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Better quarters ahead

Our remotely operating magazine staff has had few complications conducting business since the middle of March. We press onward to provide quality content, unable to fully ascertain the challenges readers confront with process changes, worker safety provisions, production scheduling, and material or product delivery amid pandemic response.

This year afforded no customary downtime following a long tour of duty in Las Vegas, where an early ConExpo-Con/Agg (note pages 16-17) closing ushered a bizarre first quarter close. Immediately after the show, as national advisories and state or local shelter-in strategies snowballed, construction materials and allied contractor groups moved quickly to support members striving to maintain operations.

“During this critical time in our nation’s history, it is imperative that construction is characterized as an ‘essential industry’ exempted from any current or future mandatory shelter-in-place orders or quarantines,” a producer and contractor coalition noted in a mid-March letter to the White House and governors. One-quarter of the signatories represented an overwhelming percentage of cement consumption, production and shipments: American Concrete Pavement Association, American Concrete Pipe Association, National Concrete Masonry Association, National Precast Concrete Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, plus Portland Cement Association.

Under normal post-show season circumstances, this column could focus on ConExpo-Con/Agg, World of Concrete and The Precast Show (note pages 18-19) developments—not on readers’ forced plea to government officials for permission to keep their lights on. Here I will stick with one major takeaway from the Las Vegas and Texas gatherings that concrete producers and their customers will see once a tempering of pandemic panic allows a return to normal office, plant and field operations: Internet of Things-styled quality control technologies.

Embedded maturity-monitoring devices measure slab or structure temperature and relative humidity, affording accurate estimates of early concrete strength development. The devices have emerged over the past five years with strong potential to save cast-in-place practitioners and precast producers time and labor. In the spirit of what we have witnessed during a month of shelter-in orders, maturity-monitoring devices mean fewer people on a job site and more technicians reporting critical QC data from remote locations.

Device specialists to watch include three from Ontario: AOMS Technologies, developer of the precast-geared LumiCon platform; Exact Technology Corp., which supports a family of gadgets for cast-in-place and precast applications (see “Sensor capture and relay maturity, temperature and formwork pressure data,” February, pages 58-59); and, Giatec Scientific (Roxi report this month, page 22), one of the maturity monitoring first movers. And, as we noted in January, (“Mix temperature monitoring,” pages 62-63) Texas pavement engineer Transtec Group continues to evolve its slab-monitoring IoT Command Center platform.

Concrete maturity monitoring rises to a new plateau with the arrival of a tool and equipment giant no less than Hilti North America. As we see on page 22 this month, Hilti has acquired Concrete Sensors of Cambridge, Mass. Management cites Concrete Sensors as an important IoT portfolio addition and appears set to allow the existing team to proceed with business as usual. Prior to attracting the attention of one of the world’s top brands in concrete saws, drills and routers, Concrete Sensors hit the radar of Cemex Ventures. The investment arm of Cemex S.A.B. de C.V. saw the upstart’s potential and appears to have made a good call on what was its first concrete investment.

We will cover other aspects of ConExpo-Con/Agg, World of Concrete, Precast Show and ICON Expo over the remainder of this quarter. Toward its end, we hope to be in a position to resume our own regular field duty, visiting productive plants and industry functions.