How Barkman Concrete has Gone from Great to Greater with Rosetta
Embracing the tension between tradition and innovation is vital for the success of any family business. Few understand the importance of creativity better than Alan Barkman, second generation business owner of Barkman Concrete in Steinbach, Manitoba. Established in 1948, Barkman began by offering local plumbing solutions.
As their business grew, the Barkman family continually recognized changes in demand and adjusted their product offerings to meet it. Their willingness to take risks has lead to them to become one of Canada’s leading concrete hardscape manufacturers. Alan Barkman joined the company in 1978 and has continued to advance both the breadth and depth of the company’s reach in the concrete industry.
Adding Wet Cast
In 2008, Barkman realized that there was an opportunity to capture present and future demand by manufacturing wet cast concrete products, specifically, Rosetta Hardscapes. Rosetta is a complete line of concrete retaining walls, pavers, steps and accessories that mimic natural stone in appearance, but install quickly and easily.
As Barkman explains, “It’s bringing a product to the market that contractors and homeowners can be very creative with. We’re seeing in photo shoots and pictures that what people are doing with Rosetta is quite amazing.”
Brian Pries, general manager of Barkman, explained, “We’re always looking for new and interesting products to add to our offerings, especially our hardscapes offerings.” The way that wet cast captures color and texture, and the uniqueness of Rosetta, made the product line attractive to Barkman’s team from the beginning and has since made it a hit with Barkman customers.
Diving back into Wet cast: Creating New Standards for Old Processes
By the time Barkman began considering Rosetta, the company was a full fledged dry cast operation. That meant that for Alan Barkman, getting back into wet cast was a risk. “We’ve been into high production machinery for a long time. It was a shift for us to go back to wet cast. We thought we had moved on.”
Barkman, along with Pries, and the Barkman team, took the chance with Rosetta and let the family business come full circle. Thanks to his team’s ability to standardize production processes and maximize plant space, he has never regretted the decision. According to Barkman’s Manitoba Production Supervisor, Justin Fehr, the plant can produce 40 pallets or more of Rosetta every day.
How does Barkman achieve so much output? “It’s a matter of nailing down your timing and using the space that you have effectively. If you have your timing right when you’re delivering molds and when you’re taking away molds you don’t need a lot of line space to make it work.”
Small beginnings, steady sales growth
When Barkman started making Rosetta they only made one product, Outcropping, a large block system with pieces ranging from 6 inches in height (152 millimeters) to 2 feet (.6 meters) in height. Barkman also had no production line. Fehr explains, “We were doing everything manually with a crane, so we started fairly quickly and we were just doing Outcropping. Everything was fed from the bucket.”
Now, with two separate plants in strategically placed locations, Barkman is one of the largest Rosetta operations in North America, producing a wide range of Rosetta products including Belvedere, a small block retaining system inspired by old world european style, and Grand Flagstone, a slab paver that takes after its natural stone counter part.
Both of Barkman’s plants operate an SCC (self consolidating concrete) production line, with labor and operations shared with other product groups. In 2015, between the two plants, Barkman made enough product to generate almost $5 million (CAD) in Rosetta alone, a figure that continues to increase year after year.
Barkman has had success making Rosetta, and success selling it. “The key to Rosetta is that it ties in well to our offerings in our marketplace,” Pries said. Their presence in dealer yards and investment in marketing have both been vital to their success with the product line. “We offer our dealers a lot of marketing support and have a very hands on presence in their locations. And we support them with displays and we send leads to them through our website.”
In addition to investing in the individuals working in their dealer yards, Barkman has paid close attention to trends in marketing. Every year they create new ways to promote Rosetta, including videos, catalogs and photographs. They released this drone video of an extensive Rosetta project completed in 2016 by Hampton Pools and Landscape, to showcase their work.
Plans for continued growth
Rosetta is a key part of Barkman’s plans to continually expand their current operation. As Barkman notes, “As we’ve pushed further into western Canada, Rosetta has opened up new avenues for us.”
Pries continued, “Rosetta is a really good extension of our existing product lines and gives us an offering that’s different from what other companies can offer. I like what Rosetta has done as far as product development, in bringing new products to the market. I think there’s a lot of potential to grow the Rosetta sales and our overall sales by adding to the product line.”