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Heading: does one learn new things
In the concrete industry, do you expect to learn new things by testing alone?

I ask, because you seem to limit your thinking. Is it because ya'll believe you are the experts? What makes you think that?

How does one expand their thinking, do you know? When you were taught this trade, besides the physical aspects, what else were you taught to consider?

Maybe your trade has overlooked things. I point this out, because it seems your field of vision,--just like so many others has been limited by --people that may not be the best.

In my trade, they have proven that their ignorance is plagued by greed. I was just wondering, does it seem that way with yours?

Jim Ryan

Good thoughts!!!
Some of my aggregates industry friends and I have recently been discussing the same issues.
I wonder if there is potential within this forum to establish, at least, a compilation of basic operational / management skills related to various levels in the aggregates industry.
Is anybody interested in discussing such a thing?
Alan Bessen

The thoughts presented here are driven by a previous forum posting by a guy named Jim Ryan titled “1.1How does one learn new things?”

When I started my career as an engineer in the quarry industry in the early 1970’s, I spent 12 months being trained in all areas of quarry and plant operations. This process established mentoring relationships which continued to provide support and direction as I learned what one might call the ‘total awareness’ theory of aggregate processing and management. Total awareness training required ‘hands on’ experience which first emphasized identification of the essential steps in the aggregate process, but then moved on to learning that the measurement and management of each essential step was the way to achieve maximum production and profit from an operation.

A number of my equally experienced and similarly trained associates and myself offer the observations below related to management and operational skills in the aggregates industry. These observations are not meant to imply that our opinions are universally correct, as there are always exceptions, but given current economic and operational reality in the industry, Jim’s question is appropriate, timely and worthy of restating at least for purposes of establishing whether these observations are shared by others. I would welcome the comments of the members of this forum on the following:

Observation #1:
Until recently, the aggregates industry has benefited from a well funded upgrade for highways, bridges and basic infrastructure. With this, profitability has been comparatively certain for the last decade or more. This enabled aggregate producers to absorb the cost of existing inefficiency by increasing volume and raising selling prices. Given the current state of the world economy, this luxury may no longer be available.

Observation #2:
Over the past 20 years or so, an increasing burden has been placed on operations management to manage non-operational, non-production details. Compliance with environmental, safety, permitting, budgeting and human resource priorities are all necessary; however none of them have a direct positive impact on operating performance.

Observation #3:
As the role of operations management shifts to regulatory and corporate compliance, management of critical operational variables including pit development, crushing and screening performance, maintenance, inventory management, etc. is proportionally reduced. This often results in a reactive approach to managing the operations including a presumption that merely keeping the plant running regardless of efficiency is good enough.

Observation #4:
This shift in role toward compliance management leaves many managers without the time to acquire knowledge of operational details and the skills needed to effectively implement changes in operating procedure or processes. In fact, many production managers receive only compliance training and are left on their own to acquire production, maintenance and operational skills.

Observation #5:
With the current economic situation threatening infrastructure upgrade funding, it would appear that compliance management alone is no longer adequate. Operating performance directly relates to operating cost; operating cost and production yield directly relate to profit; profitability relates directly to economic viability of an aggregates operation; all of our jobs depend on corporate profitability; and finally all of these things require both competent compliance and performance managers for each operation. So for those who are not already there, the question becomes as Jim Ryan asks… “How does one learn new things?” …and become capable of effectively managing all aspect of an aggregates operation.

Concluding Observation:
Metaphorically speaking as I have been taught by my Kentucky born wife;

“…many managers are up to their waists in the swamp and spend so much time looking behind them making sure that they don’t get bitten by corporate or regulatory alligators that they never get out of the swamp and certainly do not have the time to consider the strategic value of draining the swamp.”

In other words, many managers are forced by circumstances out of their control to react, in crisis mode to events that they have not been trained to deal with, both operationally and in their compliance role. For many this leaves little or no time to consider options for improving performance or strategic planning much less their operating skills or their job security.

Alan Bessen

Alan, you suggest that many quarry plant managers do not have time to do their job properly, including the acquisition of new knowledge. I do not buy this. I have been going on about people thinking there is not much to know about concrete technology so I certainly can’t say (as initially tempted) that there is not all that much to know about quarry management. However I can say that I don’t think things in the industry are changing so quickly that it is unreasonable to expect competent people to keep up to date with what is published. I cannot accept that it is harder to keep up to date with aggregate production than it is with concrete production (incidentally my son is required to do both in his current position).

Someone (probably several) will be finding time, and being intelligent enough, to devise answers to the problems of the industry. So what it amounts to is that either they are not willing to pass on their knowledge or they are, or have been, unaware of the existence of the ARI forum (and probably several other media providing space for longer articles) to pass on that knowledge.

Things do not change every day or every week, so a continuous struggle to keep up to date is not involved. So if one or more people are evolving better methods, and can be persuaded to write about them or otherwise make them generally available, then it is a matter of the average manager finding a few hours from time to time to absorb and act on this knowledge. I have done a few 70+hr weeks in my time in such an endeavour and it is survivable. An ex Prime Minister of Australia once said, “life was not meant to be easy”.

Ken Day

Ken Day


Since you seem claim to know everything, please tell us what is ment by premature aging of the epoxy, associated with the Ted Williams tunnel--specifically and then tell us why there are so many failures in the concrete industry--which by the way, many on here ask for help in an effort to stop from making mistakes they once obviously made?

Then tell us what the downside of fly-ash--slag and slump are. Nothing and no one is perfect. Another man claims you are very smart and by his careful response, he seems an intelligent man, so when he claimed you are a smart man, I believed him. However sir, it seems you blame another man for not being perfect.

Perhaps Mr.Bessen has a much bigger operation than you ever had and perhaps Mr.Bessen takes each and every detail of his operation to a degree you may have never experienced. Until you have walked in another mans shoes, you cannot possibly know. Criticizing is easy, while being nice and helpful is not so easy. One has to set aside his pride and fear, to do such.

While I don't know much in the technicle sense about concrete, what I do know, you know nothing of and yet, I never downed you for not knowing what you could not possibly know.

You blame Mr.Bessen for not knowing everything, so it seems only fair that you take the lead and explain what no one else in this industry has, by answering my above questions.

It seems the people at this site read everything before it is posted and it takes quite some time before posts are made. While that can be a good thing, it does cut down on the readership and participation---from my viewpoint. However, I'm sure it also cuts down on a lot of ignorant bickering.

Jim Ryan
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