Concrete Casting News from the Hill and Griffith Company

How To Lose A Customer in 10+ Easy Ways, by Bob Waterloo

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on May 14, 2018 11:30:51 AM

We have all been there. We work our tails off to develop a new account, get the trial order, run the test and finally get the first real order. That, believe it or not, was the easy part.

Now, we have to keep the customer coming back! These tips apply to anybody who sells something, whether you are a manufacturer or a supplier in the precast concrete industry or any other industry. Many of these points can also apply to your everyday life with your family and friends.

Industrial-Customer-Service

1. Ignore them.
You’ve won their business and now have more important things to do – namely get more business. Unfortunately, your competitor who just lost the account is now thinking of ways to get it back. Large or small, you need to maintain contact with your customers to ensure they are satisfied. Let them know that you are always looking for new ways to help.

2. Make stringent credit policies.
“Our terms are net 30 days, and if you can’t live with that, go somewhere else.” No, we are not our customers’ banker, nor should we be responsible for banking their operation. On the other hand, you should know what your competitors are doing, know the industry standards and understand what you can live with. In the construction industry, it’s not uncommon for payments from some customers to lag 120 days. Those aren’t likely your terms, but if it’s a good customer, can you live with that? Your terms can be seen more as a guideline than an ironclad rule. In checking, you will probably find that receivables average about 43 days. Keep in mind that includes those accounts that pay in 30 days or less, along with those that stretch into 120 days. And yes, there is a line drawn in the sand as to how long you allow them to pay.

3. Don’t follow-up on requests or questions.
A customer calls you and asks for some information. It’s not in your area of expertise or responsibility, so you pass it on to the responsible person. A week later, the customer calls again. A week later the customer calls for the third time. If you are passing the baton, confirm it in writing and make sure your co-worker closes the loop with you. Yes, the customer belongs to all of us, but as the salesperson, you’re on the front line.

4. Fail to notify them of a change in policy or pricing.
Nobody likes price increases, but they are a fact of life in business, and when there is a price hike, it is your responsibility to notify the customer. A phone call puts you on offense rather than defense, and it is a lot easier to be proactive than to defend yourself when a customer is feeling blindsided by a larger-than-expected bill.

5. Micromanage them.
You have responsibilities. So do others. When it comes to the important things, be sure to follow-up but don’t think you need to cover every little detail. On one hand, it is your responsibility to make sure your customers are always well informed. On the other hand, you don’t want to be overbearing.

6. Prejudge them.
A customer comes to you, and it’s a small operation. You write it off. Then, later, you find that the company expanded the operation or purchased a competitor and is now a player in the market. When you are in the field, it is your responsibility to follow-up on all leads, even if it’s just a phone call to qualify the account.

7. Fail to stay in touch.
Sometimes a customer is in a remote area or just doesn’t fit into your travel plans as frequently as you would like. In that case, call them on the phone and say: “I was just thinking about you and decided to call to see how things are going.” That makes the customer feel wanted, which is how you always want your customer to feel.

8. Be sure to point out when they are wrong and you are right.
There is more than one way to point out when a customer is wrong. You need to be careful that you don’t end up arguing with the customer or play, “I told you so.” Present the facts and/or historical data. Being diplomatic is not easy, especially when dealing with a difficult person. Take your time, keep your cool, let things settle down and think about the right approach. Don’t show anger. You might win the battle with a direct confrontation, but you will surely lose the war.

9. Don’t ensure the question is answered.
You provided the requested information, but did you then ask, “Does this answer your question?” This follows the concept of the “Johari Window.” Read this carefully and think about it: “What I said is not necessarily what you heard, and what I wanted to say is not necessarily what you wanted to hear.” Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to feel as they do when you are dealing with them. ‘Nuf said.

10. Stop trying to help your customers improve their business.
This applies to the materials you are supplying, but also to other business practices. Your first responsibility is to your own company and products, of course, but if you can share your expertise in other areas to advise a customer, it makes you an invaluable resource rather than just a salesperson.

(I should stop at 10, but …)
11. Stop trying to win business back.
The customer moved on, so there’s no reason to follow-up again, right? Well, guess what? Things change. And if you’re not in regular or semi-regular contact you might just miss a nice opportunity to win a former customer back.

12. Stop asking questions.
You can’t read the customer’s mind, but you can often see things that might prompt you to offer suggestions for improvement. Offer your comments, but don’t be obnoxious about it. Sometimes asking questions opens the door for you to share possible improvements.

13. Be a know-it-all.
It’s never a good idea to let customers know up front that you know more about their operation than they do and that you are smarter. Not a good idea … ever!

