INDUSTRY TRENDS: READY MIX SUPPLIERS PROMOTE CONCRETE PUMPING

Ready mix suppliers are challenged with the fixed expenses involved in operating an efficient business. Truck maintenance and operator compensation are unavoidable factors. Material and batch plant operation are simply part of the deal. And customers constantly at the ready, prepared to negotiate the cost of one yard of concrete. It all adds up to tight margins.

So which part of this formula is the variable? How can suppliers maintain an efficient operation and provide quality customer service while increasing that profit margin?

In an increasingly common trend, ready mix suppliers have turned their attention toward speeding up dumping times and improving efficiency for their customers. If a supplier improves their average rate of delivery and placement, this directly affects their bottom line. One way to speed truck-mixer turnaround is through the use of more efficient placing tools – namely, the concrete pump.

With the ability to dump directly into the hopper of a high-output concrete pump, ready mix trucks can double the discharge rate. Because pumps can process and place concrete at any slump, adding water to increase manageability becomes completely unnecessary. This saves precious time and maintains the quality of the concrete. This entire scenario means one thing to a ready mix supplier: more profit.

It seems the moral of the story is black and white: To make more money, ready mix suppliers should invest in a concrete pump.

But Chris Knipfer, Sport Redi-Mix, Champagne, IL, disagrees. “Producers shouldn’t pump their own concrete. If a producer purchases a pump, they’re immediately competing with concrete contractors they’ve been servicing for years.”

So what is the alternative? According to Knipfer, the best way to maximize efficiency for customers is through promoting a local pumping contractor to place materials. “It’s more advantageous to use a third party – if there’s a quality pumping firm available, there’s no reason for the producer to invest in the equipment themselves. And by utilizing the contractor’s equipment, producers provide their customers a higher quality product without expanding their own services or fleet.”

Ed Nackers of M & M Concrete Company, Appleton, WI, agrees that a close supplier-pumper relationship can benefit both parties. “One local pumping service can save thousands of dollars for ready mix suppliers in their area,” he says.

Joan Andersen, Andersen Concrete Pumping & Equipment Rental, Chicago, IL, says, “Communication is the key to maintaining solid business relationships with ready mix suppliers. I call on them regularly.”

Ready mix producers all over the nation are marketing the use of concrete pumps over truck dumping – even to the extent of discounting materials if the customer elects to use a concrete pump. And vice-versa, charging more if the customer does not utilize a pump on a large job.

“There are huge benefits to both the customer and the producer if the concrete is being pumped,” says Knipfer. “It ‘s a win-win situation for all parties.”

These benefits are the reason for the growing trend among suppliers adamantly supporting their relationship with a local concrete pumper.

ACPA member companies provide certified operators to make sure the pump stays in prime working condition throughout the pour. Depending on the pumper, a wide range of boom sizes and specialty booms are available to insure the project’s needs are met with the most appropriate, cost-efficient equipment.

At the start of every job, Andersen Concrete Pumping supplies the contractor and the ready mix producer copies one particular ACPA Safety booklet published strictly for ready mix suppliers, entitled, “Saftey Manual for Ready Mix Concrete Truck Drivers Delivering to Concrete Pumps. “It lets them know right away that we’re serious about safety,” says Joan Andersen. “Ready mix producers will promote a pumping contractor who has the right equipment and is safety minded.”

If a customer orders the ready-mix and pumping, the contractors are typically allowed two days to coordinate for the pour. This supplier-pumper partnership provides both parties with scheduling advantages, sometimes allowing them to layout dispatch orders and operator rosters a week in advance.

Another advantage to ready-mix operations is the ability to utilize an entire fleet of ready-mix trucks more efficiently when working side-by-side with a concrete pump. A pump allows delivery of more concrete per day without additional trucks. Mixer turnaround times improve and company productivity skyrockets.

“Ready mix producers love it when a pump is on the job,” says Andersen. “They have to service customers the whole day. A reliable pump with a good operator makes the job go quicker.”

Front discharge and all-wheel drive ready mix trucks are less necessary when a boom can reach up and over rough terrain. A concrete pump goes to work regardless of weather, time of day or job site conditions. The labor savings creates more time in a day to complete multiple projects. With a concrete pump, there is no need for supplementary equipment. Where job site conditions may require bulldozers to create access for ready mix trucks, a boom pump reaches over inaccessible terrain for pinpoint placement. Excavating time is reduced, and backfilling is less complicated.

Along that same track, ready mix operations can experience reduced fleet maintenance as they avoid mud duty and terrain that makes trucks susceptible to getting stuck, or worse, breakdowns.

“It’s great peace of mind to work with a pump,” says Sport Redi-Mix’s Knipfer. “We can send out our oldest truck knowing it will come back in one piece.”

The ability to remain off of the messiest part of job site also improves community relations – neighbors or surrounding businesses do not have to experience mud left by trucks maneuvering on and off the job site. In some areas, clean-up of residential streets is the responsibility of the ready-mix firm – an expensive proposition.

Using a concrete pump also means less clean up for the mixers themselves. Because additional chutes are typically unnecessary and no additives or water are incorporated during the dump, “Wash out time is cut in half,” says Knipfer.

All of these benefits are realized through an amicable relationship between ready mix supplier and concrete pumper. The suppliers are gradually realizing the benefits of concrete pump accessibility, and concrete pumpers across the nation are capitalizing on the need for pumps in all types of construction.

M & M’s Ed Nackers put it most eloquently. “Some contractors can’t afford to own a pump, but they can’t afford not to pump.”