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Five Important Customer Service Skills

  1. The ability to really listen to customers is crucial for providing great service.

Not only is it important to pay attention to customer interactions, but it is also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive.

  1. Having knowledge of the product you are selling.

Without knowing all the aspects of your product, you won’t be able to help your customer choose which product is right for their intended use.

  1. Spending time with your customers.

It is proven that spending more time with your customer is beneficial to both parties.

There is a limit. You need to be mindful with getting customers what they need in an efficient manner. They have busy schedules also.

  1. A great work ethic and a willingness to do what needs to be done is a key skill when providing the kind of service that customers remember and will tell others about.

Remembering that your customers are people too, and knowing that putting in the extra effort will come back to you ten-fold, should be your motivation to never take shortcuts, no matter how busy you might be at the time.

  1. If you come across as authentic, if you’re relatable, if you make a product your customers want/need, and if you take the time to show them you appreciate them and connect with them on a real level, the results can be impressive.

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but LEGENDARY.” – Sam Walton

Rick Hodek
Sales – North Dakota


A World of Precast

The precast concrete industry offers an incredibly diverse range of building and infrastructure products to architects, engineers, DOTs, contractors and homeowners. From structural frameworks and architectural flourishes to septic tanks and bridges, no other building material is as dynamic as precast concrete. You can find precast in many projects all over the world, some of them truly stunning works of art.

Kita Kindergarten – Göttingen, Germany

Located in the town of Göttingen, Germany, the Kita Kindergarten serves as a case study for the proactive approach to self-sufficiency and sustainability through careful attention to energy efficiency standards. The team at Despang Architekten developed multiple strategies to address the various elements that enveloped the site, ranging from thermal performance to daylighting and optimal building orientation.

In terms of space planning, the programming was tightly integrated early on into the design decision to utilize a sloping roof. The rear northern portions of the building with low height ceilings house the mechanical and restrooms. Primary circulation comprises the midway section of the fan shaped floor plan that is designed with built-in furniture and interior glazing between the main activity spaces. Effective daylighting by means of skylights in the ceilings of the hallways ensures more than adequate diffuse light during the day.  Located within the southernmost section of the building are multifunctional rooms, sleeping rooms, and staff and kitchen areas bordering the eastern elevation.

When it comes to designing for highly active uses such as kindergartens, longevity of construction and materiality play a major factor.  When it came to deciding on the material palette, Despang Architekten employed a limited number of materials – precast concrete, spruce wood, and linoleum all untreated and left raw. Utilizing factory produced precast elements in the form of insulated sandwich panels for the exterior walls and thinner slabs for interior bearing elements ensured rapid assembly and better quality control. A limited amount of joints also aided in the rapid assembly – with only a few minor interior demising walls requiring infill construction components.  As the concrete walls radiate from the centroid of the conical floor plan, their non-parallel orientation in combination with ceiling mounted wood diffusers lends itself to enhanced acoustical properties typically not associated with predominantly concrete construction.

Throughout the years the building continues to outperform the Passive House standard of 15kwh/m2 annually. The Kita Kindergarten at the Göttingen University campus stands as testament that energy efficient buildings need not be bland or stale, and through a holistic approach and attention to detail, the aesthetic, performative and humanistic qualities can cross contribute to a create better, healthier overall space to inhabit.

 

General Contractor: Dawe Göttingen
Architect:
 Despang Architekten
Architects In Charge: Günther Despang/Martin Despang
Project Architects: Philip Hogrebe/Jörg Steveker
Client: University of Göttingen
Structural and Bioclimatic Engineering (PassivHaus): Drewes and Speth Hannover
Accoustical Engineering: Reichert Hannover
Prefab Concrete: Universalbeton Heringen GmbH
Area: 512 sqm
Year: 2010
Photographs: Jochen Stüber, Olaf Baumann


Why are more and more designers using precast hollowcore plank?

