Dec. 1, 2007
Tom Carroll, president of CS Unitec, Norwalk, Conn. Kevin Day, director of concrete and masonry product division for Carson, Calif.-based Multiquip Mike

Tom Carroll, president of CS Unitec, Norwalk, Conn.

Kevin Day, director of concrete and masonry product division for Carson, Calif.-based Multiquip

Mike Orzechowski, engineering manager, for Edco, Frederick, Md.

RER: What is new with concrete equipment in terms of technology, enhancements and features?

Carroll: Hand-held diamond core drilling has been made possible by development of a slip clutch, which protects the operator in case of jamming. Powerful, lightweight (14 pounds) hand-held core drilling machines often eliminate the need for heavy rig-mounted drill rigs (120 pounds). Hand-held core drilling is possible up to 3-inches in diameter. The core drill can be mounted in a lightweight drill stand (21 pounds) for 4-, 5- and 6-inch diameter holes in concrete. So the hand-held core drill is versatile and saves time setting up heavy rigs. The trend will be to lighter and more portable equipment. Concrete dust collection with a vacuum will continue to grow.

Day: There are two major areas that most manufacturers are concentrating on with concrete equipment. First is ergonomics — we at Multiquip are focusing much of our engineering efforts towards improving the comfort of the operator and will be introducing a few enhancements at the coming show in the first quarter of the year. Second, serviceability of equipment — we have been working in recent years on making our equipment more user friendly to the rental stores' and contractors' service departments so there is less downtime during normal service cycles. Downtime is lost production and financial opportunity.

Orzechowski: For polishing concrete, new resin formulations (including semi-metals), in the polishing accessories are providing contractors with more aggressive dry polishing.

What does the overall concrete equipment market look like?

Day: The industrial and commercial markets continue to be strong domestically. The strength over the past years in the housing market left a void in the infrastructure of many local markets and thus the commercial work is now very strong. As you might suspect with the poor housing market, concrete equipment related to the building of homes is very slow at this time.

What do you predict for the next year in the market regarding trends, growth and technology?

Carroll: Residential and housing will be slow. Commercial and industrial will have modest growth in 2008. Infrastructure work will be strong.

Day: We believe the market will be very similar in 2008 as it has been in 2007. There is still plenty of commercial and industrial work to be performed and the highway budgets are still strong. As for the housing market, we are all guessing at this point. The use of innovative technologies in materials, techniques and improved production is a must for all users of construction equipment and concrete equipment is no different. I look for new products designed to allow the contractor to be more efficient while performing at the same or improved quality.

Orzechowski: Two major trends are bringing equipment back to basics: safety and production. For safer equipment, look for more dust control, vacuums and water-misting systems for controlling respirable silica dust exposure. Minimizing noise is another area that seems to be getting a lot of focus. Decreasing vibration for hand-arm vibration exposure is another trend in safety.

Look for more electric motors over the gasoline, propane or diesel models for indoor use due to minimizing the exposure to CO emissions. Look for more folks in the sawing and drilling trades using ground-penetrating radar and other technologies to minimize risk associated with striking network cables, gas lines and electrical power lines.

For production, look for higher horsepower equipment, more aggressive tooling and heavier, more structurally sound frames. Many contractors are growing by increasing the services they provide instead of expanding the geographical area in which they work. A sawing and core-drilling contractor might be expanding the services he offers to include surface preparation or polishing to augment the services he normally offers.

What are customers asking for in concrete equipment and how are manufacturers responding to them?

Carroll: Customers are asking for faster and safer methods of drilling, cutting and grinding concrete. Manufacturers are expanding the models of hand-held core drills to drill anchor holes in concrete with high-speed machines and wet diamond core drills. Water-recycling vacuums are new technology, which saves time core drilling. It eliminates the time wasted refilling portable water tanks. It also makes it easy to capture the concrete slurry and dispose of the waste without polluting the environment. For cutting and grinding, manufacturers are developing vacuums for concrete dust collection. The vacuums have self-cleaning filters and other features, which make it ideal for portable concrete grinders and other masonry tools.

Day: Most contractors and rental companies are asking for increased performance at similar costs. This is a challenging process but we are working diligently to find areas where we can meet this demand. This is a tough process for all manufacturers.

Orzechowski: With the price of fuel skyrocketing, more folks are looking for means to save fuel by using diesel engines over gasoline engines, or using more aggressive equipment to minimize the runtime of the engines.

How much has the market grown in the past year and what do you anticipate for the coming year?

Carroll: I think the market grew about 5 percent in the past year. I expect growth of between 2 and 3 percent for 2008.

Day: We recognized a strong year in the concrete construction market in 2007. We expect the market to level off in 2008 as major jobs finish up. The lack of new home building will have its obvious effect on homeowner-specific products. We are not predicting a terrible 2008 but we are expecting to have moderate growth as it relates to concrete-finishing equipment.