The local concrete industry must continuously move forward to remain relevant in a competitive market amid a developing economy where alternative construction materials and practices are gaining popularity, says cement producer PPC technical information services specialist Hanlie Turner.
“Three elements are required for a sustainable concrete industry: innovation, relevance and succession planning. “These concepts are not only interconnected but also crucial for the survival of the concrete industry.”
Turner explains that traditional research and development must make way for focused development on and investigation of innovative offerings in terms of materials, processes and outcomes, while upholding reliable engineering, design, construction and material fundamentals.
The concept of relevance cuts across the whole offering of construction products, she says, adding that the challenge is to remain at the forefront of what is available, achievable and practical for a sustainable built environment.
“The issue that is the most concerning, however, is succession planning. “A succession plan on paper is not enough to guarantee a safe future. “The responsibility remains on the shoulders of companies’ management to ensure a thorough understanding of and respect for engineering principles in the younger generation.”
Turner emphasises that mentoring junior staff members is crucial. If this is neglected, the industry will run the risk, in the next ten years, of “waves of uncorroborated innovation”, which will have far- reaching implications for the sustainability of materials, design and construction practices.
“While innovation must never be stifled, relevance must be encouraged by ensuring that the ground rules are embedded in newcomers to the industry. “We have a responsibility to harness the innovative energy of Generation X and the Millennials and to ensure that our industry remains in good hands,” she stresses.