The precast concrete industry has come a long way from its early days. As the manufacturing process has improved over the past thirty years, the industry has grown and gained legitimacy, and demand for precast concrete products has greatly increased.
The success of precast concrete products, and the growth of the industry as a whole, is in large part due to innovation, technological improvements and the efforts of associations such as the Precast Concrete Association of New York (PCANY).
PCANY is a not-for-profit trade organization that supports its members by encouraging the use of precast products in the construction industry while teaching the public and those in the industry about precast concrete’s many benefits. PCANY works with owners, contractors, engineers, state and local government agencies and other stakeholders advocating for, and developing precast products education, awareness and standards.
“PCANY was incorporated in 1986 by a group of precast producers who were interested in promoting precast products in New York State,” said Executive Director Ronald Thornton of PCANY’s founding. More significantly, the organization has given producers a unified voice in dealing with the New York State Department of Transportation and transportation issues.
“PCANY’s role is primarily to provide a forum for our members to meet both formally and socially to discuss issues related to the precast industry. I guess one way to describe it is, while our members do compete with each other for their piece of the pie, the purpose of the association is to essentially grow the pie by promoting the benefits of precast concrete over competing materials.”
PCANY was originally comprised of two classes of membership: full producer and associate member. However, it has since added professional member and septic tank producer categories.
Full producer members are voting members that manufacture products for structural commercial, bridge, architectural and utility projects. There are a total of fifteen producer members.
“The producer members benefit by having the ability to speak with one voice for the industry from both a marketing standpoint and dealing with the New York State Department of Transportation and other agencies,” explained Thornton.
“A producer member must maintain a fixed plant for the fabrication of precast and/or prestressed products and they must also belong to and participate in either the PCI or NPCA plant certification program, or be approved by the New York State Department of Transportation,” he added. The PCI is the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, while the NPCA is the National Precast Concrete Association.
Associate members are those that offer services and products that are connected to the precast industry but do not meet the full producer member status. Associate members include entities that have a commercial interest in the precast concrete industry but do not manufacture products directly.
“Associate members generally include suppliers of equipment, materials, and services to precast producers. We currently have thirty-one associate members,” noted Thornton who went on to discuss the advantages of associate membership. “Their big benefit would be opportunities to interact with their customers who are the producers, and they do that at meetings and other events. Our professional members benefit from the education they receive about precast concrete through our newsletter and presentations.”
Professional membership is extended to companies that contribute to the precast industry through studies as well as design and other services. “Professional members include engineering firms, consultants, testing companies, and others who are interested in working with and gaining knowledge about the precast industry, and we currently have thirty-two professional members.”
Septic producer members manufacture septic tanks and waste water products and who participate in PCANY’s wastewater certification program. This is a special category of membership that was established just over a decade ago. There are currently five septic producer members, three of which are also full producer members.
Concrete is one of the most readily available and therefore commonly used materials on the planet. It is recyclable and made from all-natural materials including recycled materials making it ideal for green projects. It also lends itself to energy efficiency as it helps to lower the expenses of heating and cooling. Precasting takes these advantages to another level.
“It really helps the construction process because, particularly in road and bridge construction, where you want to reduce the impact to motorists, you’re able to because the concrete products are actually made off-site and delivered to the project site, so you cut the construction time down considerably,” said Thornton.
When compared to casting in place, precast concrete, because it is produced in a controlled environment, causes fewer traffic disruptions and improved project timelines. Thornton and PCANY work tirelessly to bring these advantages to the attention of industry stakeholders.
The company maintains a website with a wealth of information about the industry and its member companies as well as a searchable archive of its newsletters. “Our primary marketing and education initiative is the publication of a monthly newsletter. Each issue features projects involving our members’ products, and we also provide informative articles about other associated products and services as well as industry notes.” PCANY also has a buyers’ guide to assist contractors and engineers when selecting suppliers for their specific needs.
Thornton will sometimes present information at various industry events. “We also put up a display booth at some events such as Capital District Engineers Week, the annual Concrete Technical Conference and the New York State Waste Water Conference,” Thornton said.
PCANY directly and indirectly assists in the establishment of codes and standards. As executive director, Thornton serves on the NPCA technical committee and is a voting member of standards organization ASTM on issues surrounding precast concrete products.
“Our members meet twice a year with New York State DOT officials to discuss standards and procedures related to department projects that contain precast concrete products, and that’s been very productive for our members,” said Thornton. PCANY’s spring meeting took place early May.
Thornton attended the 2017 Precast Show, an annual event held this year in Cleveland, Ohio. “Actually, 2017 was my twentieth year attending the NPCA Precast Show and my third as PCANY director. The Precast Show is always a great opportunity to see old friends, meet new friends and stay up to date on what’s going on in the industry nationwide.”
Relationship building is a very important part of what PCANY does, and it has relationships with many industry partners. The return of the affiliates meeting at the 2017 Precast Show was of particular interest, as it has been on hiatus for the past several years. PCANY, among other state and regional associations, are affiliate members of NPCA.
“This meeting provided a unique opportunity to discuss issues with other directors and members from other parts of the country. We shared ideas on how to better serve our members. It was also a chance for the NPCA to talk about the resources they have that are available to local affiliates.
“We’re just a state association trying to promote our products. We’re trying to help our producers stay up to date with what’s going on with available technology and codes and standards and anything I can do to help them promote their products in the industry,” Thornton stated.
One example of the latest technology promoted by PCANY is a new engineering software for designing box culverts and three-sided members. ETCulvert is a Windows-based program for culvert design that performs high-tech structural analyses.
“Our goal both short- and long-term is to continue to promote quality, durable, economical, and constructable precast products. Like any other association we’d like to grow our membership as well as the readership of our newsletter,” said Thornton.
PCANY, through its newsletter, is sharing information as far as it can in the industry. “Contractors will do anything not to cast in place anymore. They want precast anything they can, so our challenge is to come up with ways to do that,” concluded Thornton.
Thornton continues his work with PCANY to advance both its members’ interests and the industry as a whole. By shining a light on the many advantages and uses of precast concrete products, PCANY is leading while serving as a unified voice for the industry.