Technology is making it possible to automate a ton of things in the construction workflow that used to only be possible with manual effort. Not only does automation remove steps from processes, it also reduces human errors and facilitates data sharing. All of this has a tremendous effect on the success of a project. The benefits of automation give your company a competitive edge and make sure you can deliver the best possible quality.
For many years, Bekstone has produced high quality reconstituted stone walling in Burford, Oxfordshire, for building works in and around the Cotswold towns. Often specified, the walling has helped to preserve many of the famous Cotswold towns and villages’ gloriously quaint appearances. Their presence is not just confined to the Cotswolds – Bekstone now produces sympathetic walling products for most of the UK’s domestic cities, towns, and villages. Their stonework can be incorporated in to both residential and commercial projects.
Disma Hills, Works Manager of Bekstone, knew about Command Alkon’s great reputation in the concrete industry. He wanted to gain better control of their production process through automation for greater efficiency, quality, and consistency, so he reached out and arranged for someone to come take a look at Bekstone’s operations and provide feedback.
Their 3 plants were all automated by different systems that were obsolete. David Taylor, Area Sales Manager at Command Alkon, walked through the plant, determined what requirements their new system must meet, and put together a specification. They all sat down and reviewed his proposal so that the scope and goal of the project was absolutely clear upfront.
“During the project it was very clear you had good engineers. That made a big difference to us. That we were able to talk on various levels. The guys on site and in the office, the service that you provide is very consistent.” - Disma Hills, Works Manager of Bekstone
Adding Colour to the Mix – Automatically
Defined colour ranges have been developed to match regional building stone variations. These colours are widely accepted by planners and architects, so ensuring that they turn out exactly the same with each batch is crucial for Bekstone’s business.
Now, Bekstone has the assurance that each time a different brick or different slab is produced, they can promise their customers that they will deliver on colour precision.
Tablets give operators full control of production
The Bekstone factory is set up in a way that when concrete comes out of the mixer it goes to one of their two presses. It’s a continuous process: every time it discharges, it fills back up.
Before Command Alkon, the operator had to go over to the main panel to call for his loads, adjust water, or do anything with the factory. It was always a walk across the yard to press a button and walk back, which results in unproductive time. To combat this issue, Command Alkon installed a tablet on each press. Now, the operator can stay on his press, call for his next load, and adjust the water when needed.
The operator now has control over his process and can execute his job in a more efficient way. Because Bekstone produces reconstituted stone, they work with a semi-dry mix. Because of this, the tolerances are that much tighter, with only about 8% moisture. Each operator can run their own mix and moisture content, giving them full control to get the best mix available.
“Command Alkon gives us the option to update as we go along and change the tolerances. We’re able to make slight changes in the system, which allows us to do our job better.” Pierce Reeves – Production Operator
The batching speed has increased as well. “We can now do 180 batches a day. We can get one out in about 1 min 20!” Pierce Reeves – Production Operator
The main office also has a full overview of the production process. CP itself is built into a separate computer panel at the main office. This gives them the control to oversee the operations, mix designs, or add a new mix remotely without having to disturb the batch at all.
Aside from the software and hardware, Bekstone believes it’s very valuable to have good backup.
Pierce Reeves at Bekstone agrees:
“Jim Ladeur, who did the instalment, could answer all our questions on site or afterwards, and if he wasn't available there was always somebody from Command Alkon’s team that would get back to us quickly. Within an hour, someone would be on TeamViewer and fix the issue for us, so we have a really good backup".
“It all went extremely well to be fair. David Taylor made everything very clear upfront. The guys on site went through the installation very well, they facilitated the training. Jim Ladeur, Service and Project Engineer CA, was very accessible and still is now. It’s one of those projects that just went perfect and made it very easy to say this is part of a roll-out and we’re going to do the next plant in September.” - Disma Hills, Works Manager at Bekstone
Scrap Non-productive Activities and Implement Time-Saving Tech
People are often wary of new technology, especially when the old way seems to be working. It’s important to approach automation as a tool that doesn’t change operations—it just makes it more effective. On top of seamless and error-free cooperation, moving tasks from humans to technology releases time and resources for new, value-adding tasks. It’s an honour to lead Bekstone through their journey with automation!
Find out more about the CP Process Control solution for the Precast Industry.