Connected Tech Systems Are Causing a Construction Disruption
The construction industry is increasingly implementing software platforms to replace manual processes and thereby eliminating the frustrations associated with rekeying data, signing documentation, forwarding paper invoices to accounting, reconciling payments and invoices, and reviewing and accepting bills of materials. By removing paper from many business processes, construction businesses can improve productivity, reduce costs, and speed processes.
In a report published in 2017, McKinsey & Company  stated that the productivity gap in construction costs the global economy $1.6 trillion annually. Among the opportunities identified for improving productivity were implementing best practices in digitizing procurement and supply-chain workflows to enable more sophisticated logistics management and just-in-time delivery. Since that report, industry productivity has been further affected with jobsite adjustments for coping with COVID-19, including social distancing requirements that limit interactions.
1. Improving Productivity with Visibility Solutions
Within supply chain processes, communication is key to success. If materials show up to the jobsite and construction personnel are not ready to receive or use the materials, work can be delayed or come to a halt. If materials arrive on time but do not meet the project specifications, additional deliveries have to be dispatched and construction teams will be idled as they wait on replacement materials. With improved communication, materials are easily located and on track for use at the right place for the right operation; and clear visibility into traceability of material properties and orders ensures that products arrive in the best possible quality, reducing delays and productivity lags.
Waiting on paperwork also hampers productivity. If processes are automated so that operations flow quickly and easily, workers don’t have to sit around and wait for paperwork to arrive. Digitally collaborative technologies and tools that work on cloud-based desktops and mobile platforms can help remove historical inefficiencies by providing clear insights into how materials and manpower are moving, placed, and working.
2. Technology Platforms Boost Performance
Construction companies can use a technology platform to connect internal supply-chain processes with suppliers, buyers, logistics providers, inspectors, and owners. A platform can monitor what is happening throughout the supply chain, delivering opportunities to optimize scheduling.
A digital platform allows companies to simplify data and analytics across their trading partners. Some digital platforms can gather data from Internet-of-things (IoT) devices and telematics, running analytics to track business performance.
Command Alkon’s CONNEX is a digital platform that connects all trading partners in the construction ecosystem, boosting their ability to conduct business with each other. CONNEX brings one single version of the truth to everyone in the supply chain, so that businesses know what the condition and location of orders, trucks, and materials are at all times.
3. eTicketing and Automated Processes
Many government organizations have seen the benefit of automated processes and are now requiring state departments of transportation to use eTicketing solutions. eTicketing is the digital, real-time exchange of material delivery ticket data between heavy materialsuppliers and buyers, removing hand-to-hand exchange of paper tickets. In addition to providing immediate and traceable records, eTicketing can also can help contractors meet social distancing requirements.
An electronic material ticket management system automates manual practices across the industry, eliminating tangible paper tickets and addressing the challenges created by outdated methods for tracking materials and truck assets. For example, a superintendent can browse orders scheduled for the day and upcoming orders for future days. Further, he or she can monitor real-time truck locations and load-level summaries of completed and upcoming orders, receive notifications when a load is on the way, view records of load status times, and automatically match incoming delivery tickets with hauler pay sheets and invoices.
With digital ticket data flowing seamlessly from suppliers to contractors and owners, the jobsite stays on track. Buyers can more efficiently reconcile accepted goods and services, allowing them to more rapidly pay their valued suppliers and complete month-end closings. Information that would normally be found on paper tickets is captured digitally, which is good news for back office personnel. No more mountains of paperwork and tedious reconciliation processes!
Command Alkon’s CONNEX Jobsite is a suite of solutions that digitize information from paper tickets so workers can see ticket data in real time, throughout the ticket’s life cycles, from anywhere. Businesses reduce waste and improve material yield, eliminate manual tasks and duplicate data entry, and standardize processes and track job costs daily.
4. Connected Logistics Solutions
Businesses can ensure complete delivery and materials traceability and uncover smart insights for decision-making with a connected logistics solution. A full range of fleet and workforce planning and diagnostic tools within a connected logistics solution ensure that businesses meet delivery expectations while staying safe and in compliance. Drivers have the information they need at their fingertips, including their next ticket, so they can be back on the road to their next job as soon as their current delivery is made.
