Producer members of the American Concrete Pipe Association empower their employees to introduce new ways to elevate the safety of workspaces and improve product quality.
As published in the March 2019 issue of CONCRETE PLANT INTERNATIONAL, by Russell Tripp, P.E., President, American Concrete Pipe Association, USA
The O-ring guard developed by Forterra Pipe and Precast (Lorena Texas Plant) improves control when installing or removing O-rings following production
Each year, employees and their companies are celebrated at the ACPA's Pipe School/Pipe Show with safety and quality awards. At the 2019 Pipe School/Pipe Show, top awards were presented for a clip gun guard; O-ring snap band guard/remover; visual job task analysis; batch plant operator training, product tags, and a lift hole spreader. The Chairman's Safety Award recognizes plants and/or companies that have implemented successful safety initiatives that result in a safer and more productive workplace. The Chairman's Quality Award recognizes member plants and/or companies that have implemented successful innovations resulting in higher quality products and more efficient production processes.
Chairman's Safety Award - Company-Wide
Winner of the 2018 Chairman's Safety award was Rinker Materials - Dallas, TX for the Clip Gun Guard. The guard developed after several employee's received injuries to hands and fingers when using the tool. Development of the guard included the manufacturer of the clip gun and plant personnel. The Clip Gun Guard is now used at all Rinker Facilities and a safety feature for the manufacturer.
Chairman's Safety Award - Equipment-Related - O-Ring Guard
O-ring snap bands, that can be very large in diameter, are notorious for their uncontrolled springing action. When they are removed, they are awkward and can spring in many directions. The O-ring guard developed by Forterra Pipe and Precast (Lorena Texas Plant) improves control when installing or removing O-rings following production.
Chairman's Safety Award - Individual Facility - Visual Job Task Analysis (JTA)
JTA is a very difficult system to incorporate in heavy manufacturing. There are many activities occurring simultaneously. The visual JTA introduced by Rinker Materials - Pipe Division (Corporate) uses a tablet to allow leaders to easily access video of safe processes in the work area and provide training to new or transferred employees. Documenting training for Job Task Analysis is digital and accessible.
The Clip Gun Guard was developed after several employees received injuries to hands and fingers when using the tool.
Chairman's Quality Award - Company-Wide Best Practice - Batch Plant Operator Training
Production of high-quality products begin with batch plant operators. The company-wide quality goal of Rinker Materials - Pipe Division (Corporate) is to achieve a "Batch Plant Operator Training Certificate." Training provides further understanding of the batching system features. Batch Plant Training also serves to train backup operator(s) at each plant who possess a much stronger understanding of the control system and "concrete science."
Chairman's Quality Award - Company-Innovation (Product Tags)
Northern Concrete Pipe, Inc. was looking for a way to ensure that cages produced in advance of production would be used for the correct project and/or product. The company wanted to be certain that any reinforcing that is unique is easily identifiable, and to ensure that no reinforcement cages would be placed into production before inspection and release by quality control personnel.
Product tags are now fastened to pre-assembled reinforcing cages and color coded when reinforcing is unique, such as, when a cage has a block out, anchors, no spigot, or is produced to a specific lay length. The information on the tags ensures that when reinforcing cages are produced for similar projects or products, the reinforcing will not get mixed. Accountability and the ability to track repeat mistakes and provide training is assured when the person that assembled the reinforcing signs the ticket. Tags eliminate cages from being placed into production without pre-pour inspection. Color coding makes everyone aware that reinforcing is unique and what is unique about it.
Chairman's Quality Award - Individual Plant Process Improvement - Lift Hole Spreader
Lift holes in heavily reinforced products are challenging to place. Northern Concrete Pipe, Inc. does not allow the use of torches on cages and wanted a better way to keep cages specified without sacrificing safety or increasing employee exertion. The lift hole spreader accurately places lift hole openings in reinforcement cages and eliminates wire showing in lift holes while reducing worker stress. By eliminating exposed wire in lift holes, contractors use their lifting apparatus correctly and efficiently. This innovation reduces the chance for leakage around exposed wires to penetrate the wall of the product.
QCast Plant Certification Program
Both the safety and quality awards are reinforced by the ACPA's QCast Plant Certification Program, which is the recognized standard for quality assurance in America's concrete pipe industry. Plants may be certified in storm sewer and culvert pipe, sanitary sewer, box culverts, three-sided structures, manholes, and precast structures.
QCast is a voluntary program to continue the advancement of quality in the precast concrete pipe and products industry. Each year the manual for the program is reviewed and when necessary updated to accommodate industry-wide standards revisions, and changes in production technology. The manual requires that management ensure that the supervisory and production personnel immediately responsible for product quality are properly trained. The training results in innovation in safety and quality that is recognized industry-wide.
The safety and quality awards, and the QCast program are elements of the ACPA's Quality School held each year at the beginning of the heavy production season. The 4-day school is attended by veteran employees and new hires alike. Employers encourage their production staff to attend and return to their workplaces with certificates attesting to their competence in modern production techniques, reinforcement, concrete mixing, batching and transport, self-consolidating concrete, consolidation, pre and post-pour inspection, curing and fundamental calculations.
The high quality of concrete pipe and the production facilities of member companies are represented by ACPA's safety and quality awards, QCast certification program and Quality School. But it is the friendly competition between members for the awards, and then sharing the knowledge associated with the entries that result in safe workplaces and greater efficiencies in production. There is no doubt that the Chairman's Safety Award and Chairman's Quality Award drive innovation that is characteristic of the concrete pipe plants of ACPA's producer members.
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