The Work of Concrete Contractors
Concrete is the most commonly used material in construction and used to build walls, roads, floors and more. It serves as the foundation of the buildings that we live in, work in, and play in. When the foundation is not built well from the beginning, it can be disastrous and quite costly.
Because of this importance, it is critical for a concrete contractor to have its own proper foundation—good employees. When a company's team is treated and paid well, they become invested in the success of the company and therefore more productive on the jobsite. What may seem like a huge cost becomes an investment into your company because good employees that perform better will win you more jobs.
What is involved in the role of a Concrete Contractor?
In any large commercial construction project, the schedule is the measuring stick into the health of the project. With a concrete contractor, it is important to allow for ample lead and lag time to accommodate the different stages of site prep, forming, placing, and finishing.
Site Prep - Some commercial contractors perform their own site prep which can include excavation and backfill. Rocks and shrubs are completely removed. The ground is compacted, leveled, and graded to ensure that it can adequately support the load requirements of the building for many years and under extreme weather conditions. When the ground isn’t properly prepped to allow for settling of dirt or moisture, this can cause the concrete to buckle and jeopardize structural integrity.
Formwork – The beauty of concrete is its ability to be poured into any shape that a design specifies. This is accomplished through formwork which creates the mold for the concrete placement and holds the concrete in place while the mixture hardens. Depending on how the concrete will be utilized, the forms can be temporary or permanent and can be set using wood, metal, or plastic. There have been great strides in formwork such as prefabrication that have allowed for formwork to be less wasteful, less expensive, and less labor intensive.
Placement – After all the prep and site work, this is the exciting time when the concrete gets poured into the forms. Using shovels and rakes, the crew will move the concrete through the forms.
Finishing – Similar to the site prep, once the concrete is poured, it must be compacted and consolidated to ensure there are no air pockets. If applicable, finishing also includes performing any decorative elements to the concrete such as dye, design, or detailed work.
Concrete Project Management Software and Its Uses
Because the phases of a concrete job are interdependent, tracking the progress of the project through multiple phases is important to ensure that critical project milestones are met within the allotted time frames. Using concrete project management software allows a concrete contractor to be proactive in planning to reduce costly mistakes.
As the project manager, it’s important to know how the field crew is performing on the jobsite. Daily reports completed by the foreman which capture photos from the jobsite, the labor and material usage for the day, and any issues relevant to document job progress.
Concrete project management software that provides a companion mobile application makes it easier for field personnel to keep the back office informed of activities at the jobsite. Similarly, the mobile app keeps the field team focused and productive on the jobsite with mobile access to up-to-date plans, specs, and change orders. When the foreman has access to the most updated documents, he has all the information he needs to get his crew straight to work.
A foreman who accurately completes his Daily Reports is invaluable to a concrete contractor. A project management software that is focused on the needs of a concrete contractor collects all the valuable data from the Foreman’s Daily Reports and seamlessly transfers it into Cost-to-Complete, or Labor Efficiency reports.
“We looked at GC Project Management platforms, and they fell short on the capabilities and high costs,” said Joe Silvestro, head of Commercial Sales with Midwest Concrete. “We preferred eSUB because they understood subs like no other software company.”
Drastically different than a solution that is based on the needs of a general contractor, a subcontractor-based system proactively tracks labor and material at each phase of the job. Determining efficiency on labor productivity delivers valuable insight to more accurately estimate future projects.
Mr. Silvestro continued,
“With eSUB, we have the ability to monitor and track actual progress against estimates. We know exactly if we are on time, behind schedule, and what the cause effect of any lost time was. The efficiency and accuracy help us better manage and control every project, as well bid and plan for future similar projects.”
The Process of Becoming a Concrete Contractor
The popular phrase that you don’t know a man until you walk a mile in their shoes absolutely ring true for a concrete contractor. To be a successful concrete contractor, it is important to have lived in the shoes as a laborer on a concrete crew. The Cement Mason Union provides an apprenticeship program for instruction and 5,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. If one doesn’t get accepted into an apprenticeship program, one can usually work their way up the ranks from a laborer to a foreman managing a crew and schedule, to a superintendent running multiple crews.
Another source of education for the concrete contractor is the American Concrete Institute (ACI) which offers 21 certification programs. ACI certification proves your ability to work with concrete and that you have demonstrated skills in testing, construction, and inspection of concrete.
Balancing jobsite experience with office experience provides a concrete contractor skills in managing paperwork and financial aspects of running a business as well interpersonal skills required for developing positive relationships with employees, general contractors, suppliers, and owners. To avoid being all things to all people, concrete contractors must determine their area of focus: residential, commercial, road construction. Different specialties require different skills among your crew, materials, and equipment.
Professional associations such as the American Society of Concrete Contractors provides ongoing educational and networking opportunities. Participation in ASCC industry events including the annual World of Concrete trade show provides technical and business resources to help you be more efficient in the field and the office.