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Message From the Director: Technology is Tilt-Up

Technology — it’s hard to live with it, but impossible to live without it. Within six months of purchasing a new computer or learning how to run an operating system, they update and “improve” it. But can you imagine your business without a computer, without a fax machine, without a cell phone, without a digital camera or a PDA? It’s been just over 20 years since these innovations exploded onto the marketplace (less in some cases) – and the versions that were available then pale in comparison to what is available now. I remember how happy I was to pay just over $1000 for my first hard drive. It would store an amazing 10 megabytes (yes, megabytes) of data. That equates to $100 per megabyte. I could get rid of hundreds of 5-1/4” temperamental floppy disks. That first Apple Macintosh (yes, I’m MAC and Jim is PC) had a whopping 512K (yes, K) worth of memory. The last time I checked, you could buy a 500 gigabyte hard drive for around $140. That is a cost of 0.00024 cents per megabyte, a reduction in the cost per megabyte of around 400,000 times. In another year or two the cost of a terabyte will be that low.

These technologies allow you to run your business more efficiently, but technical innovations also allow you to build better with concrete. The computer has improved Tilt-Up concrete with engineering software, 3-D visualization, and CAD software. The laser screed allows you to build slabs so flat they had to reinvent how we describe flatness. That, in turn, allows contractors to build panels with controlled thicknesses and exterior finishes rivaling (some will say better than) factory cast precast. Plastics (remember “The Graduate”) have provided us the means to build thin brick panels, to support panels for leveling, and construct nearly perfect joints. Composite materials allow us to build insulated wall panels that are nearly perfect insulators. Chemicals have improved the quality of concrete by replacing water and they have made sticking panels almost a thing of the past.

Some technologies in use by other areas of the industry haven’t made it to the Tilt-Up industry yet. One of these is the robotic layout technology. These sophisticated devices have taken the residential foundation industry by storm; allowing multiple sets of plans to be uploaded into a unit and for one person to lay out a complicated foundation with pinpoint accuracy. Could this be the next idea to impact Tilt-Up?

What will the future hold for new technology and products? If the advancements in computer storage are any indication, we won’t recognize the industry twenty years from now. You don’t have to be an inventor, however, to get involved with new innovations. The TCA gets at least a half-dozen inquiries per year from individuals or companies with products they think, or hope, will revolutionize the industry.

The typical inquiry relates to whether or not the industry can use the product they have to offer. We give them our opinions and send them to some of our early-innovator contractor members. Using a product in field conditions is the true test of whether or not it has potential. We are always looking for these early innovators. If you would like to be considered on our “referral list,” give Jim or me a call or send us an email. Guinea pigs can be cute.


Ed Sauter, Executive Director

TCA Board of Directors

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.