To control costs while meeting the needs of customers, many ready mixed concrete dispatch operations have implemented technology to replace their manual processes and spreadsheets to schedule resources and create route assignments, along with dispatching and tracking their trucks. These systems have historically provided visibility into what is happening in the operation and generate a lot of data; however, the minute-to-minute decision making still falls on the shoulders of the dispatch team.
However, these systems can introduce a level of complexity into the process that often hinders the dispatch team’s ability to make a timely, efficient and effective decisions. Variables such as available driver hours, routes, driver call-in requirements, plant availability and loading speeds, mix costs, traffic conditions, customer service, and many more need to be incorporated into every single decision in order to leverage the value provided by the avalanche of data.
Dispatch optimization helps dispatchers evaluate all the information they need to consider regarding orders, drivers, trucks, plants, routes, and other variables to make unbiased recommendations on how to best deploy valuable resources in the most cost-effective manner.
Lehigh Hanson, Inc.
Lehigh Hanson, Inc., a leading manufacturer and supplier of construction materials in North America, operates a number of ready mixed concrete businesses using the Hanson Aggregates brand. In the Phoenix metro area and surrounding market, Hanson Aggregates has seven ready mixed concrete plants from Wickenburg down to Coolidge, Arizona, and operates a fleet of ready mixed concrete trucks.
Hanson Aggregates uses COMMANDseries for their dispatching operations to quote, order, ticket, deliver, and bill their products. COMMANDseries helps the company speed up their cash flow, lower costs, improve customer service, and share data across their enterprise.
Decision Making, Simplified
Although COMMANDseries is a great tool for companies like Hanson Aggregate, all dispatchers still face challenges – simply because, like all of us, they are human. There are only so many data points that humans can consider when making decisions in a high-pace environment like a ready mixed concrete dispatch office. Many factors can prevent us from making solid, strategic-level decisions to efficiently manage daily challenges, such as balancing customer service and cost.
Based upon the strength of the results achieved by Hanson’s operations in San Diego after implementing dispatch Optimization, Salvador (Sal) Prieto, Lead Dispatcher, and Bart Ashley, Area Manager of the Phoenix based operations, believed that a solution like this could deliver significant benefits to their operation as well. And so, their journey began in the summer of 2019.
Change the Game with Optimization
An Optimization engine does the math that humans can’t do in the time required. COMMANDoptimize delivers enhanced fleet management capabilities via a powerful algorithmic engine which juggles millions of data points and recommends the best truck dispatch decisions for time and dollar savings – all while ensuring customer satisfaction.
COMMANDoptimize enhances and delivers consistent dispatch decision-making and is tuned to consider specific market and company factors, along with the customer’s needs and requirements. The power of Optimization helps Hanson Aggregates stay on track with proactive resource planning, delivery planning, as well as real-time plan adjustments as the Optimization engine reacts to different daily factors that impact each day, such as: plant performance, traffic conditions, jobsite performance, etc.
Years of Expertise and Support Helps to Manage the Change
The implementation process for Optimization can be a challenging process in the beginning. Having gone through this experience, Sal and Bart are firm believers that before an operation decides to begin the process of implementing COMMANDoptimize, dispatch teams need to be ready to “unlearn” everything that they know and learn to be receptive to the system – as it truly is a new way of doing things; a new lifestyle, if you will. The first key to success is an Operational Assessment that evaluates the readiness of a ready mix producer to adapt to the “Optimization Lifestyle.” The Operational Assessment looks at almost all facets of the operation in order to recommend process improvements and identify critical culture and operational shifts needed to ensure Optimization can be introduced successfully and help their business realize the new levels of efficiency that are possible.
The world before COVID-19 seemed like it would never slow down, but the impact of the virus really made time seem like a luxury because it was virtually non-existent; at least for those of us in the construction industry. Overnight, companies like Hanson Aggregates had to figure out how to overcome the new challenges that the virus presented, and they had to do so quickly. The timing was perfect for the Phoenix operations as they went live with COMMANDoptimize in January 2020. Once COVID hit, the Optimization engine was able to provide some certainty in a time where it was lacking. The good news is that a virus can’t bring the Optimization engine down, so it delivered consistent results throughout all of 2020 regardless of the virus-related challenges. The only thing that the dispatch team at Hanson Aggregates had to do was feed the Optimization engine with good data, follow the plan, and wait for the results.
