In the highly competitive and pandemic-plagued precast concrete industry, the input of a well-trained and experienced concrete technologist to ensure quality and durable products is now essential, says John Roxburgh, senior lecturer at The Concrete Institute’s School of Concrete Technology.
“The precast concrete sector can no longer rest on laurels when it comes to maintaining quality. A concrete specialist will ensure that performance specifications with regards to strength and durability are met, and that the manufacturing process employs cost-effective concrete mix designs that still meet vital performance requirements. This specialist will also have to control oversee quality assurance which is essential for the reputation and survival of a producer. Therefore, the School of Concrete Technology strongly recommends that at least one person in a precast operation has the necessary training and expertise in concrete technology,” Roxburgh states.
He says precast concrete is a wide and diverse field ranging from highly engineered elements such as bridge beams, pipes, culverts, tilt up panels, and hollow core flooring to smaller and simpler items such as bricks, pavers, kerbs, blocks, roof tiles, floor tiles, and lintels.
“There are endless possibilities when it comes to the design and manufacture of precast concrete items and the use of large precast items in mainstream construction is also becoming increasingly popular. There are some important reasons: ease and speed of production; economical costs for the repetitive work involved; and the easy demolishing and recycling of precast structures at the end of their service life.”
Precasting offers many entrepreneurial possibilities, Roxburgh believes. “Producing smaller precast elements, such as bricks, blocks, kerbs, lintels, tiles and roof tiles, offers entrepreneurs a relatively easy entry into the market, particularly those with factories close to clients as heavy transport costs make it difficult for more distant large operators to compete with well-located smaller firms. In fact, a brick producer who precasts 5 000 bricks a day can successfully compete with a company that produces 300 000 a day but needs to transport the bricks longer distances. Strategic location also benefits precast producers of decorative items such as floor tiles, cobble stones, garden retaining wall blocks, garden furniture and pots.”
Roxburgh says the School of Concrete’s “SCT20 Concrete Practice” provides detailed knowledge of all the important concrete concepts and practices needed to produce top quality precast and other concrete products. The course is suitable for foremen, clerks-of-work, technicians, supervisors, as well as sales and technical staff in the building, mining and related industries. The four- to eight-day online training includes a virtual laboratory session, detailed video recordings and authoritative tutoring by the School of Concrete Technology which has trained thousands of South Africans and has a respected reputation dating back to 1974.