14. Be Inflexible.
When a customer is looking for a break or wants you to make an exception, your first response might be, “I’d like to help you, but rules are rules and my hands are tied.” Instead of just prejudging a request and dismissing it, delve a little deeper. Maybe you can bend the rules, maybe not. But being willing to listen and go to bat for a customer shows you care and your customer will remember that.

There are other ways to lose a customer, but this is a start. It never hurts to review your selling practices and to be responsible to yourself, your company and your customer. In all cases, be sure that you are giving them your full effort for the best industrial customer service.

Bob Waterloo is a technical sales manager, concrete release agents, for The Hill and Griffith Company, based in Indianapolis.


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

Hill and Griffith Samples

Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
Contact Us »

 

Hill and Griffith Customer Service

Technical Services & Support

On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
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Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products 

Tags: How To Lose A Customer

Proper Use of Concrete Form Release Can Save Your Forms

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on May 10, 2018 2:37:49 PM

Concrete formwork is a major investment for a precast or prestress plant. Taking care of the forms extends form life and protects a valuable investment and contributes to a healthy bottom line.

Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-Application-1.jpg

Care of concrete forms needs to be considered every time they are used. Steel form damage can occur with lack of cleaning or with too much use of wire brushes and sandblasting. Vibrators can damage form surfaces.

Proper selection and application of release agents is necessary for lower cost, producing the best product possible and for minimizing form clean up.

Grifcote-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-Sizes.jpg

There are two types of release agents but they can also be combined for some applications.

The first is the barrier type. They provide a barrier between the concrete and the form. Originally form oils were barrier types of diesel fuel, greases, used motor oil, etc. These produced a good release but lowered product quality by causing bug holes, and staining, resulting in poor product appearance. They hard to apply due to their high viscosity.

The second type of release agent is chemically active and react with lime in the concrete to produce a soap-like film on the form. This type of release agent is the most widely used. Because they are easily applied in a very stable thin film by spraying, wiping, or brushing, you can produce stain-free, void-free concrete surfaces even after the form has been exposed for a day or two. Reactive type release agents applied in a thin film allow the form to strip cleaner which saves on labor costs related to form cleaning and extends the life of the form.

Concrete-Form-Rust-Preventative.jpg

In September of 1999 release agent manufactures and concrete producers were required by the EPA to make and use limited VOC products. Some companies, including Hill and Griffith, saw this coming years in advance and were already producing VOC compliant products. Some states, such as California have stricter rules than that passed nationally.

There are four main application methods-spraying, wiping, mopping or brushing and dipping. Spraying is the most common method of application. Avoid over application to reduce your cost. An extremely thin film of release agent is all that is needed, "The thinner the better." Pump unit sprayers or centralized systems with air pressure regulators give a good consistent pressure and work well. Spray pressures of 35 to 50 psi are best. Higher pressures put more airborne particles in the air throughout the plant and can be harmful to personnel in the plant. Lower pressures cause puddling in the form, and wasted release agent. A flat fan spray nozzle of .1 or .2 gpm will spray a good thin release agent. Many of these thin, chemically active release agents are more expensive per gallon. But with coverage rates at 2000-2500 sq. ft. per gallon the cost is much less than a cheaper barrier release agent. A second type of application is wiping on the release agent. Architectural precasters like wiping the release agent on the form because over application is eliminated. Burial vault manufactures use a sponge for application because they clean the form each time as well. A third type of application is with mop or brush with which over application can be a problem. The mop or brush must be wrung out in order to achieve the desired results. Wipe up puddles. Dipping systems are fast, labor efficient, and assure total coverage of the form. And they collect the excess release agent that drains off the form.

The investment in forms needs to be protected from rust and corrosion, use grease, diesel fuel, or release agent. A better choice is a good rust preventative that offers quality protection, long life, ease of application, and easy removal.

Taking care of forms each time they are used can save thousands of dollars and make a concrete business more profitable.


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water concrete form release, non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable concrete form release, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

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We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
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On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
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 Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products

Tags: Concrete, Casting Solutions, Concrete Casting Products, concrete casting supplies, precast concrete, Gricote, concrete form release

Precast Concrete Bug Hole Prevention

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on May 3, 2018 8:07:20 PM

From the Portland Cement Association site,

bugholes_th.jpg"Bugholes are surface voids that result from the migration of entrapped air (and to a lesser extent water) to the fresh concrete-form interface. These surface defects manifest themselves mostly in vertical surfaces."

All Grifcote products are chemically formulated to help with bug hole prevention. Reactive fatty acid and or methyl esters react with free lime on the surface of the concrete to form a metallic soap that eases separation from the form. Bug holes are minimized due to the metallic soap formed after the casting process that minimizes adherence of air to vertical sidewalls, allowing free air to rise more easily to the surface. The release characteristics are enhanced with the formation of the metallic soap, which also minimizes cleaning of forms after stripping.