The Hollowcore product was first introduced to our region in the 1950’s and quickly became the concrete floor system of choice for many designers. Structural floor systems must carry their own weight in addition to all applied loads. While a conventional 8″ cast-in-place concrete slab weights 150 pounds per square foot, the same 8-inch section of Wells Concrete Ultraspan Hollowcore Plank weights only 63 pounds per square foot. The lighter self-weight and use of high strength prestress strand allows for much longer spans with the ability to carry higher applied loads.

Ultraspan Hollowcore Plank is produced indoors on a 4′-0″ wide 500′ long steel casting bed. Concrete is extruded from the Ultraspan machine as it moves down the length of the casting bed; the extruder uses multiple mechanical augers to create the cores and high frequency vibration to aid compaction. A zero slump concrete mix is used to reduce curing time to as little as six hours.  This process also uses 25% less cement than other similar systems.

This product comes in 8″, 10″ and 12″ depths with spans up to 54′-0″ and can be used for virtually any floor or roof system. It is also used as a structural slab on grade where poor soil conditions exist.

Installers can set as much as 8,000 square feet per day and, unlike other concrete decks, can be installed in cold weather areas at the same speed.

The speed of installation alone is a big reason why we are seeing an increase in demand, that coupled with sound transmission (STC) rate of 50 plus and fire ratings up to 3 hours without the need to use applied fireproofing make the value of Ultra Span Hollowcore a designer’s first choice.

Gary Pooley
Regional Sales Manager


BIM – Rekindle the Excitement

Wells Concrete’s experience with BIM (Building Information Modeling) is not an uncommon one in the precast industry. Wells’ first experience with 3D modeling was around the year 2000, and my own first involvement was a decade ago in 2007. Most expectations at the time were that the drafting efficiency using modeling would match existing 2D drafting in a year- or two year-long development phase. After the drafting in 3D was perfected, we’d be able to reap all the additional rewards that BIM has to offer: great coordination in design-build projects and software tools assisting with clash detection, material quantities, scheduling, estimating, and design.

The frustrating result was that we did not quickly achieve efficiency with the basic modeling portion of BIM that is essential for all the extra bells and whistles of BIM.

Now in 2017, a few software packages later, it looks like there is reason to believe we’ve made 3D modeling work. Drafting efficiency in modeling projects is nearing the efficiency of traditional 2D drafting, with some of our best modelers exceeding traditional drafting efficiency. At this point, a lot of elements – including training, software, work process, product and detail libraries – and drawing formats are by no means perfect, but good enough for 3D modeling to function competitively. With so much room for improvement in 3D modeling, there is a lot of potential to out-perform 2D drafting.

While there are many success stories of BIM use by various firms, projects, and individuals at the leading edge of technology, there has also been many who have been discouraged by the difficulties of implementing the technology. With 3D modeling becoming practical and nearing preferred status, the use of information contained in the model can become a greater reality for the masses. That is where we should get excited about BIM again. BIM is no longer just for the tech-savvy fore-runners of technology. It’s at a point that it can assist nearly everyone with items like project planning, estimating, scheduling, material inventories, VR manufacturing, design coordination, and design analysis.

Tim Edland
Director of R&D


Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for Retirement

 Most individuals think of IRAs and 401ks when the topic of retirement savings comes up.  More and more Americans are looking to an additional option to aid in their retirement goals.  One such savings vehicle that is gaining traction is a health savings account (HSA).

HSAs are designed for to be used to pay for qualifying healthcare expenses. You can contribute pre-tax money and use it towards medical costs whenever you want. There are no “use-it-or-lose-it” rules and any unused funds will roll over year to year.  Also, some providers allow participants to move a portion of their savings into an investment account in efforts to achieve a better return on the money held within the account.  The part of these vehicles that makes them very appealing is what is referred to as “a triple tax benefit”.   As you put money into the account, it is tax deductible, as it grows, the earnings are tax-deferred and you can take it out tax free, if used for qualified medical expenses.

Should you need to access these funds, withdraw money from the account, for non-healthcare expense before the age of 65, you’ll pay a 20 percent penalty.  After age 65 you can withdraw your HSA funds for non-qualified expenses at any time although they are subject to regular income tax.   That’s why HSAs can be an appealing retirement-savings tool.

