Have you ever heard the expression, “see how the sausage gets made?” I’ve heard the expression, but I like sausage and thankfully I’ve never had a chance to see how the sausage gets made. But I did recently have a chance to see how concrete pavers get made. And it was impressive!
I was extended an opportunity to go to Tacoma, Washington to attend the Belgard University and Grand Opening of CPM an Old Castle company’s new production facility. Belgard is a division of CPM and this event allowed landscape contractors, designers and architects an opportunity to learn about new Belgard patio and retaining wall products, programs and services available in the Pacific Northwest in 2018.
Right from the start I could see this was a forward thinking company.
One of the first things I took a look at was a pair of Virtual Reality (VR) glasses that allow one to view a 3D mockup up their new patio, retaining walls, outdoor kitchen and landscape. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. But after Mike Miles the Design Service Manager at Belgard had me put on a pair of the glasses I departed a believer. The VR glasses are coupled with Sketchup and a smart phone to give one the impression they are taking a gander through their new outdoor space. In fact, Mike had me sit down in swivel chair so I could rotate around and get a 360-degree perspective of the "fly through animation". Who said the garden is low-tech?!
After the welcoming ceremony I walked over to a tent that housed a display of nearly 30 products that Belgard was considering bringing to the Pacific Northwest market. The intent of this display was for the attendees to give feed back on the product. We were asked to give each product a numerical score and comment on the design and color of each of the patio and retaining wall products. This was really interesting. Not only did I like the idea of being able to give input, but also it was a great opportunity to learn from other industry professionals and contractors.
The main event was a tour of the newly opened production plant. This was fascinating. When I think of concrete I think water, and slop and a mess. Let me tell you, there was no slop or mess in this place. It was a sophisticated operation that was technically driven and concise. There is actually no water involved in the process.
The concrete derives from a dry mix that contains around 4% water. The mix is hydraulically compacted in a mold to form the paver or retaining wall product. Then baked in a kiln before it is palletized and stacked and prepared to ship to the customer. There are certainly some very procedural details that I am glossing over and probably don’t understand, but from the proverbial 10,000’ perspective you should get the picture.
Raw pavers fresh out of the mold prior to being baked in giant kilns. Our tour guide pinched a sample out of one to demonstrate the consistency of the product at this stage.
This was a really great event, and I’m not just saying this because they fed us lunch and raffled off slew of great prizes. Belgard’s products are high quality and have a great reputation. After the brief time I spent at their new facility I left realizing that quality is a part of their culture and it is reflected in their patio and retaining wall products.
Concrete mix is filled into the mold and hydraulically compacted to form a landscape paver
Raw Belgard pavers on sheets being robotically moved into giant kilns for baking at CPM an Old Castle company's new production facility in Tacoma, Washington.