All ready mix production facilities have the same goal: boost productivity and efficiency while reducing errors and accidents. Standardization can be an effective way to do this. It defines expectations, formalizes processes and creates accountability. When expectations are defined and function requirements and characteristics are specified, productivity can increase and confusion is eliminated.
The Wells Group
The Wells Group is a family-owned business that got its start in 1958 with one plant and two small mixers in West Liberty, Kentucky. Over time, they have grown to 36 plants and serve most of eastern Kentucky and parts of Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. The company is still family-owned with a third generation active in company management.
Nearly every plant that The Wells Group operates is equipped with COMMANDbatch, Command Alkon’s automated batching system. The system has the ability to alert staff members when a batched material is out of tolerance, or an operator has added too much water to the mix and has exceeded the maximum allowable water/cement ratio. COMMANDbatch systems use a sequencing engine that is unparalleled in the industry, making each load more accurate and efficient.
With so many of their plants running this system, they need an expert on their team to manage the implementations and maintenance. Enter Alex Goodpastor, who is the IT Manager for the Wells Group. He manages their Command Alkon systems for batching and dispatch, and he also has a hand in the production and quality processes of their products.
The Journey to Guarantee Quality and Boost Production
Production System Upgrade
From its start, The Wells Group had Eagle systems, which they eventually upgraded to COMMANDbatch.
After an acquisition, a substantial task is the integration and reorganization of information and communication systems. Oftentimes, employees have to be trained and business processes might have to be changed. While The Wells Group was acquiring more companies to target new customer segments and extend their area of service, they also ran into issues where some of those companies had a hodgepodge of different hardware and systems for their production & QC operations, which they then had to upgrade.
Dispatch System Updates
For a while, The Wells Group was operating without a comprehensive dispatch system. Because of this, they had to send most of their quality control sales personnel out regionally to all of their plants to collect paperwork on Mondays. They grew and expanded so ferociously that this process began to be impossible. Not having one dispatch system also meant that they did not have uniform product codes, uniform mix codes, or uniform mixes.
When Alex Goodpastor first started with the company, they had 7 COMMANDbatch systems, while the rest were Eagle or Spectrum systems. Trying to learn three different systems was difficult, so they began to upgrade all of their hardware and software to COMMANDbatch.
Command Alkon has a handful of customers in the US that are certified to install their own systems; Alex being one of them. He picks all of the equipment up at Command Alkon’s Dublin office and installs it himself with very little interaction with the implementation team and service team.
“Installation takes about two or three days to install the hardware, and then an additional two to three days to get the batch operator trained on the system. After that, we’re pretty much able to go full force; it’s really simple.”
- Alex Goodpastor, IT Manager at The Wells Group
Productivity and Performance Gains Through Standardization
The COMMANDbatch and EZ Cal hardware has been standardized across The Wells Group’s operations, which has been a game changer. This enables their operators to fill in at other plants without a learning curve because they operate with one standardized, integrated product.
During an acquisition, there is always a transition process, and The Wells Group noticed some inefficiencies with the other batch controls that they were operating with while they were in the process of transitioning these systems to COMMANDbatch. With one of their most recent acquisitions, the plant was operating with a batch system that would batch inconsistently, and the batch operator would manually have to weigh up the material to even everything out. With COMMANDbatch, they can tune the system to ensure a consistent load, no matter the size.
One of the operations that they recently acquired was armed with other computerized batching systems that did not have the full functionality available with COMMANDbatch and the system was causing issues with materials overages. Once COMMANDbatch was implemented they were able to load cleaner and increase productivity; even the drivers are impressed with how clean it loads!
“COMMANDbatch is great. I am not impressed with the other computerized batch systems. I'm sure that they're great at making concrete, but with COMMANDbatch, I know that I'll be producing quality concrete.”
- Alex Goodpastor, IT Manager
The Integra suite of modules integrates processes from end to end, including order entry, dynamic scheduling, ticketing, truck tracking, resource management, and reporting. Once Integra was implemented, they were able to unify everything in their back office pertaining to billing, and they were able to increase production without having to add more personnel while they continued to grow. They were able to grow the company without having to hire additional people, aside from front-end production, and they had the same fixed cost in the back because of the times savings and simplification that Integra delivered to their administrative and billing processes. Integra has also helped to make the transitions of their acquisitions easier as far as getting their product codes and being able to print tickets initially from Integra.
The Wells Group recently supplied the quality concrete for a new road, The Portsmouth Bypass, which is in southern Ohio. The road basically built the bypass around the city, helping traffic flow for people traveling to West Virginia and Kentucky. The project began right as the company initially started out with Integra. They had two Integra-armed plants dedicated to the project and were able to run both plants and share orders through the system.
The project required 90 thousand total yards, and the addition of Integra and COMMANDbatch really helped them to ensure that their batches weren’t out of tolerance and helped them to reduce the amount of rejected loads.