Lack of education
The survey result uncovered a general lack of customer education about concrete. Several managers stated that many design engineers received only limited coursework on concrete in college. Since these engineers of record have much broader responsibilities on most projects, it is impractical for them to know as much about developments in concrete as the ready-mix managers who spend all of their time on the subject.
This results in engineers often using “boiler plate” specs from old jobs or textbooks. Or they base specs on outdated rules of thumb from before modern admixtures or supplementary cementitious materials (SCM) were available.
There were also frustrations about how those who work in the industry are poorly informed. There were many complaints about contractors who do not handle the product properly. “A lot of contractors still don't apply curing compounds at the manufacturer's recommended coverage rate on their flatwork, or they don't cure at all,” says Doug Fullerton of Lorain, Ohio-based Consumers Builders Supply. “The quality of our product depends a lot on how the customer handles it, and they sometimes don't handle it the way they should.”
Exploding complexity of mixes
“Thirty years ago, the only admixtures available were air entrainers and sugar-based water reducers,” says Dick Chatterton of Metro Ready-Mix in Salt Lake City. “Today, we have synthetic water reducers in different ranges, retarders, accelerators, viscosity modifiers, pigments, SCMs, fibers made of steel, plastic, and cellulose, and more things coming out all the time.”
This is a reason customers have a limited understanding of concrete. They cannot keep up because technology is changing so fast.
But keeping up has also become a chore for producers as well. “Many of the new admixtures can react in unpredictable ways when mixed together,” says Bill Feltz of Anderson Concrete in Columbus, Ohio. “We have a hard time knowing what they're going to do. But it's our product and we have to take responsibility for it. So we end up testing a lot of our mixes before they even go out.”