From the June 2, 2014 PRECAST Magazine post by John Pelicone, 

"Two types of release agents

  1. Chemically reactive agents: When a chemically reactive form release agent is used, a nonviolent chemical reaction takes place when fatty acids react with free lime on the surface of fresh concrete. This reaction results in the formation of a metallic soap, a slippery material that allows air bubbles to rise along the vertical surface. This “soapy” film also prevents the hardened concrete from adhering to the forms during stripping.
  2. Barrier release agents: Thicker coatings on forms are typical of the older barrier-type materials, like heavyweight used motor oil, vegetable oils, diesel fuel and kerosene. Barrier type release agents are less expensive than chemically reactive agents, but they are not generally recommended for reducing SCC bug holes."

In summary, this is a good PDF from CalPortland,

"Bug Hole voids are formed during placement. Small pockets of air or water are trapped against the form. The problem increases with the height of the lift. Vibration may not be adequate or well spaced. The mix may be sticky.

  • Primarily caused by the way concrete is placed and compacted
  • Entrapped air not removed by vibration, air bubbles move to the form
  • Improper application of Form Release agent or wrong type 

SOLUTION I PREVENTION: Avoiding Bug Holes

  • Work the voids at the form face up and out of each lift
  • Let the vibrator drop through the lift, then vibrate upward
  • Don't overvibrate at the center of the wall
  • Move the vibrator as close to the form as possible
  • Add upward external vibration if necessary
  • Reduce the height of each lift to make void removal easier
  • Aggregate - consult ready mix producer and review aggregate size and shape
  • Reduce sand content
  • Use low slump concrete"

 


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

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Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
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Tags: Concrete Casting Products

Congratulations Ron Schweyer on your 5th Year of Dedicated Service!

Posted by Samantha Farris on Apr 30, 2018 11:50:35 AM

SCHWEYER 5-YEAR-revised

Tags: technical representatives

New Benefits for NPCA Certified Plants Coming Soon. What is Biodegradable Form Release?

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Apr 27, 2018 1:07:10 PM

The Producer Portal

The National Precast Concrete Association Quality Assurance Committee announced improvements to the NPCA Plant Certification program that will make it easier than ever to organize and save your production documents. Available for certified plants, this free member service is located in the plant documents section of the Producer Portal.

The new section matches the table of contents of the NPCA Quality Control Manual for Precast Concrete Plants, making it easy to organize and store the current and historical quality-related documents that are required by the plant certification program. The portal is secure and confidential. The only people who can see the documents are designated plant employees, NPCA program administrators and the plant certification auditor. This enhancement enables plants to upload and organize documents specific to each chapter, section and subsection of the manual.

Log in to the Producer Portal at precast.org/certification and choose Plant Documents from the menu on the left side of the screen to explore the options. To access historical data, simply choose Archived Documents from the drop-down list at the top of the page. To navigate between sections, use the “jump to” feature.

For more information or help logging in, contact Andi Pierce.

NPCA Offers New Water and Wastewater Tank Product Certification

If you manufacture precast concrete tanks, NPCA’s new ANSI-accredited product listing will take the certification of your tanks to a new level. ANSI has granted NPCA a program scope extension of the Plant Certification program to offer the product-specific listing exclusively for water and wastewater tanks.

By obtaining a product listing for your tank models, you give specifiers the assurance that your products are designed and manufactured to applicable industry standards and ensure you are able to supply products in areas where a listing is required. While plants interested in participating must be NPCA certified, there is no additional cost to be listed. This optional program goes beyond plant processes with additional criteria such as a watertightness test of a randomly selected tank. In addition, tanks models listed will appear on the NPCA website during member searches so specifiers can see which models are listed by your plant.

Plants opting for product certification must submit a complete package of information based on the most current applicable ASTM and industry standards. The detailed submittal covers criteria such as materials and manufacture, structural design, physical design, quality control, performance testing data, and dimensional details including tolerance and product marking. For more information, contact Phillip Cutler, P.E., NPCA’s Director of Quality Assurance Programs.


What-is-biodegradable-form-release-agent-report

What is Biodegradable Form Release Agent?

One definition of “biodegradability” can be found in the EPA 1998, “Fate, Transport and Transportation Test Guidelines, Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) 835.3100, Aerobic Aquatic Biodegradation”; and in EPA 712-C-98-O and ASTM D-5864-00, “Standard Test Methods for Determining Aerobic Aquatic Biodegradation of Lubricants or Their Components.” This reference gives everyone the guidelines to be followed when determining biodegradability and using the word “biodegradable” in claims relating to various products, including concrete form release agents. The U.S. EPA definition includes an allowable “28-day half-life” of materials in order to be considered biodegradable. Half-life is the time required for the decay of one-half of a given component in a system.