A connected logistics solution allows supply chain partners to track and trace critical path material deliveries from quarry, to plant, to jobsite. Location and material data are delivered in real time directly to both materials suppliers and buyers. As a result, stakeholders receive timely status alerts.
To create more efficient fleet operations, companies are using tracking solutions like electronic logging devices (ELDs) and global positioning system devices (GPS) to map the location of trucks in real time, as well as telematics devices to monitor truck performance parameters, such as engine speed and coolant temperature. These devices provide visibility into fleet operations, monitoring the unloading and loading of trucks and wasteful idling while in traffic or at the jobsite. Once management understands the cause of nonproductive hours in their operations, they can revamp processes for greater efficiencies, including using route planning and mapping solutions to avoid traffic delays.
TrackIt provides clear visibility into fleet and driver activities and material properties at all times, ensuring that products arrive on time and in the best possible quality. This solution helps businesses drive a more efficient fleet by monitoring non-productive hours, such as an idling truck sitting in traffic.
5. Connected Fulfillment Tools
Connected fulfillment solutions include digital tools for quoting and sales forecasting, order capture and scheduling, smart ticketing, invoicing, and payments. Orders are entered electronically, then transmitted immediately. Customers receive an automated order confirmation, along with real-time delivery alerts and exception notifications. Tickets flow through to billing and receivables to enable more accurate and timely billing, payments, and decision-making.
These digital solutions allow the sharing of documentation, including invoices, quotes, and more, so that anyone in any department can see the information. Quotes can be entered from the field and immediately flow into dispatch processes for quicker fulfillment. Salespeople can then move on to their next customer without having to wait for paperwork to be processed.
Having quotes and sales information in one place gives businesses a complete view of their operation, helping workers to make better and more timely decisions and improve asset utilization while decreasing stress on dispatchers. Connected fulfillment solutions provide real-time visibility into both an accurate backlog and an accurate sales forecast. This empowers managers to make decisions and adjustments on an hourly basis if needed. Instead of waiting for a month-end snapshot of information, data is available immediately for more informed decision-making.
Complete quoting, scheduling, and dispatch solutions from Command Alkon offer a comprehensive toolset of fulfillment processes to drive customer satisfaction to new levels. Speedy and accurate quotes and orders can be transmitted immediately while customers receive an automated order confirmation with real-time delivery notifications.
New analytical tools are growing in importance within the concrete industry to help with continuous improvement efforts. Every day, companies generate staggering amounts of data that can’t be manipulated and used if it’s logged on paper records. Using an analytics solution will reduce costs, drive operational efficiencies and profits, and enable data experts to understand and identify trends like financial growth opportunities, financial benchmarking against industry standards, and financial implications.
An effective analytics solution uses a connected platform that collects data from a variety of devices, sensors, processes, and third-party solutions. The solution software can clean and rationalize collected data, and its analytics dashboard can enable managers to monitor equipment, materials, and personnel in real time. A clear, consolidated picture of what is happening across the entire operation can be developed. Businesses can also see how their trading partners are performing as data flows through the connected platform, allowing companies to help their trading partners stay on track.
Command Alkon’s analytics ensure that the data that managers have is timely and accurate. Dashboards offer insight into operations and financial metrics for making more informed decisions.
Implementations Thrive with Successful Change Management Processes
Like a ship’s navigation system in a storm, a clear strategy can help companies stay on a successful course. This is especially true in today’s climate of pandemic and uncertainty. Digitization should be a part of any company’s strategy, but technology purchases are only as good as the people who use the technology. Acceptance and adoption of new processes must be handled carefully. Change management practices should be followed so that users will accept new tools as benefits rather than threats.
Change management best practices reveal that the highest rates of adoption come when a company starts with a bottom-up approach, training daily users first so that they can engage with the technology and build up their experience. It helps to have an internal champion that not only promotes the use of the new technology and its benefits, but also builds camaraderie and inspires the full team. Successful implementations will encourage team members to keep moving forward. With the right change management processes, effective training, and patience, technology implementations success will build further success.
- Barbosa, F.; Woetzel, J.; Mischke, J.; Ribeirinho, M.J.; Sridhar, M.; Parsons, M.; Bertram, N.; and Brown, S., “Reinventing Construction through a Productivity Revolution,” McKinsey Global Institute, Feb. 2017, 168 pp.