Productivity Gains Through a Single Source of Information Highlighted in World Cement Magazine

January 20, 2020 Ron Becker

Ron Becker, Business Consultant at Command Alkon, explains how the digitalization of the construction industry could be the solution to low levels of productivity. To read the article in PDF format, click here.

Productivity has been stuck for years in the construction industry, and a couple of the main culprits include inefficient workflows and improper planning. According to a report from McKinsey Global Institute, productivity in the construction industry is even less productive now than it was 60 years ago. “One need only examine the lag in digitization, a primary drain on productivity, to see exactly why this is the case – the $10 Trillion construction industry has been outpaced by every sector.”

If minor inefficiencies can result in massive costs, then incremental improvements in productivity can save contractors a lot of time and a lot of money. In a $10 Trillion construction industry, productivity improvements of a mere 1% can save $100 Billion. With those savings alone, the industry can create its own stimulus package and not be reliant on infrastructure spend from the government.

Out-of-date methods and manual processes tie up time, efforts, and budgets. Many tasks could be easily automated and further optimized. Yet, inefficiencies run rampant because most businesses are not aware of the alternatives available.

Once on site, there are two ways that drivers can check in their vehicles: an efficient way, and an inefficient way. Drivers can pull up to the weighbridge and either check in manually, or use the check in window if available. At this point, the dispatcher would enter his vehicle number in to the system and all of his details would populate on the computer. They would then inform the driver of his load and send him in to the quarry.

A more efficient way to do this is to install some form of AutoID and use the technology to guide him through the quarry. This configuration provides huge time savings benefits and would also improve the health and safety record by keeping the drivers in the trucks at all times.

After being loaded, vehicles proceed to the scale house. With a digital solution, the scale is linked to a computer system. The ticket would print the correct weight, and tickets would no longer have to be adjusted.

Automating these processes can improve customer service, provide a common system that allows your employees to manage the business from quote through to collection, reduce the risk of under and overweighs by having the scale head linked directly to the software, automate invoice on completion of jobs – and, from a management level, access the entire operation at any time.

When it comes to in-bound delivery truck drivers who spend time on a job site, it makes sense to keep tabs on driver whereabouts and ensure their safety with software designed to meet the operational needs of cement producers:

Feature-rich Apex software automates and optimizes your truck scale ticketing, transportation, and back office processes to maximize efficiency, profitability, and safety. Apex uses a combination of automatic identification technology, driver kiosks, wireless loader systems, and remote printers and driver displays combined with in-cab telematics systems, to gain better control of traffic flow, driver communications, and ticketing processes. In addition, a Scale Watcher weighing verification solution enables better control of traffic flow, driver communications and load out processes, and throughput.

The Benefits of Automated Processes Enabled by Apex

The Problem

One of Command Alkon’s customers has been in operation for 117 years, having gotten its start with picks and shovels along the rail line. Through rail and trucking, the material is shipped out in all directions from King City to San Francisco. One of their largest quarries in the Western United States realized that their legacy systems weren’t providing the visibility that they required during their check-in/out, weigh-in/out, Asphalt Loadout, and Scale Ticketing operations.

They needed advanced scale ticketing software in conjunction with automation technologies to improve the speed, efficiency, throughput of their site operations.

The Solution

In 2014 they chose Apex to replace their legacy systems. While all of the Apex features were important, the flexibility of the Auto ID module was critical in that decision. The Auto ID functionality is used at all of their aggregate and asphalt locations, but this specific quarry uses nearly every option available as well as a few new features added specifically to meet their needs at the site.

