What are the primary goals that ready-mix concrete producers are asked to achieve today with their mixes? How can they achieve these goals while optimizing the use of available resources for improved profit and to increase the market share of concrete construction?

Let me suggest that there is a strong synergy between quality, performance, and sustainability. A concrete producer with a well-functioning and proactive quality management system is ahead of the game in responding to purchasers’ requirements for performance and sustainability in the mixtures it supplies to projects.

The producer gains a reputation in the local market and establishes itself as the preferred provider. It is the go-to producer for projects that require concrete that is more than the run-of-the-mill stuff and these tend to be more profitable.

Teaming up with a reputable contractor allows producers to credibly negotiate alternatives to specified concrete that will document the specific benefit(s) that the owner and designer will recognize. The NRMCA Industry Data Survey consistently indicates that materials cost is about 55% of the sales price of concrete. The ability to optimize concrete mixtures, by obtaining approval of proposed alternatives, allows the producer to tap into the materials cost piece of the pie and grow the profit margin.

The other aspect for the bidding team is to clearly understand the focus of the owner — cost, service life, superior performance, sustainability, or combinations thereof. This depends on whether the structure is for quick sale, retain resale value, have a long service life, or touts superior resilience and sustainability. The alternate proposals have to be congruent with the owner’s goals.

For the concrete producer, it all starts with superior quality managed by knowledgeable people. The quality control department should be positioned to tap into the real and intangible value to the company, rather than to be perceived as an expendable cost. The reputation and market share of concrete construction can only gain with this focus.

Colin Lobo is senior vice president of the Engineering Division of the NRMCA. Lobo has been with NRMCA since 1991 and is an active member on various committees of ASTM, ACI, and the American Society of Civil Engineers, and participates in the Transportation Research Board’s technical committee. He has been a member of technical task groups and research panels of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration.