Years of effort by the Southern Africa Ready-mix Association (Sarma) to spread awareness about the importance of quality-specified concrete are finally bearing fruit, as it is starting to reach local-government level, says Sarma director Johan van Wyk.
Collaborating with parastatals, such as State-owned freight utility Transnet, State-owned power utility Eskom and road network parastatal the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), are also reaping awards, as such entities are requesting specifications for certain qualities of concrete to be used in significant infrastructure projects, and they want to work with Sarma-accredited ready-mix companies, he enthuses.
“People are realising that structures don’t have a four-year shelf life the way politicians tend to have. Buy a quality product now, handle it with care and structures will last longer and you’ll have more money available later,” he states.
Van Wyk emphasises quality concrete means that the concrete is appropriate for its chosen application and of high quality in terms of the materials used; however, the benefits of quality-concrete products are negated if applied incorrectly.
He states that, after collaboration with entities such as Sanral, parastatals have started to specify quality concrete products and communicate more with institutions such as educational establishment The Concrete Institute (TCI).
Subsequently, there will be opportunities for ready-mix companies to become involved in large infrastructure projects that are reaching the tender stage, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal.
A prevalent challenge with large projects, however, is that the period which begins once a tender is awarded and ends when a ready-mix company receives payment for work completed on a project tends to be long, Van Wyk states.
“Companies have to survive for that time period until the funds come in. Meanwhile, companies have to look for smaller jobs, whether it’s local or international work, until government comes good on its promises of infrastructure projects,” Van Wyk explains.
Van Wyk reiterates that Sarma’s unchanging goals are to promote quality ready-mix concrete and use legally compliant plant facilities.
To promote quality ready-mix concrete, Sarma is doing several ready-mix workshops and presenting the SCT 15: Concrete for plant operators courses, which will be done in partnership with the TCI this year, for Sarma members and non-members.
The workshops aim to inform clients of accredited ready-mix plants of the benefits of the improved quality and handling of ready-mix concrete. The SCT 15 courses will be aimed at batchers and batch plant staff of ready-mix concrete, covering vital topics associated with concrete education and theory to produce quality ready-mix concrete.
Workshops and courses have been held in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town this year, while both will be held in Port Elizabeth in October. The workshops and courses are each a day long.
“Concrete evolves all the time, and so quickly, with new technology and new value-add, that it outgrows us quickly. “We have to constantly train and inform, with Sarma being the hub where technologies are brought in. When you speak to Sarma, you speak to the ready-mix industry,” Van Wyk points out.
He emphasises the importance of knowledge in all aspects of concrete, from production to the processes used in production and delivery, such as transporting concrete.
“There’s a process that needs to be followed. You need to test the concrete, and then there’s legal compliance. When a concrete truck arrives at a site, it becomes the site manager’s responsibility. The truck and driver need to be legally compliant, with health and safety, and environmental law also coming into effect.
“We need trained people who can design mixes. There needs to be a tertiary or concrete technology qualification. It’s a complicated material,” Van Wyk declares.
Emphasising the range of applications and types of concrete, including the institutions and companies involved in the buying, selling and use of concrete, Van Wyk states that Sarma is aiming to consolidate.
Sarma, TCI, education institute the Concrete Society of Southern Africa, and industry associations the Concrete Manufacturers Association and the Association for Cementitious Materials Producers are collaborating to consolidate into one body.
“This is to offer a more efficient, one-stop service to the whole cement and concrete industry. We’ve considered the available skills of the associations, and the members have considered and stated what skills are required and what the overall industry wants us to do,” Van Wyk comments.
While a target date has not been set for the finalising of the consolidation process, he states that members of Sarma, and members of the other related institutions, have requested this process to be quick and efficient. The associations, therefore, are looking to complete the process in the coming months.
Van Wyk stepped down as Sarma director at the end of last month and is replaced by Hanlie Turner. Van Wyk will still, however, be involved with the association and the industry.