If it’s true that there is no substitute for experience, it is easy to see why the National Demolition Association’s (NDA’s) Live Demolition event has continued to gain popularity among contractors. The Live Demolition, which took place at Demolition Austin Feb. 23 as part of the association’s annual conference, has grown from 15 participating exhibitors demonstrating 18 pieces of equipment in 2018 to 20 exhibitors demonstrating 30 pieces of equipment in 2020. Along the way, it has become a must-attend event for contractors interested in testing and buying some of the industry’s latest tools and equipment.
Unlike at most conferences, the Live Demolition offers contractors a chance to see, touch and operate excavators, pulverizers, grapples, shears and other pieces of equipment in real world applications. By being able to test and compare equipment side by side, contractors can make more informed decisions while also having a chance to connect with product specialists able to answer their specific questions on various pieces of equipment.
Setting the stage
The NDA’s selection of Austin for its annual show this year set the stage for a return to Texas Disposal Systems’ (TDS’) Exotic Game Ranch in nearby Buda, Texas. The 1,175-acre site, which hosts an exotic animal refuge, landfill and recycling facilities, played host to the first Live Demolition event two years ago.
Thanks to its on-site metals and concrete recycling facilities, as well as NDA’s Convention Committee’s familiarity with the site, a return to the original location just made sense, says former NDA convention committee chair Tim Ramon, who helped organize this year’s session.
“I was involved in 2018 with the Live Demolition when we first organized this with TDS,” Ramon says. “TDS and their principals had a good idea of what we were expecting out of the event since we did this previously. We had a really good idea of what TDS was capable of and what their facilities offered in terms of amenities and benefits, so it was a lot easier working together this year.”
One variable that created some uncertainties centered around the concrete and metal scrap that TDS would be able to provide for processing at the event. TDS agreed to set aside incoming metal and concrete prior to the Live Demolition rather than recycle it themselves outright. While TDS was able to set aside the requisite 500 to 600 tons of steel needed for equipment to shear at the event, show organizers realized there was hardly any concrete when they arrived on-site a couple days before the show.
With the Live Demolition just days away, NDA’s committee members sprung into action, bringing in roughly 3,000 cubic yards of unprocessed, oversized concrete in just a matter of hours.
“Collaboratively and collectively, we were able to source that concrete from four different locations. It’s not something you just go to Home Depot and pick up,” Ramon says.
“We showed up Thursday morning [of the show] and we quickly came to the realization that we didn’t have any concrete, and we had concrete on the ground close of business Friday and ready for the Live Demolition event Saturday morning. That is a testament to [the NDA team] for not only making the necessary calls to get the material, but persuading their contacts to actually bring us what we needed in such a small window,” Scott Laird, chairperson of NDA’s Convention Committee, says.
In addition to the last-minute sourcing of concrete, NDA had to contend with the challenge of physically getting the equipment set up in the days leading up to the event. With the majority of the setup taking place in the two days prior to the Live Demolition, exceptional coordination was needed to direct the rush of incoming machinery.
“This event grew over 25 percent just from the previous year in terms of equipment. We had over 30 pieces of heavy equipment, which means 30 lowboy trailers and tractor trailer rigs coming into the site and offloading inside of a two-day period—most of them coming in within a day of each other. The site looked like a beehive with bees buzzing in all sorts of different directions, trucks coming in, materials getting dumped, so it was quite chaotic,” Ramon says.
Going off without a hitch
Despite some of the challenges, NDA’s committee members and volunteers managed to have everything in place by the time the event rolled around for the program’s 554 attendees.
The vendors, made up of the who’s who of demolition equipment manufacturers, included Arden Equipment, Brokk Inc., Caterpillar Inc., Company Wrench, Ecovolve, Epiroc, Genesis Attachments, Husqvarna Construction Products, Kobelco Construction Machinery USA, Komatsu America Corp., LaBounty, Liebherr, Link-Belt Excavators, LiuGong, Okada America Inc., OilQuick USA/ShearCore, Sennebogen LLC, Steelwrist Inc., and Volvo Construction Equipment.
Although like in years’ past, vendors were separated by type of equipment, this year’s show allowed more flexibility in terms of how equipment was run. At previous shows, operators had a specific equipment runtime allotted that they couldn’t deviate from. At Demolition Austin, attendees were given leeway to run machines for as long, or as little, as they wanted.
“In past years, we put a lot of effort in structuring when and how the attendees would operate the equipment or interact with the vendor. And this year, we changed it around,” Ramon says. “Our vendors are very competent and very knowledgeable, so we allowed each station and each vendor to regulate the time and the way that the attendee interacted with, and operated, that piece of equipment—that helped out a lot. It gave the event a lot more of a free-flowing feel.”
In addition to allowing more freedom for contractors to operate equipment how they wanted, this year’s Live Demolition event incorporated on-site training for interested parties. Through NDA’s Demolition Superintendent Bootcamp, professionals were able to follow up a day of classroom instruction with a day of job site management training focused on planning, communication, people management, safety and job wrap-up best practices.
With a range of equipment available to try, on-site training and the chance to engage with industry peers all in one centralized location, NDA hopes that the association can continue to make the Live Demolition a valuable event for attendees of the association’s future conventions.
“[NDA’s convention committee] wanted to make these an event where someone wouldn’t just come out for an hour or two to run a piece of equipment, we wanted to make them an event where people could come out and make a day of it,” Laird says. “I think we did that. I saw a lot of people who showed up at 9 a.m. who were still there at 2 or 3 p.m., so I think our goal moving forward is to continue to push this event to make it where people want to stay, test out equipment, talk to vendors and enjoy the whole day.”
Demolition New Orleans is scheduled for March 4-7, 2021, and the NDA says it is working to finalize plans for a Live Demolition event that is bigger and more interactive than ever before.