The conversion of the concrete block industry from imperial to metric measurement is being met with opposing views within the industry. The debate between the National Concrete Masonry Association (representing block producers) and block-machine manufacturers centers around whether conversion to the metric system should be a "hard" or "soft" conversion.
"Soft" conversion allows producers to manufacture the same products they do now, but give them a metric designation. "Hard" conversion requires manufacturers to change the physical size of their block. Standard metric block is 9/32 inch shorter and 5/32 inch lower and narrower than standard imperial block. For the most part, producers favor the soft conversion because it would not require retooling their plants or buying new molds. Manufacturers note that hard metric will improve product standardization within the block industry world-wide.
In its lobbying and testimony to Congress, the NCMA stressed four issues they say keep its producer members from embracing hard-metric conversion: 1. Plant retooling and related costs; 2. Lack of a private-sector market for hard-metric product; 3. Limited storage space for molds and inventory; 4. The regional marketing of block.