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Uniting a growing industry

Roads & Infrastructure spoke to Sarah Bachmann, CEO of the National Precast Concrete Association, about her experience working with the precast concrete industry in Australia.

Starting at the National Precast Concrete Association (National Precast) 16 years ago, Sarah Bachmann’s challenge was to raise and expand the profile of the association as previously it mainly concentrated on the technical arena.

Before National Precast, Ms. Bachmann studied economics at the University of Adelaide. She then started in the construction industry with experience in association and marketing. Her first job in the industry was with the Housing Industry Association (HIA) as its New South Wales’ PR and Marketing Manager. It was while at the HIA that Ms. Bachmann gained skills collaborating with builders and sub-contractors.

Ms. Bachmann took over as CEO of the National Precast in 2003 and has stayed at the helm ever since. Over that time, she has transitioned the association from its aforementioned technical focus to broadening the scope of operations and strengthening the organisation’s marketing and representational initiatives.

Ms. Bachmann’s role as CEO includes a broad scope of tasks. The general management of the business involves running the business and co-ordinating all of the operational initiatives National Precast undertakes on behalf of the industry. Her underlying goal is to unite the industry by empowering, representing and promoting members, which is identical to the mission of the association. This extends to working with government, allied associations and other stakeholders within the industry.

She says that one of the joys of the job is seeing the difference that members of National Precast make to communities.

“It is wonderful to know precast delivers water and drainage solutions, roads and bridges, as well as some absolutely stunning architectural work for so many buildings around the country,” she says. When she visits different places around Australia, she is always excited to see what new infrastructure has been created by the organisation’s members.

The precast concrete industry is consistently growing its market share and is increasingly used in construction across Australia. The constantly changing nature of the industry is what has kept Ms. Bachmann in the industry. She says that, as the industry changes, so does her role and she enjoys working each day towards new challenges and ideas.

One of these challenges included developing a real value proposition for precasters because membership of the National Precast is voluntary.

“Recently, we have had a huge restructure of our precaster membership where we are offering several new high-value services and we’ve adjusted fees, which we think will be more achievable for the middle tier precasters,” she says. “I genuinely believe that membership stacks up financially.

“The new services, as well as the existing marketing benefits and opportunities to build very genuine relationships with their peers together, deliver a well-rounded package.”

Ms. Bachmann believes it is increasingly important that precasters are linked to their industry peers and are aware of industry news.

“Key players need to be in touch with new developments and ideas in the industry, not just operating alone. Knowledge is power,” she states. Ms. Bachmann believes the sharing of information is central to the improvement of the industry.

National Precast consistently provides members of the association with information across a range of platforms. Alongside its publications, such as the Precast Concrete Handbook, National Precast supplies fact sheets, electronic newsletters, industry journals and other services such as the Tender Service, which connects contractors and suppliers in the industry.

The increasing popularity of prefabricated components in construction has aided the precast concrete industry’s growth. It is seen as a safer, more efficient and productive way to build, says Ms. Bachmann. Precast concrete involves taking work away from the building site and creating the product in the factory. The product is then supplied to the construction industry to be used in a range of projects.

Currently, National Precast is working on a new online learning project for the industry. Working with the University of Technology Sydney, it is developing a series of online learning modules for both students and practising professionals in engineering, architecture and building. Alongside this, Ms. Bachmann is helping to engage with the Tier 1 builders’ national quality managers and is working to implement a substantial structural and membership services change, which will allow National Precast to stay relevant to the industry and continue to grow the organisation.

Ms. Bachmann enjoys being a part of an organisation where she believes she can have profound influence.

“The minute I feel like I have stopped contributing, or I feel like I am not making positive advancements for the industry or taking the industry forward, then it is time to pack my bags and move into something else,” she says.

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