Friday, November 11, 2011

Social Media is Here to Stay

 I remember days of old; of course I’m only 27, but I remember being young and not a care in the world, playing outside from sun up to sun down, scraping knees, painting with mud, and collecting every bug, critter, and animal I could get my hands on.  As I grew up, I was able to and am still living an ever changing world.  A world where real farming is becoming less important Farmville farming, a place where videos of babies laughing can make you a six figure salary, and a place where important news changed from what’s going on in world to what is going on the bathroom.  There is no doubt that social media is here and it is here to stay.  I work in an industry where you wouldn’t necessarily think that social media should exist.  A precast concrete manufacturing facility has to be one of last places you’d expect to have Facebook page.  However, we do and we feel it is important to have and maintain it.  But why does a manufacturer have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or use things like YouTube, Flickr, or even do this fancy thing called Blogging. 
To understand social media it is best to dispel the myths.  First social media is for the young generation and not for me…I don’t want to take the time to learn.  Untrue, social media tools are very easy to learn, with many of them having tutorials to help you get set up.  Social media is not only for the younger generation, all generations can benefit from social media.  Social media is growing in popularity everyday as more and more generations get hooked on the social media revolution.  Second, social media is just for wasting time and has no place in the workplace.  Untrue, more and more consumers are buying products based off pictures posted on Flickr, consumer posts on Facebook, and YouTube videos showing production of a good.  Get your company into the Social Revolution.  Social media is a free marketing tool.  It costs nothing.  It takes a little time to learn, but results show up almost instantly.  The main thing to understand is that getting your company on social media get’s your name and face out there and helps you relate to web viewers everywhere.  Showing people what you do and how you do it gives you a certain sense of pride unattainable in the day to day grind and it gives consumers an appreciation for you to show them how you do things.  So to say that only certain industries can fit in the social media revolution is wrong.  All industries have their place it’s only a matter of how deep you want to climb.   Third, times are inevitably changing.  We mark humanity by change.   Centuries ago, times changed with the Industrial Revolution.  Times changed, people changed, changed for the better.  This change is happening again, just in the virtual world.  Will this make peoples’ lives better like it did in the Industrial Revolution, maybe.  Will it impact the world like the Industrial Revolution, definitely.  If you’re not in the Social Media Revolution, GET IN IT, BE A PART OF IT.  We will see you on Facebook my friends.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Education is the Key!!!

This is a simple concept, yet time and time again I see this simple concept ignored and overlooked, EDUCATE.  I see this in precasters not educating customers and plumbers and pumpers not educating homeowners.  There is one thing that we do know as producers, there is a problem.  In previous blogs I have explained the nature of the Thiobicillus bacteria and how it attacks concrete.  I have also explained how precasters are helping the problem, but these are just words.  We have to be the teachers in our own mind and spread the word.  Explain to your customers that we understand we have a cancer in our industry, but we feel this cancer is curable.  It just takes time.  We need to evaluate mixes and this takes time.  The average tank failure is 7-10 years, YEARS, not hours.  If you explain to your customers that you know you have a problem, but you and your organizations are doing something to solve the problem, your customers have no reason to be upset with you.  Explain to them that mixes are being evaluated.  Tests are being done and results are coming in, but definitive answers have not been found.  The person who is in the dark and knows nothing until the problem is staring them in the eyes is the scared person.  That is the person who comes looking for answers and point fingers.  Don’t waste your time with useless guarantees and promises.  Bring the problem out to the open and don’t be afraid to admit you have a problem.  Society was built on exposing problems and fixing them.  Don’t leave your people in the dark!
Similarly, educate your homeowners.  Explain to them that there is a problem in this industry.  It is very unique and we do not have many answers yet.  Again we do not what is going on, but we need years to evaluate its effectiveness.  One of the primary questions I get asked on site in this problem, is how long will my tank last when I notice corrosion?  My answer to that is that it is very tough to estimate.  There is no definitive gauge or timeline on this problem, but the last thing you want to do is say your tank is ok don’t worry, or your tank is junk buy a new one.  A very simple answer would be it is hard to say, your tank’s structural integrity is definitely jeopardized, let’s monitor the situation and see how aggressive the attack is.  It is very easy to jot down some notes, take some pictures on what you have seen and record them for further evaluation.  On your next pumping cycle , service call, or sooner stop by.   I know we are all busy people, but monitoring and educating is the key to solving this problem.  The last thing you want to do is put your name on a guaranteed timeline.  Evaluate and Educate.  Another simple question is how did this happen?  This is usually where I put the ball in their court.  Ask them simple questions, what kind of cleaners do you use? Have you been taking prescription medications?  How many people are living in the home? Do you have any information regarding the groundwater and surrounding ground conditions? Any relevant information?  People tend to feel better if they are part of the solution and you would be surprised how many answers you can get from homeowners.  Again don’t ignore this problem.  It will not go away.  Instead bring it out in the open and EDUCATE!

