As a working mason contractor, building is what drives us — well, most of us, anyway. I was never into sales pitches or the latest and greatest things, but I have to say if it could vary my labor cost, those things caught my eye. In the masonry industry, some of today’s greatest minds have never constructed a building, but they clearly understand the industry inside and out. Understanding chemical properties, compatibility, and durability are all important factors when creating secure and functional products and wall systems that are constructed.
A few examples of ideas that came from non-masons are insulated Concrete Masonry Units found in the industry today, forklifts that can reach 53 ft. on a scaffold, mixers that dump hydraulically, and products made with better components to increase durability and functionality. It is important to give salespeople a break because some of what they share can help us. Having the mindset that “our company has done it this way for three generations” is a non-productive comment that just makes everyone uncomfortable.
This leads to the point that should be shared. I often hear salespeople say that you cannot do it as you always did because it no longer will work. I think they mean there are new ways to increase the performance and productivity of the project you are working on. The salespeople that say this do not understand the passing of knowledge from a mentor.
Many people in this industry followed in the footsteps of a parent, family member, or mentor. For me, it was my father. He was a carpenter; he could read a piece of lumber and know exactly how or where he wanted to cut it for a piece of furniture or a cabinet built in his shop. In the days when his production was the highest, his methods were efficient. But with technology, materials, and systems that have been developed over the years, his productivity would be quite challenged in today’s market.
So, when we say we have always done it this way and it has worked, I am sure it has. I often do tasks the same way as my father had because he had once done things this way, but I am not always efficient by today’s standards. New technology in the masonry industry is everywhere: from handles on trowels; mortar mixes with additives, clamps that hold the string line in place, to polymer modified membranes for flashing and drainage.
I am old enough to say I’ve seen firsthand the evolution of the drip edge change from an open-head joint to putting a polyester mesh to fill the head joint and scaffolds that are raised and lowered using a Honda engine and hydraulics. Would I have imagined all of this when I was 20? No, I was not that imaginative to go there. We could still build 4-story buildings using a pipe frame scaffold, but today, the high-speed scaffold would increase labor productivity, which is the point of this article.
So, since the masonry industry is made up of not only fantastic masons, it is also made up of great engineers, smart technicians, hardworking mechanics, traveling sales representatives, and backbone office staff members. It is time mason contractors look into newer technology, better performing products, and systems that can increase productivity and employee safety to maintain a competitive edge.