The new lighter weight SRS line of screeds were recently introduced.

A Spirit of Innovation: Somero Enterprises

05/27/2020

Fifteen years ago, I selected Jack Cooney, CEO of Somero Enterprises, as one of the industry’s Most Influential People based on the company’s innovative approach to product development. I asked him at the time if he worried about what would happen when the Laser Screed patent ran out. “When I started, I said that we have to operate as if there's a competitor coming tomorrow morning. And we actually do have competition. A contractor has some money, and he doesn't have to buy a Laser Screed.” His solution was to continue to develop new products to meet the need of the concrete contractor.

That innovative spirit has sustained Somero since then, keep it innovating, patent or not, and is pushing them into the future. “We’ve introduced three new products since the beginning of 2020,” says Myron Hillock, Somero’s Sales Director. “Innovation is one of our core values.”

Somero started as a contractor’s idea—a screed that would relieve the backbreaking work of screeding concrete for slabs. The Laser Screed changed the flatwork industry much for the better. Today, the concrete contractors who are members of Somero’s Innovation Council are the industry’s elite, names everyone would recognize, like Scurto and Keystone and Baker. Somero visits its Innovation Council members at job sites and closely listens to their needs and the needs of field workers to develop new products that solve very specific problems.

For example, Somero debuted the Sky Screed in 2019 to improve screeding methods on very thick slabs, podium slabs and structural slabs. This device allows contractors to screed a high-rise deck without putting workers into harm’s way wading through deep concrete. Gresser Concrete reported they have reduced the head count on a deck placement using the SkyScreed from 12 to 5 workers. Recently, Somero introduced a larger version of this equipment with greater reach.

Another new product is the SRS line which is a more compact and lighter weight boom screed. “It was designed for the international market where roads are narrow and might not be able to handle a larger machine,” Hillock says, “although it’s being sold in North America also.” Another push for Somero is the new Desktop 3D. This new software version allows contractors to import survey and BIM data at their desk or mobile office into the Somero software and create surface profiles for layout, grading, and screeding operations. From the office to many aspects of field operations with just one software program greatly enhances the contractor’s efficiency with less training needs. The same data is used throughout. Somero’s 3D Profiler System is the go-to equipment for concrete parking lots, which is becoming a major market for concrete, replacing asphalt.

Reacting to the pandemic also tested Somero’s innovative approach. “We started keeping an eye on this in December,” says Hillock. “We have lots of employees in China, so we were prepared. Right away we restricted travel and access to our manufacturing operations, started tracking employees, and eliminated most travel. Lots of our contractor customers were deemed essential, so they kept working and needed us. We continued manufacturing, quality control, and shipping operational with proper PPE for our employees, strict social distancing, and no one allowed in the plant that wasn’t essential. Everyone takes their own and their coworkers’ safety seriously.”

Somero was already well positioned to train its customers even before this time of less direct contact. They developed a learning management system in 2019 to provide training on specific equipment even before it arrives at the customer’s location. “I think this is one place where we’re likely to see permanent changes after the coronavirus passes,” Hillock explains. “Sure, people will continue to come to the Somero Concrete Institute in Florida for hands-on training but there’s a lot of training that can be done virtually. We ran our seventh virtual training class recently and many customers like it. It’s a lot more productive since they can get more training in less time.”

As the construction economy strengthens in late 2020, Somero will be there to meet the needs of its customers whether that’s with existing equipment or with something yet to be unveiled. Innovation never stops.

Somero®, Somero Enterprises®, 3D Profiler, and 3D Profiler System® are registered trademarks of Somero Enterprises, LLC. Sky Screed™ is trademarked by Somero Enterprises.