The True Value of a Single Source Responsibility Contractor.

The construction industry has shifted to a “design–build” project delivery system in which the design and construction services are contracted by a single entity known as the design–builder or design–build contractor.

In contrast to the “design–bid–build” system it substantially replaced, design–build relies on a single company to reduce the delivery schedule by overlapping the design phase and construction phase of a project.

“However, there are a myriad of little details that go into a concrete floor that unless you are deeply involved in the design and planning as we are, you aren’t familiar with the issues,” explained Karl Johnson, a sales engineer with Kalman Floor Company, who started with the company in 1996. “We see a lot of design mistakes all the time.

“A classic example is many designers want to use the floor as a building diaphragm, in other words, tying the building foundation into the floor with rebar. They do that maybe for seismic reasons but we know that industry standards for concrete strength caution against tying the floor slab into the foundation. We can accommodate them to some degree. Our job is to catch design errors early on and solve them,” Johnson said.

Owners and designers trust Kalman’s experience to expedite and improve the design-build process

“So we work very hard up front, and even during the build process, things will come up which require design changes. We commit a lot of time working with the designers to find something that will work and keep the process moving on schedule,” Johnson emphasized.

“A lot of our design-build partners understand that we relieve them from a lot of work as far as all the details that have to go into a quality concrete floor. They give us the floor thickness and layout and we take it from there. We will work the joints out, work on the proper isolations and show the designer what it will take to produce a better product, “ according to Karl Bakke, Kalman Sales Engineer, who joined the company in 1988.

“That’s where the idea of the single source floor system contractor came into play because a lot of our clients like that. They also like the fact that since we are a national contractor we can provide a similar facility and product in the South or the Northwest as we do in the Northeast. A lot of the design-builders are also nationwide and once they get a good facility design going, they like to repeat what works, no matter where the facility is located,” Bakke added.

“We really believe that in addition to selling a floor we are providing the owner with a profitable and rewarding product. The concrete floor is the only system in the building that cannot easily be replaced after the building is constructed. You can patch a leaky roof but if you have 500 fork trucks running 24 hours a day, six days a week, you can’t just stop and say we aren’t going to ship product because our floor doesn’t work.

“Our owners have come to trust us that they won’t have to endure that problem. Our warranty lasts for up to five years but we also offer a lifetime relationship. We’ve been here almost 100 years. No matter the size, from say 400 square feet to o 400,000 square feet, we are here for them. These are our friends. We need them and we hope to be needed by them,” said Kalman CEO Carl Ytterberg.

Kalman controls every detail from start to finish

“Kalman’s approach is completely unique from any other company in the industry,” states Don Ytterberg.

“So when someone asks us who is completely responsible from the beginning to the end, we are the only ones who say we are completely responsible. Other companies will say of course you have a warranty. But the extent of the material provider’s warranty it simply to replace the powder if the concrete doesn’t work. Well that’s not the same as honoring cracks or failures.

“When we talk about single source responsibility for the concrete flooring system we are not only referring to having our own crews do the work but we have also developed our own material pipelines and our own concrete mixtures. So we buy the raw materials, develop our own mixes and give those recipes to ready-mix plants all over the country — individually designed for every single job. I don’t think there is any other company who can say that.

Anticipating what can go wrong at every stage of a project, and finding solutions, is the reason why so many companies depend on the relationships and long-term experience provided by Kalman, freeing the owner from additional management time and expense.

According to Carl Ytterberg, Kalman’s Owner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), “The fundamental reason owners choose us is the belief that they are going to receive the product that was promised and, even more importantly, that they will receive that intangible value of the backup that we provide. We want to ensure we are delivering a superior installation so that the owner will enjoy the benefits for the life of the floor.

“In other words we extend a high degree of effort to overcome every obstacle — the field temperatures, logistics, material handling, material processing and
properties — to end up with a wonderful product.” Carl bought Kalman from his father Robert Ytterberg in 1996.

“It’s a never ending process. We maintain a constant focus on delivering the lowest-maintenance product. In order to do that, we must always look at the front end of the process. We are always looking for new materials and ideas since our goals are synonymous with the owner’s goals. Now, several hundred million square feet later, we are number one in the world.”

Ending the Blame Game

Kalman takes full responsibility for quality and performance of the raw materials, the installed systems and the guarantee of low-cost maintenance over the life of the floor. When owners, or their design-build team, purchase a Kalman floor, they deal directly with Kalman from start to finish and are protected by the best single source warranty on both product and workmanship in the industry. Kalman is responsible for:

  • Discovering and solving initial design problems
  • Pre testing of all materials before the job starts
  • Planning and coordinating every aspect of the installation
  • Arranging and verifying job site deliveries
  • Providing their own crews for the installation
  • Solving on-site issues as they arise
  • Inspecting the final work
  • Returning in 12 month to inspect and fill settled joints
  • Ongoing problem solving for the life of the floor

“We own the concrete.”