Precast Concrete in the Google News Feed:

The precast concrete market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.96%

Architect and Builder Agree: Precast Concrete Foundations Ideal Start for Affordable Housing Project


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

Hill and Griffith Samples

Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
Contact Us »

 

Hill and Griffith Customer Service

Technical Services & Support

On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
Contact Us »

 

Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products 

Tags: Biodegradable Concrete Form Release, concrete casting supplies, concrete form oil, concrete form release, Concrete Form Release Agent, form release

Precast Prestressed T Form Construction Video, including concrete form oil application

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Apr 20, 2018 12:49:25 PM

Learn how a double tee structural prestressed concrete member is plant produced.

Thanks to the Florida Precast Concrete Association.

This video will explain the entire process of producing a prestressed concrete unit at a prestressing plant, in this case, a double T. A double T is used primarily in parking structures, but can be used in virtually any type of building including office buildings, industrial buildings, and schools to name a few.

Pre-Cast-Double-T-1

 

Randy Neumeyer: Double Ts are kind of a unique product with having the capability of having a very long span. When we start talking long spans, you're talking 60 feet plus, and sometimes go as high as 120 feet.

Narrator: The typical day of a prestressing plant usually starts very early in the morning. The product from the previous days' casting has cured by now, and the pieces need to be stripped from the form to get ready for today's casting.

For any prestressing plant, it is very important to maintain a clean plant. Maintaining neatness is not only positive from an image standpoint, but also from a safety standpoint, since any debris that might be leftover from the day before could create a tripping hazard or other safety problem.


Resources from the Florida Precast Concrete Association

Why Precast?

Designing with Precast Concrete


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

Hill and Griffith Samples

Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
Contact Us »

 

Hill and Griffith Customer Service

Technical Services & Support

On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
Contact Us »

 

Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products 

Tags: concrete casting supplies, concrete form oil, concrete form release, Concrete Form Release Agent, form release

Grifcote form release is readily and inherently biodegradable

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Apr 13, 2018 4:36:08 PM

Form release selection depends on the results you want to achieve.

What is form release?
Non-reactive or passive oil types of form release work by creating a barrier when heavily applied to the form, but that increases chances for staining and bugholes. Chemically active types have an active ingredient which chemically combines with calcium (lime) in the cement. The active ingredient is a fatty acid dissolved in petroleum or vegetable oils. This calcium/fatty acid product "metallic soap" is stable and causes the form to release from the concrete. This type produces fewer bug-holes, stains and surface irregularities than barrier types. They can remain on the forms for weeks without reapplication.


Form-Release


"Precast Concrete" in Google News Feed

Bricks, blocks and precast concrete products at highest value since recession

The Study at University City Receives Design Award from Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute

Precast Concrete Manufacturing Market Recent Trends, Development 2025


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

Hill and Griffith Samples

Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
Contact Us »

 

Hill and Griffith Customer Service

Technical Services & Support

On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
Contact Us »

 

Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products 

Tags: concrete casting supplies, concrete form release, Concrete Form Release Agent, form release

Baseball Season Has Opened! Here's Our Two Teams' Line Up of Concrete Form Releases

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Apr 5, 2018 5:07:18 PM

The Grifcote Concrete Form Release Agent Line Up

Concrete Form Releases Grifcote


"Precast Concrete" in Google News Feed

Easi-Set Building Producer Oldcastle Precast Delivers for Major East Coast Utility

New Artifical Reef To Be Built Off NC Coast

Landmark PennDOT Bridge Project Becomes Reality with Help of Precast Concrete


Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

Hill and Griffith Samples

Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
Contact Us »

 

Hill and Griffith Customer Service

Technical Services & Support

On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
Contact Us »

 

Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products 

Tags: concrete casting supplies, concrete form release, Concrete Form Release Agent

Architectural Concrete Form Release Agent Application Troubleshooting

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Mar 31, 2018 10:28:16 PM

"The thing about architectural concrete is, it gives you all kinds of options. You can make gently flowing structures, curves. You can do straight lines. You can do beautiful structures in different colors. We can do all kinds of things with concrete. It's limited only by the imagination of the people who are designing and building the concrete.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-10

When you do architectural concrete correctly the first time, you can have a very cost effective, very good looking material that's going to last a long time, but if you screw the concrete up initially, it can be very expensive to pull it out, replace it or try to patch it.

