In a typical month, we devote this space to a new product or technology that may not have reached a show's exhibit floor or the press release stage. Since this is our 10th Anniversary issue, we wanted to take that one step further.

At some recent concrete industry events, we scoured the exhibit floors and asked some manufacturers what they see happening to their products over the next 10 years. Their answers were enlightening.

Ready-mix trucks

“What's affecting our customers most now, and probably for the next five to 10 years, is emission control for trucks,” says Frank Nerenhausen, vice president of the concrete placement division at McNeilus Companies. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for heavy trucks require a 65% reduction of nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions between 2007 and 2008, setting NOX emissions at a record low of 0.07 grams per mile.

In response, engine parts manufacturers have added systems and hardware, such as exhaust scrubbing devices. Engines are heavier and use fuel for after-treatment purposes, and have therefore become less efficient. Nerenhausen points to the development of lightweight equipment, like water tanks and mixer drums, to counteract this trend. “The adaptation of composite technology will be revolutionary to the ready-mix industry because of its durability and weight-savings to maximize payloads and productivity,” Nerenhausen predicts.

Batch equipment

The future for batching is in pre-cast operations, according to Ted Holzum, president of Standley Batch Systems. He cites demand for precast and prefab concrete homes in hurricane-prone areas, among other factors.

“We started doing a lot with pavers and segmental retaining walls in the late 1980's and they're still going strong,” says Holzum. “But we're moving more and more to precast because so much can be pre-made. Any time you can do something in a factory, it's more feasible and cheaper than what you can do on a jobsite.”

As industry innovations such as self-consolidating concrete and specialized admixtures develop, Holzum predicts even more growth for pre-cast. “Anything that can make things go quicker on the job site will get bigger over the next decade,” he says.

Controls

GivenHansco helps producers consolidate their business and financial systems onto a common database platform. However, company president Gary Given is already looking ahead to the next trend: remote devices.

Given estimates the concrete industry is 12 to 18 months behind other industries using this technology. “You see companies like FedEx and DHL using it all the time, but we're still using paper and signed copies on every delivery,” he says. “It adds to the overhead and administration on every order.”

Given sees the industry adopting processes like printing tickets in truck cabs, making onsite ticket changes, and accessing critical data on-demand. “It will be an education process for customers, but if producers want it, the technology will support it,” he says.

Admixtures

Brian Impellizeri recalls being at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., in January, when he turned on a morning news show on television. Viewers were being given a dose of environmentally friendly, sustainable greenness.

Impellizeri, Grace Construction Products' manager for decorative and masonry accelerators, was impressed that this was not just being televised to those in the building industry, but to a general audience. “The future is all going to be about green,” he says.