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Concrete Contractor Challenges

by Brad Burns - HTC, Inc. Technical Director

(11-16-2015)

Concrete Contractor Challenges

As a contractor, we all face certain challenges.  Some of which are common throughout the construction industry - some even more common within the concrete polishing industry itself.

 

Most contractors struggle with maintaining a positive bottom line profit in today’s market. This has been a very common theme since the beginning of our industry. Two of the most common issues likely to have a detrimental effect on a company’s profits are labor and costs of goods sold.

 

If you can’t find good people willing to put in a hard days work then the best sales force in the industry can’t help you.  At the end of the day, we must provide the customer with a tangible item (floor) that they are happy with and willing to pay for.  In today’s society, it is becoming increasingly harder to find good people wanting to work - much less fill the position of polishing technician.  Pushing a 1000 lb. grinder around all day, working in a construction environment,  isn't exactly what most of today’s 20 something “millennials”  want to do for the rest of their life.  Many aren’t even willing to do it for a short time to learn a valuable trade and skill that will help them in the future.  When you do find that quality person that is willing to work for you, do them (and yourself) a favor and get them the industry training needed so that they won’t be so frustrated with the polishing process.  It can seem quite overwhelming at times, especially if you don’t know what to expect from the diamond tooling and/or concrete.  Throw in tight construction schedules, temperamental management superintendents that don’t know how to maintain a schedule, and fussy, uneducated owners and it would make anyone want to throw up their hands and quit.

 

Then you have cost of goods (materials), which seem to always be changing due to manufacturer’s “next best thing” on the market.  Chemistry (densifiersstain protection and dyes) all seem to be changing from year to year and getting more complex as to when and how much to apply.

 

Diamond tooling is also very competitive in our industry.  Most of the veteran contractors have figured out which tools work best for them under certain conditions.  They have achieved this over several years and several (hundred) thousands of dollars of trial and error.  They’re not likely to share this wealth of information with their “competition”.  New contractors must rely on manufacturers and industry training to provide them with the much needed education of diamond tooling.  In the next few months, HTC will be offering technical webinars that are quick (15 min) educational presentations followed by a 30 minute Q&A session to help answer questions from the field.  We hope that this will assist contractors in making better choices and provide easier, more profitable projects.

 

Diamond tooling is probably the most misunderstood aspect of the polishing process.  Most contractors probably think they are all similar and it’s a matter of choosing the “right” tool for the process.  While this may hold true in most circumstances, how many of you can afford to carry $100k in diamond tooling to the project in hopes to have the “right” tool?  Wouldn’t it be better to understand the tooling you have and know how to make it perform under the current job site conditions?  Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to scramble at the last minute to find the “right” tool on a Friday afternoon for that weekend job?

 

Diamond tools are designed to work within a certain temperature range.  Too little and they won’t perform; too much and they of course will glaze over.  Heat is a by-product of friction, caused by the diamond tooling grinding against the concrete substrate given certain weight and speed parameters.  The weight of the grinder coupled by the speed of the heads, and the harder the concrete, equates to more friction/heat.  A recent trend within our industry is for concrete placement contractors to install harder, more abrasion resistant concrete in hopes to mitigate “blame” for poor placement during polishing projects.  While this may be good at the onset, now polishing contractors are having to deal with extremely hard concrete and tools that tend to glaze over quickly.

 

Polishing technicians are faced with the challenge of balancing the weight/speed/tooling bond hardness ratio to find a solution for cutting the concrete without glazing the diamond tools.  Recently, HTC introduced the Airflow™ tool holders to help with this issue.  At first glance, contractors often ask; “ what the heck is that?”  After telling them the thought process behind the development, they often exclaim; “Really?!?”

 

Yes, Really!  The Airflow™ tool holders are designed to increase the airflow in/around the metal bond tooling allowing the air to escape quickly and keep the diamond tools cooler.  Much like a fan would if attached to the heads of the grinder.  This allows the diamond tooling to remain within the designed temperature range allowing it to perform better and last longer.  What does every contractor want? To be able to get the job done quickly and make it look good enough to get paid quickly.  Airflow™ tool holders help you achieve both.  HTC Airflow™ tool holders will allow you to utilize the diamond tools you probably already have in your toolbox.  Thereby helping to achieve quick, better, results toward that flat floor and refined surface.

 

HTC Airflow™ tool holders can quickly contribute to the profitability of your projects by increasing performance and thereby decreasing time on the job.  Contractors have reported a 15 degree decrease in tooling temperature (by using a digital thermometer) when using the Airflow™ tool holders vs. traditional rigid plates.  That’s a noticeable difference that can also be quickly seen in the performance of tooling used on very hard concrete.

 

Our industry will most likely continue to struggle with labor issues.  And it’s a given that each year prices will continue to increase for products - including (quality) diamond tooling. It’s nice to know that one manufacturer is continually looking for ways to help you, the contractor, save money and perform better.

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