Concrete is the only thing that we're doing on-site where we're starting with one set of materials: Rock, sand, cement, water, reinforcing steel forms. When the time comes for us to take the forms away, we have a totally different material than we started with. We now have concrete. We no longer have rock, sand, cement and water. That makes the concrete construction process a little bit different from any other process that we see on the construction site. That's why it takes a little bit of extra effort to understand that concrete construction process. Once we understand the process, it makes it easier for us to do concrete right the first time.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-13

Central to everything is the project drawings and specifications. If the project drawings and specifications aren't right, the rest of the project is not going to be right. As we change the shape of one of the pieces of the puzzle, we have to change other pieces of the puzzle so that we maintain a complete puzzle."

(This is transcription of some of the highlights of a presentation by Jay Shilstone, an American Concrete Institute Fellow, Chairperson of ACI 304 and on the 303 committee. Jay is a concrete technologist at Command Alkon in Plano, Texas. Command Alkon is the maker of Command Series and Command QC, which are software that's used in concrete quality management and production. This article is one of the best we have found, available publicly on the internet, that explains the proper use and application of architectural concrete form release agent.)

"For example, say the reinforcing steel has to go closer together, we're in a seismic zone. That means we're going to have to change the concrete mix. We may have to go to a smaller maximum aggregate size, which means we're dealing with new materials. We'd have to re-proportion those materials differently. If we can't get a one-inch stone between the reinforcing steel, how are we going to get an inch and a half vibrator between the reinforcing steel. We may have to change the shape of the puzzle for the vibrators. Then, if we're going to be using form vibrators on the concrete, we may have to change our form work to beef it up so that it will handle those form vibrators. All these parts are connected. If we change the shape of one part, we have to change the shape of the other parts.

The problem is, many times on the construction site, we have people that are familiar with one part. We have the pumper who knows how to pump the concrete. We have the form work sub, who knows how to assemble the form work, but does the form work sub ever talk to the pumper? Not in my experience. Does the guy who is erecting the reinforcing steel ever talk with the testing lab about the concrete mix and what's going to happen to it as it goes over the reinforcing steel? Not in my experience. There are a lot of different parts to the puzzle that have to come together and different people on the job site have to understand the functions of others so that we can bring this entire construction process together and get a harmonious product.

Central to the system is the project drawings and specifications. Again, if the drawings and specs aren't right, then the project won't be right.

The summary I wanted to make about concrete is, it's the ultimate in functional artistry. We can make a product that looks good that follows a function, but we have to understand the concrete, both at its plastic state and its hardened state. We have to understand the concrete process. To properly design a structure, we have to know the materials that are available. Then, we have to recognize the limitations of the material and the process and we have to understand our process of creating the architectural concrete.

Concrete is something unlike any material that we are using on the construction site. The designer can use his imagination to create this idea, but then it's up to the contractor to take that idea and turn it into reality using the types of equipment and materials and form work and consolidation and what have you that is going to help reveal that idea. Architectural concrete is something where we have to have true teamwork so that the constructor can work with the designer to make sure that they can get the design that is desired. Once you understand the process, it makes it a lot easier to do that.

The first thing is drawings and specs, prior proper planning prevents poor performance. The reason I say that is there was a study done by the British Building Research Establishment back in 1975, that of 500 buildings surveyed around the world, 60% of the problems in the buildings originated from the design.

The architect and the engineer need to start off understanding the materials of the process. Then, they need to produce a design that's constructable. Back in the late 70s and 80s, I believe, ACI actually had a committee called "The constructability committee". It was, I think, a board task group at the time. My father was involved in that, but the idea being, architects and engineers should design structures that are inherently buildable. If you design a structure that's buildable, then it's a lot less expensive to build it. If you design a structure that's not buildable, then it's very expensive to build it and you're going to have problems on the job.

One of the best ways to help determine if a project is buildable or not is to have a pre-bid conference so that the contractors are fully aware of the intent of the architect and they can express their concerns back to the architect and say, "We're going to have problems with this. Have you considered this?" You want to have a dialog going back and forth. With architectural concrete, more than with any other type of concrete, you want to have a true partnership.

Then, of course, once you've got the bid and you're getting ready to start, you want to have a pre-construction conference so that everybody knows the details of how things are going to be built and in what sequence and what's going to be the impact of certain construction requirements on the aesthetics and also what are the important factors of the aesthetics so that the contractor is going to be able to address those points and make sure that they're done properly.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-6

Then, finally, the best way to assure the contractor can build the project as designed is to do a full-scale mock-up. Let's see. There we go. There's the full-scale mock-up. You want it to be full-scale with all the reinforcing steel, the exact form work, the exact footing layouts that you would have in the normal structure because by doing this, you can determine when you're going to have problems out in the field. Do all of the components come together? Does the reinforcing steel impact block-outs and so on? The only way that you can adequately do this is through a full-scale mock-up.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-8