“Our competitors use products from third parties who sell you a bag of stuff. But we are the only ones who look at the cement chemistry and then add various additives or components to the mix to compliment the existing local chemistry. We are trying to predict and optimize the behavior of that concrete.

“We take this on for the owners and their designers but also for our suppliers. We have a lot of partners in this business especially the ready-mix producers, which we use over and over again. So, no matter how many suppliers are involved we take ownership of all of it,” according to Karl Johnson.

“It’s all quality control. We send our own guys to every concrete plant. They are in charge of adding our components to the concrete. Every job has a different plant. We always tell the ready-mix producer that we own the concrete. It’s our concrete. We only ask them to hit their batch weights and do the proper mixing,” Johnson explained.

“They like working with us because they know we aren’t going to blame them if anything is not right,” Johnson said.

No middleman

Aaron Comer, Kalman Sales Engineer who covers Idaho to Arizona and parts of Canada added, “Anybody else attempting to do a shrinkage compensating floor has to rely on too many other suppliers. It becomes a split responsibility issue so if there is a problem with the floor slab, the owner is left in the lurch. They go back on the general contractor, and he goes back on the installer, and the installer points the finger at the concrete plant and the owner doesn’t get a straight answer, or the repair service he is expecting.

“We take full responsibility for everything starting with the mix design. In the pre-construction meeting, before we start pouring, we review the plans with the contractor face-to-face and go over our joint layout and if we find problems. We try to solve them at that point.

“We control the entire process and there is no middleman. It all has our name on it,” Comer said.

“If there is a single person responsible for production, it’s me,” commented Charlie Davis, Kalman’s Vice President of Production.

“I kind of watch over every job and help the field superintendents solve problems,” explained Davis, who has been with Kalman since graduating from high school in 1962.

“We often take responsibility for solving problems we didn’t create or that were not anticipated. Problem solving is the other part of our responsibility to make things work.”

“We just did a job in the Houston area where we know there are soil problems. The contractor put us in a spot because it had been raining and the roof wasn’t completely dried in. Here we show up with an entire crew to do the job and we had to refuse to pour because the soil is wet.

“The job in Houston is a prime example of how getting the sub-grade correct is one of the biggest issues we run into. And it is not only the type of soil and moisture content, it involves dodging Mother Nature while you are trying to install the floor. So if it gets flooded then it has to be dried out and that takes time and costs money that the contractor we are working for is trying to avoid.

“So, in this particular case, we just jumped in to help the contractor’s crews remove the ground insulation, and dig out the wet soil. There is no way you can compensate for this loss of momentum but we sure tried. The project manager on the job is not going to call his boss and say, ‘we screwed up.’ We tried everything we knew and got it close but we never felt it was 100 percent the way it should have been. It came to the point where we had to give a little. It wasn’t going to be a failure but in our mind it’s not the way it ought to be.

“There is a great deal of pride that goes into our floors. If you go look at one you can just see it. A lot of people can put in a pretty looking floor but they just put them in over a bad sub-grade or without enough armored joints. If anything goes wrong, they just say, ‘we’re not responsible. You put these details in your plans and that’s how we built it.’

“Kalman will say, well, we told you, but we’re not going to leave you hanging. Everybody we work for knows what we offer as far as the warranty but it is the extra effort we make to take care of our customers that they appreciate most,” Davis added.

“Our three and five year warranties are related to our commitment to the owner rather than our commitment to fulfilling a contract,” Carl Ytterberg added.

“We intend to work for every owner for the life of their company. We intend to have a good relationship with the key players throughout their careers.

“We want to hear them say, ‘boy are we glad we chose Kalman because operating on this floor is superior to any of the others we’ve had.’ That makes the details of the warranty sort of irrelevant. We’re looking for an indefinite relationship.

“So we have often taken care of work that is above and beyond our original commitment. None of us want anything to go wrong and that is a huge promise we make to everyone involved.

“The promise was originated by my father, Robert Ytterberg, who was Kalman’s President from 1964 to 1996. What he told us was:

“Kalman’s aim has always been to produce industrial flooring with the greatest durability and lowest maintenance requirements available. That is our reputation and that is our promise,” Carl Ytterberg stressed.

Charlie Davis agreed. “We make sure our crews are trained by the best superintendents. We look for hard workers but also people with a good attitude. Our crews learn how to solve problems and that goes back to the Kalman family tradition. I laugh when I talk about the original policy of the grandfather, C. Frederick Ytterberg, who wouldn’t let the production people see the costs for the job so they wouldn’t cut corners. They always told us, ‘you put it in right and if doesn’t make a profit, then it’s the salesman’s fault.’”

“Carl has the same attitude today. It’s the way we have always taught our people in the field. I try and show them not only how to do something but also explain why. Not just do it this way because I told you to do it. There is a reason for it. We’ve always done that. That’s the way my dad taught me and that’s always the way we looked at it. We are trying to make it perfect,” according to Davis.