You can only contribute money to an HSA if you have a high-deductible health care plan (HDHP), one that offers a lower monthly health insurance premium and a high deductible. If an HDHP makes sense for you and you decide to open an HSA, the contribution limit for 2017 is $3,400 per year if you’re single and $6,750 per year if you have a family. If you’re 55 or older, you can make an additional $1,000 “catch up” contribution.  Some employers will make a contribution into this account for its employees, only further driving the benefit of such an account.

HDHP’s are not well suited for someone on medications, have a chronic illness, or you might be going to the doctor frequently over the course of a year.

Ryan Stroschein
Chief Financial Officer


Technology Across the Generations

During the last few decades the human generations have experienced a huge growth in the development of technology. Baby boomers and Millennials have experienced a huge change in technology that has had an effect on their behavior and lifestyle.

 

Baby Boomers born between 1945 to 1965

  • Grew up to the development of technology and are classified as “digital immigrants”
  • Saw the first IBM and Apple PC’s
  • Used Pre-mobile technology
  • Lived with the main technology breakthroughs of the rotary phone and tube television
  • Experienced entertainment outdoors with other kids learning conversation skills and life lessons

In the early 60’s when technology was first introduced to the boomers it had little impact on their daily lives and didn’t play a pivotal role in that era. In the 70’s technology had little impact because it was seen as something that only the academics used.  It was in the 80’s that technology invaded people’s homes and changed their behaviors.

Millennials born between 1979 to early 2000’s

  • Are “Digital Natives” who lived through the technological evolution
  • Grew up in a time of rapid change
  • Connect to people globally because by the 1990’s technology was everywhere
  • Adapted quickly to the explosive change
  • Called the“ Always-on” generation with Internet and smartphones

 

Today boomers and millennials have access to the same technology but their behaviors are different. Boomers use technology to assist them with getting information and increase their conveniences where Millennials use technology for connections, recognition and self-expression.

Generations will come and go. Technology on the other hand will always stay and continue to evolve in the hands of the current generation. Technology in the future is going to shape the newer generations and among 81% of children will have a digital footprint by the time they are only two years old.

Depending on who you are, sometimes that rotary phone doesn’t sounds so bad.

 

Jeff Holt
Sales – Iowa/Southern Minnesota

The Evolution of Technology Across Generations. (2016, November 10). Retrieved from https://nordic-it.com/evolution-technology-throughout-generations/

 


Simplicity in the workplace

 

In today’s fast pace world, with deadlines and responsibilities always looming over heads, it’s easy to lose track of the most efficient way to solve problems and accomplish tasks – simple face to face communication and utilizing past successes. I think at times we could all take a step back and get back to the basics of what got us all into the positions that we are in. After all, it started with an interview and communicating with another individual, expressing to them the value you can bring. We tend to get caught up in the corporate world and shy away from the most essential piece of the whole picture, good communication and moving forward from past experiences. Without taking these first steps, all steps after that will be for nothing. It is easy to make things more complicated than they need to be, but slowing down to reason will often lead to success. As stated by someone more clever than myself, “Simplicity is language and design that makes the complex clear.”

Reed Hudson
Sales – Iowa/South Dakota


A World of Precast

The precast concrete industry offers an incredibly diverse range of building and infrastructure products to architects, engineers, DOTs, contractors and homeowners. From structural frameworks and architectural flourishes to septic tanks and bridges, no other building material is as dynamic as precast concrete. You can find precast in many projects all over the world, some of them truly stunning works of art.

Lotus Temple – New Delhi, India

The temples of the Baha’i Faith are well known for their architectural splendor, and the Temple constructed in Delhi is a continuation of this rich tradition. Before undertaking the design of the temple, the architect, Fariborz Sahba, had traveled extensively in India to study the architecture of this land and was impressed by the design of the beautiful temples, as well as by the art and religious symbols wherein the lotus invariably played an important role.