Another thing that architects and engineers should consider is the impact of different parts of the construction process on the finish that they're trying to achieve. The Construction Specification Institute, back in 1974, created the CSI monograph on cast-in-place architectural concrete. One of the things that it has is this grid. Across the top of the grid, it shows the different types of finishes that can be achieved: Sandblasted, as-cast and so on. Down the side, it shows the different aspects of the concrete construction process that are going to impact that finish.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-9

A word of warning, exposed concrete is the most difficult finish to achieve. A lot of designers think, "We're just going to cast the concrete, take the forms off and whatever is there, that's what we're going to take." Then, the first forms come off, they look at the concrete and say, "Oh my gosh, that's not what I wanted. What do I do now?" The only thing you can do is either paint it or tear it down and start over again. What I find that most designers want, most architects want when they say, "Exposed concrete", thinking it's not going to be architectural concrete, it's going to be exposed concrete, so it's going to be cheaper. They don't want exposed concrete. They want smooth as-cast architectural concrete, which is the most difficult finish to achieve.

A word of warning, those of you that either design for exposed concrete or who have to build exposed concrete, what you are asking for and what you are going to receive may be two entirely different things. You have to understand the distinction between the two.

Whenever somebody tells you that something is "Almost" like something else, you should usually run, don't walk. If exposed concrete is "Almost" like architectural concrete, that's a problem. Run away from those things, don't walk. If you want architectural concrete, specify architectural concrete.

The same thing with superplasticized, self-consolidating concrete. If somebody has a concrete mix that they say is "Almost" like self-consolidating concrete, those are the concrete mixes that I've had the most problems with on jobs. Yeah they may flow, but they segregate. They're difficult to handle. I either design self-consolidating or design fluid concrete, but don't design almost self-consolidating concrete. Exposed concrete is the most difficult finish to achieve. Be aware of that.

There is always a certain degree of variability. There are going to be imperfections. If you want to design a structure to contain those imperfections and to embrace that variability, then you've got a great medium here. If you want to design a structure that's perfectly smooth and uniformly colored, then you're designing for paint. Be prepared. You want to embrace the characteristics of the concrete, understand those characteristics in order to understand how that material is going to impact your ultimate design.

Now, after project drawings and specifications, we start looking at the ingredients, the raw materials going into concrete, the color of the cement that we're going to have, the color, the shape and the size of the aggregate that we're going to have, the gradation, even the water that we're going to have. If you're in an area where they're not able to use potable water, you may actually have water that's going to contain materials that can color your concrete. We want to take these mixture ingredients, put them together in a form that's going to create the finish that we want to achieve.

Now, let's look at reinforcing steel. This is always the fun one. How are you going to get not only a one and a half inch vibrator but even a half inch rock particle between those pieces of reinforcing steel when they're touching each other. Especially when you get into seismic zones, you see conditions like this all the time, not just with reinforcing steel, but with post-tensioning strand and with block-outs.

This is one of the places where people say that BIM is going to help us, building information modeling, because we can do conflict avoidance using BIM techniques, but we have to make sure that our BIM models are going to accurately reflect what is going on in the structure. Otherwise, we wind up with something like this where the concrete can't get between the reinforcing steel and we wind up with these gaps that have to be patched or filled in. We have to look at reinforcing steel congestion, how that's going to impact not only our ability to place our concrete mix, but our ability to consolidate the concrete mix. BIM is not the entire answer.

For example, we have tolerances on our ability to bend reinforcing steel. The larger the reinforcing steel, the greater the radius is going to be for the bend. Plus, we also have a tolerance that we're allowed to vary the manufacturer of the reinforcing steel.
You can see here that we've got, these steel bars are all within tolerance for the particular application they were designed. They're supposed to go into a one-inch topping slab. It's not going to happen.

We've got to have the right cover on the reinforcing steel. Otherwise, we have failures like this and like this, but at the same time, we need to make sure that the concrete is constructed properly. We don't improperly use a chair like this, which is going to wind up leaving two long rust marks on the concrete as the cover, the thin film of concrete over that chair is eroded away, and then the chair starts to rust. We have to understand what the objectives are, but we also have to understand how what we're doing in the field impacts the quality of the concrete. We don't want conditions like this.

Also, the reinforcing steel directs the vibrator to a location. If we've got vertical bars right here in between the horizontal bars, which is something usually detailers don't like to do, they want to have the vertical bars on the outside. If the vertical bars are on the inside, then it makes it a lot easier for us to get the vibrator down between the vertical bars. We don't have the horizontal bars blocking us.

The reinforcing steel is going to direct where that vibrator is going to go. If the concrete has to be vibrated and the steel is blocking access to the interior of the concrete, the vibrator operator is going to stick his vibrator between the reinforcing steel and the form work and give us a burn like this.

