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Visualizing a Strong Foundation Built on Lower-Emissions, Lower-Water Concrete
October 12, 2011
U.S. Concrete, Inc. is among the top 10 producers of ready-mixed concrete in the U.S. The company, which owns several concrete businesses including my firm, services major construction markets in two business segments: ready-mix concrete and concrete-related products; and precast concrete products. The company strives to bring technology and a sustainability mindset to meet the needs of building owners and society.
Recognizing that “portland” cement – the “glue” that binds concrete together -- is an essential component of concrete and is responsible for 6% to 8% of human-generated carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most attributed as the source of global warming, U.S. Concrete is the first national concrete company to make a companywide commitment to improving the environment through our EF Technology®, which focuses on Environmentally Friendly innovations.
The market demand for environmentally friendly concrete is strong on
the west coast and Central Concrete Supply Co., Inc. (the San Francisco Bay Area operation of U.S. Concrete) has taken steps to lead both in EF Technology® and sustainable management metrics. With Climate Earth, our partner in carbon accounting, analysis and software, we have implemented a sustainable management system that provides key management metrics in the context of our financial performance. The system provides periodic management metrics covering our internal operations, our supply chain and over 1,400 concrete mixes from 14 plants.
The executive dashboard (labeled the “Executive Summary” graphic) tracks the key sustainable metrics that we view as strategic for our long term success. The two most important are the (1) the average green house gas (GHG) content per cubic yard of concrete delivered and (2) the average gallons of water per cubic yard delivered. The company has measured GHG for 3 years and water since 2010. Both metrics include all aspects of our business, consumption in our supply chain, in operations, and manufacturing of the mix.
We also track the comparative performance of plants, in order to adopt best practices and provide incentives to management at all levels.
Another valuable tool is the “heat map” (see graphic) that is an interactive data visualization tool. This chart depicts plant performance with the size of the block representing total expense and the color from red to green representing the relative GHG intensity of the operation. This is another way to focus operations on the GHG per cubic yard sold.
*Overhead is high because capital costs are centralized, and depreciation is included; thus, there is a large cost but low intensity. These impacts could have allocated, but keeping it separate gives the plant managers a better view of what metrics they can directly influence.
In the near future we plan to accelerate this effort by providing new on-line sales tools which will guide customers towards seeing the benefit of choosing lower impact mixes which also meet or exceed all their required performance measures.
But the bottom line is that this move to sustainability really is a strategic imperative. The traditional Portland-cement-based concrete market is declining and could be overtaken by new clean green technology over the next 10 to 15 years. U.S. Concrete is positioned to lead in green technology, sustainable operations and expertise for these advanced solutions.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What insights can you gain from these dashboards and tools? What tools do you use at your enterprise? Share your insights and experiences – and we will summarize them on Friday October 14.