Used in concrete in North America for more than 25 years, steel fibers are becoming the product of choice over other reinforcement for many commercial slab-on-grade flooring applications due to economics and performance. For the concrete producer, steel-fiber-reinforced concrete (SFRC) is an avenue to enhancing market position in the commercial flooring market. Selling reinforced floors requires a system sale because physical properties of steel fibers and thus their dosage rates vary.
A system sale is typically more complex than a product sale. However, with the right tools, system selling leads to increased margins and concrete sales volume.
System selling, based on this knowledge of steel-fiber performance, follows three common steps:
- Project development: identify the lead
Steel fibers have dozens of applications for concrete. However, focusing on projects with the greatest potential for steel-fiber reinforcement (particularly slabs on grade) improves your sales staff's efficiency in developing true leads.
- Collecting project information/design support
Once the producer identifies a solid lead, it's time to collect key information from the customer in order to offer design. Because design assumptions, soil conditions, and budgets can change, it may take several design proposals to achieve the final product. The producer serves as an important liaison between the steel-fiber supplier and the customer in ensuring that the SRFC floor solution is the most cost-effective one.
- Closing the sale
Serving as the liaison allows for valuable contact with key decision makers. Also, if the producer provides a design solution, the general contractor or engineer is less likely to "shop" the project because an equivalent solution is hard to find. Finally, supplying effective solutions to your customer's problems puts you in a much better position on the contractor or engineer's next project.
Steel fibers can add value to concrete in ways most other admixtures cannot. Steel fibers can increase the value of the concrete by up to 75%. Furthermore, the producer can increase the value of the steel-fiber solution according to customer needs by following SFRC mixing and placing methods in ACI 544.3.
The final component of the producer's competitive advantage is developing proprietary branded mixes with properties unique to the local market.
The article includes an example from February 1998, when Bryan Western at Century Concrete of Kalamazoo, Mich., called Vern Scott of nearby Consumers Concrete. Western was looking for an edge in bidding and wanted to submit a steel-fiber alternative. Century cut its placement time in half with the steel fibers and did not need a pump since mixer trucks could pull up to the discharge point with no mesh in place.
The article also includes production tips for SFRC offered in ACI 544.3, "Guide for Specifying, Proportioning, Mixing, Placing and Finishing Steel Fiber Reinforced Concrete."