The die was cast long ago when the Daffin Concrete Mobile revolutionized the concrete producing industry. While the “round guys,” or conventional ready-mix producers, continuously mix the product from the batch plant to the jobsite, the “square guys,” or mobile or volumetric mixers, actually manufacture concrete onsite.
Throughout its history, the mobile mixer design has undergone little evolution. Each manufacturer has stayed true to the original blueprint:
"V-Box" containing a divided bin for sand and stone
- Mixing auger
- Water tank
- Cement hopper
The two most important objectives for manufacturing a mobile mixer are to build an efficient, reliable, and safe mixer, and to develop a machine that is easy to operate and service. These may appear to be relatively easy goals, but enhancements have been slow to develop and slower to put into action.
Just look at the U.S. auto industry as an example of what can go wrong. In the United States, only three car manufacturers have survived. Foreign manufacturers took the lead in duplicating our basic designs and built more reliable and efficient models.
U.S. auto manufacturers didn't get much better until Japan copied our original ideas and incorporated new product/manufacturing technology, which enabled us to keep a car on the road for more than 100,000 miles. This inability to effectively compete resulted in 25 years of lost market share. We should learn from this experience and use our ability to share knowledge and experiences to create a superior product.
One challenge for fellow “square guys” is that there has been no platform to share information. Although some manufacturers belong to the Volumetric Mixer Manufacturers Bureau (VMMB), there is no forum for volumetric concrete producers to share information and ideas. While the Internet presents an opportunity to “globalize” such discussions, it doesn't appear any such Web sites exist.
As an owner/operator, I appreciate that manufacturers compete for our business with equipment that is designed to avoid infringing on another manufacturer's patented ideas. I recognize that ideas for improving equipment often are sparked through day-to-day activities. Such innovations could extend truck life, reduce replacement costs, and prevent costly downtime.
I've operated a mobile concrete business with my son Chris in Salem, Conn., for more than 15 years. It's become evident that operators worldwide have the same problems and issues, regardless of the unit's manufacturer. Through collaboration, some of my peers have successfully identified and solved many of the inherent challenges in the design of the units. Doesn't it stand to reason that collaboration among the thousands of volumetric concrete mixer owners and operators worldwide could lead to solving all of the challenges that have consistently presented themselves?
I have assisted with starting up and developing 10 new mobile-mix companies surrounding my service area. This localized think tank, or research and development test ground, has allowed us to avoid problems that were previously presented.
With thousands of volumetric concrete trucks operating worldwide, doesn't it make sense to share modifications and retrofits? This is especially true since upgrading components inevitably extends the trucks' life and efficiency. The result would be to allow operators to control the cost of materials while reducing unnecessary down-time for repairs.