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Innovation in Precast

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Necessity is the mother of invention and it has never been more evident than in the case of David G. Smith. While working on his family farm in Midland, Virginia, Smith identified the need for a more efficient device to prevent livestock from roaming on local farms. This was the impetus for him to create a precast concrete cattle guard, an innovative solution that saved the local community both time and money. Little did he know that this seemingly simple precast concrete product would be the opening act of a successful legacy. The cattle guard performed so well that Smith and his son Rodney soon began selling them locally, and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The year was 1960, and the launch of their distinctive product marked the birth of the Smith-Midland company.

Since its inception, the company has designed and patented multiple innovative products to address customers’ needs and provide construction solutions for the transportation, education, military, high-rise, residential, medical, hospitality, parks, and the water and wastewater industries. For Matthew Smith, VP of Sales and Marketing, maintaining a connection with the ever-changing needs of the industry is vital to the company’s ongoing success. “We listen to our customers and are constantly working to create products or improvements that they ask for. We also seek out advancements that can take the market where it wants to go, because we know what the market is looking for.” This is not merely lip service. Today, Smith-Midland is a corporation that employs 240 people and is comprised of five different companies which include; three manufacturing plants, Concrete Safety Systems, a precast concrete barrier rental company, and Easi-Set Industries, a precast products licensing company.. Through the latter, Smith-Midland has been licensing its proprietary products to precast manufacturers throughout the country and overseas since the 1970s.

precast concrete panels being lowered on smith-midland project

Smith-Midland’s most popular products are SlenderWall, Easi-Set Buildings, and J-J Hooks. SlenderWall is a building envelope that sets itself apart from traditional precast walls because of its light weight. At less than one-third the weight of traditional architectural precast concrete walls, SlenderWall panels include advanced PVA fiber, welded-wire reinforcement, stainless steel anchors, galvanized steel studs, and closed-cell foam insulation, which acts as a moisture, vapor, and air barrier. Smith explains that the success of this product is its ability to meet, and exceed, expectations and deadlines. “It allows the customer to close the building in faster, with less labor resulting in bringing it to market faster.” Another successful product, Easi-Set Buildings, is an economical and durable alternative to hand-built construction. It is designed to be both cost-effective and durable, and impressively, it can be installed in a matter of days. “Customers prefer our precast concrete buildings because they’re pre-engineered, fast and functional, yet they’re durable and attractive.”

J-J Hooks are traffic and crowd control barriers that allow for fast installation thanks to its simplified connection system. Each barrier features identical steel J-shaped hooks at both ends that can be connected with minimal guidance and without the need for workers to insert their hands between barriers, ensuring a high level of safety during the connection process.

With an innovative and intuitive line of products, the company also benefits immensely from sleek internal processes that have been developed through experience. For Smith, practicing a Lean manufacturing system is just one way that truly sets Smith-Midland apart from its competitors. “We looked at the Toyota Production system,” he says, “and what it does is focuses on reducing waste and non-value-added inventory from processes across the entire company, not just in the plant but in the yard, the office, everywhere. We do this by studying and implementing improvements, checking the results, and making adjustments as necessary.”

“Customers prefer our precast concrete buildings because they’re pre-engineered, fast and functional, yet they’re durable and attractive.”

Smith-Midland produces precast products for projects located between New York City and Atlanta. The company recently completed one of its biggest projects contributing J-J Hooks barrier and Soft Sound noise walls to the construction of two express lanes on a 22.5-mile-long stretch of the notoriously busy I-66 in Northern Virginia.They supplied 245,000 linear feet of J-J Hooks marking the largest barrier order in the company’s history. As Smith explains, this project showcased the positive effect Smith-Midland’s products has on the wider community. ” Interstate 66 traffic in Northern Virginia has some of the worst traffic in the country, rivaling Los Angeles. These changes have resulted in an impressive improvement in travel times for both commuters and local residents. On that project, we provided over 1.2 million square feet of noise wall and over 60 miles of J-J Hooks precast concrete barrier.”

Continuing their expertise in transportation projects, was the supply of three Smith-Midland products for the widening of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in Hampton, the largest project VDOT has done in the state. “Anybody who travels down in that area knows how bad the tunnel traffic can get, especially during the summer weekends with beach traffic. This is the largest construction project for VDOT in the state of Virginia and we are proud to be a part of this historic undertaking,” says Smith. Smith-Midland provided several miles of J-J Hook barriers for this project that aims to widen the stretch of I-64 in Norfolk and Hampton by approximately ten miles to shorten and avoid traffic bottlenecks. Smith-Midland is also producing custom noise walls and retaining walls for that corridor. While never one to take it slow, the company is currently involved in an exciting military project in Cherry Point, NC. Due to extensive damage caused by Hurricane Florence, significant improvements are necessary in the area, including rebuilding a large maintenance facility’s exterior and interior wall panel. The project is using architectural precast concrete with a thin brick finish which involves casting thin bricks directly onto the surface of the wall panels.

Smith-Midland Corporation has grown exponentially over the years, and in view of its continuous development, it went public (SMID) in 1995, and has been listed on NASDAQ since 2020. Staying true to their roots, this growth has not changed the values inherent to the company since the beginning. Smith-Midland is a company that has remained focused on contributing to its employees’ education and personal and professional development. Since since the early 1980s, the company has provided a tuition reimbursement program that assists employees in covering their college education costs as well as actively encouraging staff to attend personal and professional classes and training sessions.

Besides supporting its employees, Smith-Midland has always invested in the local community and actively supported local charities, churches, and schools. Goals and priorities such as these emphasize its commitment to looking after the local community and staff. These form a vital tenet of the work Smith-Midland does, and has done, for decades. As Smith puts it, “a mutual respect runs through the company on all levels. We operate like a family business where we all know each other and where everybody treats each other as they want to be treated themselves, with respect,” he says, “That is just the way that we have always run our business ever since my dad and granddad had the company.” Still headquarted in Midland, Virgina and with these ideals still intact, the company that began so many decades ago will never cease introducing innovative new products or taking on new challenges, continuing the legacy of David. G. Smith.

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