The next thing we want to look at is form work. Now, a lot of people say that concrete is a modular material. Concrete is not a modular material. Concrete is a plastic material. It takes the shape and the appearance of whatever it's formed against. It's form work that is a modular material. If we understand that, then we can make use of that to develop less expensive buildings. If we have a building where we have a module that's repeated over and over again, we can have much less expensive concrete form work, which means much less expensive concrete, but if we have a system that has a whole lot of curves, every face is different from every other face, that is not a modular system. It may be more aesthetically pleasing in some cases and worth the money, but it's going to be a much more expensive option.

Concrete will always mirror the form work. If we have a patch in our form work, if we have a form butt joint, then we will have concrete that looks like that patch or that form butt joint. You've got to understand, the material that you're forming against is going to be representative of what your actual appearance is going to be.

You'd be amazed how many architectural concrete specifications I see that say, "BB form plywood or other approved material." BB form plywood is for structural concrete, never intended for architectural concrete, but many times you'll still find it allowed in an architectural concrete project and you wind up with concrete that looks like it's been formed against BB form plywood.

We have a lot of materials we can use instead. We can use plastics, we can use elastomerics, we can use wood forms if they're good quality, we can overlaid wood forms, high density or medium density. All of these different materials are going to give us different appearances on our concrete. A sealed wood form is going to have a different appearance than an unsealed wood form.

We've done cases where we've done very elaborate form work and then used boat builders to put fiberglass over the entire form work so that we have a totally impervious concrete form work, no butt joints to work with, to deal with so we wind up with very uniform concrete.

There are lots of possibilities about form work. Some of them are more expensive than others. Some of them are going to be more reusable than others. For example, steel forms are very expensive initially, but if you've got a system that repeats throughout a structure, you can use a steel form and become very cost effective on that project. For example, I believe One Main Place was built using steel forms.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-5

Looking at release agents. A lot of people think that if a little bit of release agent is good, a lot of release agent is better. That's not the case. Too much release agent will kill the surface of the concrete.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-7

In this particular case, after they applied the release agent, they walked on these beam forms. You can bet, I know for a fact that when they removed these beam forms and you looked up, you could see every one of those footprints on the beam, on the soffit of the beam. You've got to understand the impact of the release agent.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-10

In this particular case, we had too much release agent. You can see these dark splotches. What these dark splotches were is ... There we are. The dark splotches are where we had too much release agent, which delayed the set of the concrete. When they stripped the forms, it actually pulled the skin of the concrete off. Where we have white or lighter colored concrete, the skin was left on. Where we had the blotches, that's where we had too much release agent and the skin was pulled off.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-11

Here's another example of having too much release agent on the right versus adequate release agent on the left. We need to work at sealing form joints. Not only form butt joints when we put two plywood panels together, and we can do that either with foam tape or in this case polyethylene tape or other techniques that you can use to try, like caulk, silicone caulk, to minimize water penetration through those form joints.

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-3

Then, we've got placement techniques. We want to be able to place the concrete by different methods, whether it be by bucket, by pump, by conveyor belt. We need to make sure that we don't have segregation. This is from an ACI document on avoiding segregation. We don't want the concrete bouncing off the reinforcing steel causing rock pockets or sand pockets.

 

Architectural-Concrete-Form-Release-Agent-2

Consolidation, we have different types of consolidation equipment that's going to give us different impacts, different types of motors that are going to give us different effects. For example, these backpack motors that some people have for portable vibrators. Those are usually direct-drive vibrators. They operate at a very low frequency. Those typically will result in segregation. We want high-frequency vibrators that are going to have what's called "Radius of influence".

We need to make sure we have appropriate overlap between the vibrator insertions. Usually, concrete is extremely under-vibrated, not over-vibrated like a lot of people are concerned about.

One of the things that we did as part of our study on architectural concrete is, we cast some columns of concrete that one form face was plexiglass. Then, we put white cement concrete into it. Gray cement is too dark. It won't work. You put white cement concrete in and you vibrate the concrete and you watch these bubbles come up. You can see right here, I've got a very large bubble. These bubbles, we find, rise at the rate of about one to two inches a second. If you've got a three-foot lift, then you need to vibrate that lift of concrete between 18 and 36 seconds.

Normally, the vibrator operator throws his vibrator down and then brings it back up and that's all it gets. It gets about maybe of the quarter of the vibration it actually needs. When the vibrator tip gets above the air bubbles, the air bubbles stop moving. The vibrator tip needs to go all the way down to the bottom and come up to the top. Like I said before, we want to insert the vibrator vertically so we don't get segregation.

You can see here, a proper vibration train. We place the concrete, we have one vibrator operator that's leveling out the concrete, we have an inspector behind him and then a second vibrator operator that comes along and vibrates the concrete until all the air bubbles have left.