  • Apex Ticketing – At the core of the system is the Apex ticketing software, providing an intuitive Windows™ user interface for data management and ticket printing at the site.
  • Auto ID – This module interfaces with the core ticketing application to allow the use of RFID readers and remote user input devices to automate the ticketing process.
  • 3rd Party Controls Interface – Apex systems can communicate with a 3rd Party PLC using a standard OPC (OLE for Process Control) interface. This allows the Apex application to provide information such as Target Weights, Bin ID, etc. to the loadout control system and to monitor status conditions.
  • Remote Ticket Printing – An environmental enclosure, designed specifically for outdoor printing in conditions found in the bulk materials industry, houses an industrial printer for rapid delivery of tickets to the driver.
  • Scale Watcher- Integrated video capture provides a still image of truck license and side door view for every ticket generated. These images are stored with the ticket, eliminating the need for driver signatures. Each loadout lane includes an RFID Terminal, Remote Printer and Integrated Video Capture.

The Result

The site automation technologies gets trucks on the road quicker by keeping drivers in trucks and reducing time on site. During the check-in process, RFID tags mounted on the vehicle identify the trucks and display the current load assignment to the driver on the display screen.

By enforcing a check-in for every load, they are able to capture good gate-to-gate times for every check-in and accurately display all trucks in the yard for all users, including the loader operators.

The check-in station consists of RFID readers, activated by a vehicle presence sensor to eliminate cross reads between lanes; a full spring display; and a phone for direct connection to the scale house, which allows the driver to confirm all of the relevant information for their load, including whether the product is currently available in the auto load lanes.

The PLC flashes a light to indicate which bin the driver needs to line up under. The driver pulls on the cord to start the loading process.

Once complete, the PLC provides Apex with the actual weight and a ticket is generated. The truck then pulls forward out of the load house to the print station to receive their ticket.

All 10 print stations at the site include Scale Watcher, eliminating the need for drivers’ signature copies of tickets. This feature also mitigates the risk of theft and assists with claims by capturing video/still footage and truck license image to store with each ticketing activity.

The print station and scales include a display, where current ticket information can be reviewed and printed. Some of the stations also include a phone to contact the scale house, and all stations include the Scale Watcher cameras.

At the quarry, they were unable to physically locate the license plate camera forward of one of the scales, so instead they capture the image as the trucks enter the scale. This is a feature that was added specifically for their needs at this site.

Connectivity & Benefits of A Single Source of Information

The physical supply chains across construction are intricately structured and perforated with often unseen or unnoticed complications. To perform smarter, faster, safer, and more productively, the complex and dynamic movements across the heavy material supply chain must be well orchestrated across contractors, bulk material suppliers, logistics providers, jobsite inspectors, project owners, and more. Collaborative digital technologies must be embedded into processes to transform the way business partners work together to turn knowledge into action and create new ways to succeed. Enter Command Alkon’s CONNEX Platform. CONNEX is the Supplier Collaboration Platform for Construction’s Heavy Work.

Knowing that the materials ordered arrive in the best quality is one aspect of the equation, but many factors typically arise that challenge this assurance. Having visibility across a Supplier Collaboration Platform, where all trading partners are active participants. For example, the data that is collected by Apex can be accessed by all other supply chain participants. This provides the ability to mitigate risk because there is advanced notice of what is happening across projects, plants and in-transit materials.

With digital collaboration tools, many discrete organizations work closely together to meet shared objectives like quality, profitability, customer service, differentiated experiences, and increased value. Real-time visibility across transactions, materials, and quality boosts productivity and creates greater trust among partners. CONNEX is the #1 Platform for the Heavy Building Material industry, allowing buyers, suppliers, and logistics providers to share real-time details of orders, jobs, materials, movements, and more.

Supply chains are complex networks of many-to-many independent enterprises that need to correspond digitally and effortlessly – sharing information that can be acted on. Insights uncovered from the data informs which levers to pull to grow intelligently, increase profitability, and create efficiencies. The collection of rich data from each transaction among trading partners provides fresh, big-picture data with full context, enabling analytics that can uncover trends; monitor carriers’ performance; measure improvements; and enable better, more-informed business decisions.

For more information about CONNEX, visit https://commandalkon.com/connex/.

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