The concrete industry may soon be changing its technology-resistant reputation, as a series of trends — including customer demand, new approaches, and the realities of lean operations — is driving the adoption of technologies that improve day-to-day operations. Software developers are responding to producers’ priorities, such as eliminating production waste, managing employees, and streamlining back office functions. With mainstream Internet access, new programs can quickly deliver information to users across the entire operation: dispatch, drivers, sales, management, contractors, project owners, and suppliers.
Data from incompatible software systems can be collected and converted within the web-based “cloud” to solve data transparency issues. And just as importantly, producers and their customers can demand real-time information whenever and wherever it’s needed via wireless technology.
Additionally, here are some mobile apps that are helping concrete producers transform their operations, from producing more accurate mixes to improving customer communications.
Mobilizing concrete operations
Two industry veterans are on a mission to make concrete producers more efficient where it’s needed most. Bernie Benson and Craig Yeack co-founded BCMI Corp., which provides consulting and technology development for the construction materials industry. The name stands for Bulk Construction Materials Initiative, which they say is already underway. “We’re part of a movement to modernize the construction materials industry as a reaction to new economic realities,” Benson says.
Benson was founder and CEO of Five Cubits, a developer of operations management and point-of-sale systems, and former CEO of iCrete, specializing in high-performance mix design. Yeack has the expertise of both an IT vendor and concrete producer as a former vice president at Alkon (before the Command merger) and global IT director for Hanson before its acquisition by HeidelbergCement.
In 2010, Yeack co-authored a white paper for enterprise software developer SAP, “Best-Practice IT for the Bulk Construction Materials Industry.” It identified an industry-wide problem: Years of mergers and acquisitions resulted in combined IT systems that don’t communicate well, and actually prevent producers from accessing the information needed to operate successfully. The authors concluded that eliminating redundant processes would be critical to improving employee productivity and overall operations. The full white paper can be downloaded at www.bcmi.me.
Many producers lack the time or resources to fix dysfunctional IT processes. Some have invested in costly system conversions that haven’t solved their problems, or have made them worse. “Everyone is in systems hell,” says Benson, “but you can’t kill the business trying to cure it.”