The time of year called summer is almost here. High daytime temperatures and humidity require large concrete placements to be done at night when cooler conditions prevail.
There is nothing I love more than standing at a dimly lit jobsite; flashlight in one hand, two-way radio in the other hand, guiding ready-mix drivers close to the pour-out spot and hoping that they see and hear me.
Years of good and bad experiences (hey, no one is perfect) have taught me a few guidelines that I will pass along in the hopes of making your nighttime pouring a happy experience.
PLENTY OF LIGHTING - The general superintendent should be responsible for this as well as the concrete superintendent. Nicely explain that in addition to the pump truck or pour-out area, roadways leading in and out and washout areas need to have their own lighting.
LOTS OF READY-MIX TRUCKS - Dispatch managers have a tendency to cut back on the number of trucks that should be used. I advise working with the dispatch manager to put in accurate travel times and onsite times for pouring out and washing out. Better to have an extra truck available at the beginning of a pour than trying to rouse a driver in the middle of the night.
BACKUP BATCH PLANT - Having another batch plant on standby is a good thing, especially for a major pour. Or you can batch out of both plants, based on the jobsite location. Remember, you want your customers to know that your company gets the job done at a fair price, instead of just being the most cheaply priced company in town. At 2:00 a.m., you will have few options if a problem arises.
DISPATCHER ON DUTY - This is not the time to put all responsibilities on the batch plant manager. Everything takes longer at night when visibility is limited. He has a full plate keeping the overhead bins full and preventing collisions between the loader and ready-mix trucks.
The dispatcher should be the one keeping track of trucks and knowing which truck to load next. The dispatcher also communicates with the drivers and onsite people to keep the jobsite pour going smoothly.
ONSITE SALES AND QUALITY CONTROL – “Enough already,” you are saying. “Who will be available for operations in the daytime?” However, a sales representative should be onsite talking with the customer, dispatch, and drivers. A quality control person should test at least the first two or three trucks for concrete temperature and visual slump inspection. A full battery of tests, including cylinders, should be performed on one of the first three trucks to ensure conformance with projects specifications. Afterwards, the QC person can help watch over third-party testing people and guide drivers on the jobsite as needed.
For the record, I do not have all of the answers to problems that can arise on a daily basis within a ready-mix concrete company. I have been chewed up several times by an onsite superintendent and held responsible when concrete failed to arrive at a jobsite on time. Hopefully the tips listed above will help lessen the chewings you receive from your customer — or his customers — in the future.
Tom Johnson has spent the past decade getting to know the ins and outs of the concrete industry from various viewpoints including driver, salesman, dispatcher, and quality control professional. Contact Tom with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.