For many years, precast producers have considered World of Concrete a destination for discovering the latest equipment and technology. This year, a new event brought producers and contractors together in a live-action educational forum. The Precast Operations Showcase, sponsored by Del Zotto Products (Wrenshall, Minn., and Gladewater, Texas), demonstrated wetcast production from all angles: form preparation, reinforcement, consolidation, and stripping.

In addition to producing precast concrete, Del Zotto has been inventing forms and equipment for making and handling precast products for more than 50 years. The precaster often invites other producers to visit its plants to share ideas and production techniques, as well as equipment innovations. “We build equipment to use in our own business, and when it works well, we manufacture it to sell to the industry,” says Bill Del Zotto, the company’s president.

Del Zotto brought this spirit of communication and education to the Precast Operations Showcase. Beyond demonstrating the mechanics of production — preparation, timing issues, and keeping the work area clean — the producer wanted to inspire both ready-mix producers and contractors to enter the marketplace. “It’s easier than people think to make precast elements that can sell for four times as much as delivered ready-mix,” says Del Zotto. “And precast producers tend to be very successful because there is an unbelievably vast market. No matter the industry, there is a need for our products.”

Mindy Fouse, owner of Hilltop Tank and Supply in James Creek, Pa., attended World of Concrete specifically with the Precast Operations Showcase in mind. With fiancée Mark Nicholas, Fouse is the new generation running a septic tank business her grandfather started 45 years ago. “We’re in a rural area so we don’t have many opportunities to see new equipment and technology, or how other producers are doing things,” she says.

While their main products consist of 500-3,000-gallon septic tanks and other small precast elements, Fouse looks to the future. “You have to keep moving the business forward and looking at new product lines based on what the market wants,” she says. Along with new product ideas, such as manholes and larger barriers, Fouse and Nicholas found support from larger producers attending the Precast Operations Showcase. “We’ve received a lot of positive encouragement,” says Fouse. “It’s nice to hear ‘you can do it’ from people who have already been where we’re going.”

Del Zotto and its suppliers showcased different steps of the precasting process each day, first setting up molds, then pouring concrete, and finally stripping each element from its mold.

VIDEO: Bill Del Zotto of Del Zotto Products talks to Bill Palmer about the first Precast Operations Showcase at CC Live during 2016 World of Concrete.