 

Inspired by the lotus flower, the design for the House of Worship in New Delhi is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall slightly more than 40 metres tall that can seat 1,300 people and hold up to 2,500 in all. The surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble from Penteli mountain in Greece, the same marble from which many ancient monuments (including the Parthenon) and other Bahá’í Houses of Worship are built. Along with its nine surrounding ponds and the gardens, the Lotus Temple property comprises 26 acres (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha).

 

The temple complex consists of the main house of worship, the ancillary block which houses the reception center, the library and the administrative building, and the restrooms block. The temple proper comprises a basement to accommodate the electrical and plumbing components, and a lotus-shaped superstructure to house the assembly area. The structural system includes a concrete frame and a precast concrete ribbed roof, with the entire quantity of white cement coming from Korea. Specially graded dolomite aggregates were procured from the Alwar mines near Delhi and white silica sand from Jaipur.

 

Architect: Fariborz Sahba
Structural Engineer: Flint & Neill
Contractor: ECC Construction Group of Larsen & Toubro Limited

Megan Nesius
Marketing Coordinator


Insist on Certification

Wells Concrete operates in five states and one province, and we are PCI (Precast Concrete Institute) and CPCI (Canadian Precast Concrete Institute) certified. If you are a building owner, engineer, architect, or in any other position of being responsible for acquiring precast, a question you may have is, “Why bother? What difference does it make? It’s all the same when it’s finished.”

I’m here to tell you that it does matter, and that you should absolutely insist that the precaster providing your product is PCI or CPCI certified. To understand why you should insist on this certification you need to understand what we do as precasters.

Precast concrete is a complex amalgamation of high performance concrete, high quality steel, and other components that are engineered and incorporated into structures where its proper performance is critical to life, safety, and long term durability. The process we use to fabricate, transport, and install our product is elaborate, including design software, computer-controlled batch plants that produce the concrete, and modern casting equipment. The process is driven by the design calculations and drawings produced by our engineers working within the guidelines set out by PCI or CPCI as well as the architect, engineer of record, and local codes. It is imperative as we manufacture each component that the correct concrete is used, the prestressing is done to specification, and the concrete is cured properly. In addition it is equally important that each individual piece of precast is stored, moved, and installed within the certification guidelines.

We are able to accomplish this by the dedicated, hard work of all Wells Concrete employees working in harmony with our Quality Control department. Prior to casting, during casting, and after casting, forms are inspected, concrete is tested and each piece is checked for conformance. Should any test result not be within specifications, the issue is rectified or the piece is re-made, and detailed records of all the test results are kept.

Not only does certification set the bar for best practices, the entire process is audited by an independent third party. These audits are conducted randomly and include review of records, procedures, and observing operations in the plants to assure that everything is in compliance. By using a certified precaster you will know that your precast is the best available, providing confidence in its safety, and that it will perform well its entire service life. Without PCI or CPCI certification there is no way of determining that the precast is manufactured, transported, or installed properly. There will be no assurance with respect to life, safety, or the long term performance.

Simply put, without certification, there is no peace of mind.

PCI or CPCI certification, insist on it.

Art Macaw P. Eng.
Wells Concrete Canada


Business Process Mapping and Root Cause Analysis

What is business process mapping?

Business process mapping refers to activities involved in defining what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a business process should be completed, and how the success of a business process can be determined.

What is root cause analysis?

Root cause analysis (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems.

So what does this all mean?

It is the heart of what we do in our everyday lives and what we do at our jobs every day. Everything we do has to do with process, whether it’s picking out your clothes in the morning or how you do your job. From a business standpoint, flow chart mapping is critical for everyone involved in the process to know their responsibility and to know who will be doing the next step in the process. It becomes the roadmap, if you will, to how we should be doing our jobs and in what time frame.

Constructing a process flow map at a high level for your business is something a lot of companies never do. It is time consuming and you have to think of every step along the way. This sounds easy, but now introduce the many different departments into the process and it becomes increasingly complex. However, what it does for employees is gives them clear vision of who is doing what part and when.