Friday, January 14, 2011

MIC pt 3: Additives vs Coatings

To continue talk on MIC Corrosion, the next topic is the addition of additives and coatings along with quality concrete.  I want to make this known upfront, I am a firm believer in the addition of additives to concrete in contrast to post applied concrete.  My  reason being is that I think additives take out as much of the human element as possible.  With coatings you have a greater chance of not applying or not mixing chemicals correctly and thus leading to problems.  That being said, I do believe there is a time and place for coatings and if used properly they can be effective in extending the life of concrete products.  Now, I will have the opportunity to listen to a gentleman speak about a poly urea coating he uses effectively; what interests me is to see how this process works and how effective it is.  Poly urea is a coating similarly used in truck bedliners and I have really started to see this technology catch on quickly.  My only other question to ponder with regards to coatings is, will the coatings degrade? and if they do will they get mixed into the groundwater? and what are the repercussions of that?  The water table is under threat already and compromising it more with chemicals that soil can't break down is a bad news for everyone. 

Additives can post their own problems, but also have a very well define solution to the problem as well.  Most additive agents can be separated into two categories densifiers and anti-microbial. Densifiers are by far the most common as any precaster anywhere has access to tens of hundreds densifiers ranging from liquid to powder.  Some common densifiers  include Granulated Blast Furnace Slag, Fly Ash, and crystalline additives.  What these additives aim to do is form crystalline structures internally in the mix and close the pours making the concrete more dense and thus more resistant to chemical attack.  These products have been used for years and have been proven successful in many different situations.  The only problem with these additives is the effect on fresh concrete.  A lot of times these additives can change water demand, admix demand, workability, and finishability of your mix.  These properties can be compensated for easily, but should be taken into account before mixing.  Another disadvantage is cost.  These additives can add  $50-$100 more per yard, but I tend to believe you would be paying for a higher end mix as well.  A lot of people will see increases in compressive strength and durability that will easily justify the extra cost.  The other additive that I am not too familiar with is anti-microbial additive.  This is what I call microbiological concrete, "living concrete".  What essentially happens is the anti-microbial admix is internal in the concrete and kills the Thiobicillus bacteria upon contact of the concrete.  Again, I am not familiar with this additive, but I have heard there has been some success stories coming from using this product.  I am starting to see it speced more and more, especially in wastewater treatment plant applications.  The only disadvantage I have heard of is that it was ineffective.  This is hard to justify though because this could have been a result of poor mixing, or bad starting concrete.  Again the best place to start with MIC abating is a good mix design and good quality control.  I think given a good strong base mix, this additive can have a lot of benefits to your design.

As of late there has been a lot of discussion on the topic of revamping the oldest concrete known to man.  The ancient Romans found that if they used the ash from the volcanoes it had a good glue like property that made concrete.  This technology has been little used over the centuries, but as of late has come back with talks of corroding products and degrading infrastructure.  If the Romans built structures hundreds of thousands of years ago and they are still standing, it must have some good mix properties. Essentially the concrete has a different chemistry that makes it more resistant to corrosion and aging.  I know of two companies having great success using this product in very corrosive environments.  It is interesting to find that the technologies of old are having successes today. 

So all being said, there are many advantages and disadvantages to either an industrial coating or  additives to the concrete.  Again I am firm believe in additives over coatings, but there are some applications in which coatings can perform well and keep the concrete protected for years on end.  One should be careful and follow the mix designers parameters when experimenting with additives and coatings.  Used properly they can effectively help in extending the life of concrete longer than if it were just mixed plain.  Again, but one should start with a good mix design and good quality control before even considering these additives. NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GOOD QUALITY CONCRETE!