A "Double Green" Victory with Optimization at Play!
COMMANDoptimize enabled Hanson Aggregates to not only stay on track, but to improve. The solution allowed them to deliver a greater number of yards per truck and to fully utilize all their plant locations and trucks with fewer people while they navigated the bottlenecks that the coronavirus threw their way. Over the course of a very challenging year, the Phoenix operations Hanson Aggregates., were able to maintain their excellent customer service while improving several of their distribution KPIs significantly. In 2020, the average load size increased by 2.05% and the average number of loads per truck per day increased by 1.97% for the entire year.
Trucks sitting at the production facility or on the jobsite can be costly. The key is to keep trucks moving by having a solid plan of execution to help optimize the utilization of the truck assets and drivers. Better scheduling and routing of trucks improves transportation efficiencies, ultimately adding to the bottom line. In 2020, Sal and his team were able to increase driver productivity by 9.71%.
“When I send out reports each month, we can see what we’re turning and how many runs we are doing in a day. Those numbers have increased since the implementation of Optimization.”
- Sal Prieto, Lead Dispatcher
With Optimization, their dispatch and scheduling operations are more efficient, and the functionality of the solution makes the Order Taker’s jobs easier because they can quickly adjust loads and delivery time. Their roundtrip turnaround has also decreased since they have been using Optimization, and the amount of phone calls that they receive from their customers has reduced greatly because they aren’t having to call and check the status of their order; as soon as trucks are loaded, they are on the road. In 2020, their average time between loads decreased by over 14%.
“If we have plants open and they get loaded out of one plant next to another plant, the system sends them into that plant to get loaded at the closest plant available and then right back into town. In keeping track of this, we realized our round-trip turnaround time has greatly decreased since we've been using Optimization.”
- Bart Ashley, Area Manager
Essentially, Optimization has enabled Hanson Aggregates to achieve a “double green” win, by both increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint. Optimization increases efficiencies in the fleet that allow producers to deliver more materials using fewer hours and resources. The simplest explanation of how this is achieved is through the reduction of time spent in non-productive tasks (startup, shutdown, waiting time on job or at plant, etc.). Ultimately, this leads to less time being needed to deliver materials and sometimes allowing a smaller fleet to be used to deliver the same or greater quantity of materials. In 2020, Sal and Bart were able to greatly impact startup and shutdown times using COMMANDoptimize with more than a 10% improvement to both non-productive tasks.
During the onboarding process of Optimization, the Command Alkon development team delivered an overnight scheduling feature to enable Hanson Aggregates to implement a 24-hour schedule, which also greatly impacted their success.
“With Optimization, scheduling is a breeze.”
- Sal Prieto, Lead Dispatcher
The dispatch team can create cost-effective schedules through the Enhanced Driver Call-In feature for COMMANDoptimize. Dispatch simply enters call-in information, and then the system does the heavy lifting by calculating and suggesting call-in times for each driver based on the optimized schedule, special requirements such as QC loads or orders that require a special truck or driver attribute. The system considers driver availability and can flag potential issues. It used to take the scheduler at least 30-40 minutes to create the schedule; now, they can do it in just a couple of clicks!
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the benefits of leveraging technology to offset our labor challenges. Solutions like COMMANDoptimize are a big help in ensuring the long-term stability of the industry.”
- Dan Burgess, Vice President, General Manager
As Sal and Bart head into 2021, they believe there is even more potential to extract from COMMANDoptimize and their operations. We look forward to hearing more great results from these to two Command Alkon Industry Heroes!
Several other leading producers are also changing how they approach their dispatch operations to optimize costs and resource utilization. Click here to see how COMMANDoptimize can enhance your operations!