This is a little video on how to vibrate architectural concrete. You take the vibrator, take it all the way down to the bottom of the concrete, and then you start to pull it out with a churning motion. You want to raise the tip of the vibrator about one to two inches a second. You can see how slowly I'm coming out of the concrete at this point. It's coming up the rate of about one to two inches a second. The churning motion, when you push down, it actually pushes the air bubbles up. There's another mechanical motion that helps remove those air bubbles from the concrete. We keep coming up at the rate of about one to two inches a second. I'm actually going a bit faster here for the purposes of the video. Then, when you get to the top of the lift, you actually want to take the vibrator out rapidly. Otherwise, the vibrator will start to churn air back into the concrete.

Then, when you come in for the second lift, you want to go all the way down into the previous lift of concrete and then start doing your churning motion. Make sure that you do a lot of churning there at the line between the first lift and the second lift so that you knit those two layers together and you avoid a lift line later on.

A vibrator is rated for a radius of influence. If a vibrator has a radius of influence of 18 inches, you want to do your insertions at about 80% of the diameter of influence. Say the radius of influence was 15 inches. That makes the diameter 30 inches. 80% of 30 is 24 inches, so you want to insert at 24-inch centers. If we don't do it properly, we wind up with problems, lift lines, honeycomb and leakage and air bubbles.

Then, finally, we have the management, the testing. Make sure the testing lab provides the test results to the concrete producer. It's now part of ASTMC-94 and 318. The concrete producer is required to receive the test results for his concrete. That's a very important thing that needs to be considered, but I know many a concrete producer who has had to pull out good concrete because of bad testing. This is not a good concrete test cylinder. You can see we have the vertical fracture instead of the nice double cones or today using neoprene caps, the sheer cones and so forth.

It all goes back to the process, making sure all of the parts fit, understanding the process. If you change the shape of one part, you have to change the shape of another part to make sure the process fits.

Murphy's Law: Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you expect. If anything can go wrong, it will and at the worst possible moment. I know a perfect concrete, architectural concrete projects, where the only blemish on the concrete surface is right in front of the president's parking spot. That's where it's almost always going to happen." Learn more.


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Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

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Tags: concrete casting supplies, Form Seasoning Concrete Release Agent, Concrete Form Release Application, concrete form release, Concrete Form Release Agent, architectural concrete form release agent

5 Reasons You Need Precast Concrete Internships, NPCA Online Courses

Posted by Hill and Griffith Company on Mar 23, 2018 4:19:07 PM

As the construction industry starts expanding again, the need for qualified personnel is becoming more urgent. During the last six years a lot of talent has left the precast industry due to downsizing and attrition.

Precast Concrete Internships.jpg 

NPCA will also discuss a successful internship model in detail which can be easily adopted by an employer regardless of the size of the company.

Today, more and more companies are facing an aging employee population and the need for succession planning, and increasing human capacity is becoming an urgent business need. Internships are a great way to attract high quality students to the precast industry. It provides both the employers and students to get a chance to know each other before making a long term commitment. It also gives the employer the opportunity to train young professionals on how things are done in the sponsoring organization. In this course we will discuss the importance of internship programs and explore the key benefits for both employers and interns. We will also discuss a successful internship model in detail which can be easily adopted by an employer regardless of the size of the company. Learn more and order the course from the Nation precast Concrete Association.


How to Use the Internship Guidelines Developed by the NPCA Foundation and PCI Foundation (WEBINTG)

Precast Concrete Internships 2.jpg

The session has been created to help NPCA and PCI producer members in using the internship guidelines in a productive manner.

The session has been created to help NPCA and PCI producer members in using the precast concrete internships guidelines in a productive manner. The guidelines are designed to be used as a reference document to answer any questions that one may have before, during, and after an internship is completed. Its main purpose is to encourage the reader to think through the reasons why an internship program is warranted in an organization. Once the decision has been made to move forward, the document then provides the details on how to continue building and growing an internship program. Learn more and order the course from the Nation precast Concrete Association.


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Hill and Griffith Customer Service

We're known for our hands-on approach. Let us visit your plant and recommend concrete release agents, packerhead concrete form releases, concrete form seasoning, potable water and non-petroleum concrete form release, biodegradable releases, rust inhibitors and concrete dissolver products that suit your needs.

Hill and Griffith Samples

Product Samples

We are pleased to provide samples in quantities large enough to allow you to "try before you buy."
Contact Us »

 

Hill and Griffith Customer Service

Technical Services & Support

On-site casting defect investigations, product testing, machine start-ups and much more. Also, lab facilities are available to provide testing upon request.
Contact Us »

 

Bulletins and Technical Papers for Concrete Casting Products 

Tags: concrete casting supplies, concrete form release, Concrete Form Release Agent, Precast Concrete Internships

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