CMA celebrates 50 years of best-practice precast concrete delivery

CMA general manager, Henry Cockcroft.

This year sees the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA) celebrating half a century in the promotion of best-practice precast concrete standards. Since it was founded in 1972 as the Concrete Block Association, the CMA has evolved into the undisputed custodian South Africa’s precast concrete industry.

Initially the Association received funding from members as well as the Portland Cement Institute (PCI) and later the Cement and Concrete Institute (C&CI).

During the early eighties it participated in the CSIR’s accelerated testing of paved roads and airport paving, an initiative led by Australia’s world-renowned precast concrete paving block expert, Dr Brian Shackel. His input formed the basis for the SANS (formerly SABS) standard in the manufacture of paving blocks and it transformed South Africa into a world leader in concrete block paving technology – a status it still enjoys today.

Its first full-time director, John Lane, was appointed in 1982 and its acclaimed Awards for Excellence competition was launched in 1985.

Lane was one of the country’s foremost masonry and paving experts and under his stewardship, the Association adopted a strong technical bias, conducting independent research into and publishing technical literature on applied precast concrete.  And thanks to its close working relationship with the South African Bureau of Standards most of today’s standards which regulate the production and application of precast concrete products, were established.

Lane was succeeded by Patrick Kelly in the 1990s and John Cairns took the helm in 1997. Cairns was succeeded by Hamish Laing (2010-2013), Wally Armstrong (2013-2015), Frans Minnaar (2015-2018) and the current incumbent, Henry Cockcroft, who was registered as a director and assumed the title of general manager in 2018.

As from 2013 Armstrong embarked on a new membership recruitment drive. He was also instrumental in streamlining the Association’s six operating divisions into two operational pillars, Precast Building and Precast Infrastructure, and this assisted in broadening the membership base and attracting new members.

When Frans Minnaar succeeded Wally Armstrong in 2016, many CMA producer members had grown dissatisfied with the certification of their products and this prompted Minnaar to found a specialist precast concrete certification body, CMACS (Concrete Manufacturers Association Certification Services) which was accredited by SANAS (South African National Accreditation System) in 2017. Its subsequent success has contributed substantially to the sustainability of the CMA.

And when Cockcroft succeeded Minnaar he initiated a well-defined strategy which strengthened communication ties between the CMA and the built environment and saw the appointment of the CMA’s first digital marketing expert, Liandre Bezuidenhout in 2019. He has played a major role in establishing the Association’s social media channels, an initiative which has paved the way for a new era of operation and communication.

Bezuidenhout was also instrumental in converting the CMA Awards for Excellence competition into a digital extravaganza. Unprecedented levels of reach into the digital built environment and associated industries were achieved during the 2022 competition, making it by far the Association’s most successful marketing exercise to date. The Association is currently involved with its 18th Awards for Excellence competition and has embarked on a new wave of precast concrete content delivery.

The Covid pandemic in 2020 saw a huge shift in the CMA’s business model. Its central office premises were permanently closed and the Association transferred its communications and marketing arms onto digital platforms.

During the same year the Association also played a pivotal role in collaborating with other stakeholders to form the Rapid Response Task Team, a body which successfully lobbied government to switch the cement and construction industry from Level 1 lockdown status to Level 4.

Another milestone was achieved in 2021 when CMACS expanded its product certification service to include ISO 9001 certification.

Cockcroft has every confidence that the CMA will continue to strengthen its position as the custodian of South Africa’s precast concrete industry.

“We will maintain our upward momentum and will always endeavour to ensure that we and our members operate to the best-practice standards.”

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