on at BuildPoint.com, the e-commerce platform for McGraw-Hill Companies' Construction.com online marketplace.

Other companies, Buzzsaw.com and Citadon, the latter formed by a merger between Bidcom and Cephren, recently announced plans to offer bidding and materials procurement also. Aggregate and ready-mixed concrete giant Hanson and cement manufacturers Lafarge and Heidelberger have announced plans for a vertical hub marketplace for cement, aggregates, ready-mix, and asphalt that will initially operate in Europe.

Maybe one of these sites will emerge as the industry's online vertical hub for building materials supply, or maybe you'll build a local concrete eBay model in your market.