So, why do we need root cause when we have a process flow chart? We use the root cause analysis to make the flow chart better. When a mistake is made or a step is missed, it comes out during the root cause analysis phase. The most important part is to make sure when the mistake is made or the step is missed that you go back to the process map, make the changes needed and make sure those changes will be sustainable.

Steve Kloos
VP – Quality Control


Building Materials: Precast vs Steel

When choosing the structural component of a new building, the decision may come down to either steel or precast. In the past, many owners and users looked only at short-term construction costs. The least expensive building to construct typically was the preferred choice. Now this is shifting with more attention on building a better building. So, why consider using a precast concrete wall panel system over steel?

Construction Advantages

  • Concrete panels can be built simultaneously in a manufacturing facility, then erected in a short period of time. This manufacturing process allows design and construction to overlap, reducing the delivery cycle of a new facility.
  • Includes structural capacity, insulation, and architectural exterior in one 8”-12” panel which eliminates coordination and construction schedules of multiple trades.
  • The aesthetic versatility of precast concrete allows designers to achieve many different looks.
  • The precast panels do not need intrusive structural steel columns at the perimeter of the building.
  • Precast panels can be installed immediately after the installation of the foundations. Having the building enclosed and protected from the elements quickly means you can allow more trades on-site installing more materials.
  • The time savings can also be considered a cost benefit. A shortened construction schedule means a reduction in job-site overhead (salaries, trailer and utilities) that results in significant savings.

Thermal and Environmental Capabilities 

  • Precast consistently outperforms conventional steel panel construction by reducing air infiltration and moisture build-up – reducing overall operating costs.
  • The increased thermal mass of precast walls also reduces temperature swings, which can reduce heating and cooling costs. These maintenance cost reductions may make the life-cycle comparison of using precast walls competitive even if the initial costs are higher.
  • Precast panels are an all-weather system compared to installing fiberglass insulation in wet weather as you would with steel. This significantly reduces–if not eliminates–the transfer of air and moisture through the structure.
  • Concrete exteriors can provide better security than steel.
  • Precast also delivers superior sound abatement and resistance to a variety of natural forces, such as high winds and fire.

Jace Rossow
Sales


OSHA regulation will have a dramatic effect on construction

As of September 23rd of this year, OSHA silica dust regulations will be applied to our field operations. Any operation that produces free silica dust into the air will be a violation. This rule will send ripples through our entire organization. For the last two decades, we at Wells have taken pride in the fact that we can produce wall panels with no lifters in the face of the product which require patching after installation. Our ability to provide odd shaped panels to create wall openings allowed us to reduce piece numbers, speed up field services, and lower costs to the customer. Our customers have come to expect C, E, and F shaped panels

placed back to back to create openings that are larger than possible in “punched” openings in a full width wall panel. We were able to manufacture, finish, and ship these odd shapes due to our use of concrete “bridges” through the openings.  These bridges provided temporary support until the panel was in its final position at which time the bridge was simply cut out and hauled off site. As of September, this will no longer be possible. We are currently experimenting with a number of other options, none of which offer the simplicity or effectiveness of the concrete bridge. Rest assured, Wells will continue to experiment with lifting products to provide the best possible solution for our customers.

What does this mean for you? The main effect is going to be increased costs. The number of lifters used to handle wall panels is going to increase and, in many cases, the lifters are going to have to be in the face of the panel which leads to patching, which wasn’t previously required.  If the wall happens to be furred out, this isn’t an issue but the majority of projects we do today rely on the wall panel to provide the wall finish. Another effect will be an increase in the piece numbers. Instead of setting 2 panels back to back to create openings, we may be forced to set mullion panels and headers to create the desired look. This increase could result in two panels becoming anywhere from four to seven panels. That means extra pours, extra handling, extra crane time, etc.

I don’t believe, however, that the new regulation will have any effect on our flexibility in terms of providing the aesthetics that our customers have come to expect.

Ryan Garden
VP – Drafting & Engineering