For the 2017 paving season, we dive into an essential area of project management for asphalt professionals: safe and timely delivery of hot-mix or warm-mix asphalt (HMA/WMA) to the paving site. During this eight-part series, you have seen some back-to-basics best practices to share with veteran and new haul truck drivers, in addition to new tips, ideas, and case studies with logistics and technology that can enhance your bottom line. Producers have streamlined processes at the plant; contractors have nailed down best practices in the work zone. Now it’s time to harness the potential you’ve been missing when it comes to mix delivery and haul truck fleet management.
As we near the completion of this series for you, we’ll look at one producer’s loadout and mix delivery system in particular. The team at Harrison Construction in Knoxville, Tennessee, has gone above and beyond setting up a command center to track trucking, and they’ve worked with Libra Systems Inc. of Harleysville, Pennsylvania, to make it happen. Todd Quigg, the president of Harrison Construction, worked directly with Ken Cardy, president at Libra.
Cardy explained that truck tracking solutions have heretofore been ported from the ready-mix industry, and those lack key functionality necessary for asphalt. Realizing there was an unfulfilled industry need, members of Harrison Construction approached the team at Libra to jointly develop a live truck tracking module that addressed the specific requirements of asphalt and aggregate suppliers.
“We previously partnered with another Oldcastle company to develop the first-ever dispatch scheduling solution for the industry,” Cardy said. “It was a logical next step to partner with Todd and his group to extend the scheduling software with the first industry-specific live truck tracking module.”
What they developed is officially named the Dispatch Scheduling & Live Truck Tracking Module, also known as a Transportation Management System (TMS) from Libra Systems. It does what it sounds like—it tracks the haul trucks in real-time.
“The Libra software allows for centralized order-taking, assignment of jobs to production facilities, and scheduling of trucks across all sites,” Cardy explained. “Live truck tracking provides an easily-grasped visual indication of truck status, allowing the dispatchers to efficiently manage trucks and optimize hauling. For Harrison Construction, the result has been a highly profitable reduction in overall trucking costs. With truck costs of $150,000 to $180,000 per year, saving one to two trucks a day really adds up and makes a very attractive ROI.
Further, customers are more satisfied and outside truckers remain loyal to Harrison because they have confidence that Harrison will optimize their time and revenue.” Quigg explained how those savings come into play, and how that benefits Harrison’s customers in the area: “Implementing the TMS forced us to embrace telematics on both our internal trucks, as well as hired haulers. These tools give us feedback on driver behavior as well as when waste is occurring during the delivery cycle.”
Quigg shared that customers appreciate the feedback his company can offer when employees in the command center notice potentially wasteful practices. For example, if haul truck B is sitting at a certain location along the route to a paving work zone, idling for an extended period of time, the TMS shows this in real time. A Harrison employee is able to locate the vehicle through the TMS tracking. If something is wrong with the truck, the telematics systems will alert the owner; if the problem is a driver who has gotten lost, only an alert dispatcher in the command center will be able to solve the problem.
To implement the technology, Quigg and team built a state of the art command center for dispatch and fleet management. The operations center houses 12 people, six for ready-mix concrete logistics, four for asphalt and aggregates delivery, and two to dispatch mechanics. The room is roughly 30 x 30 and has 12 workstations. The knowledge wall has four screens dedicated to ready-mix and four dedicated to asphalt and aggregates. Employees can see a live video stream from cameras mounted on the pavers.
The overall remodel took about 4 months to complete once details were finalized. Because Harrison Construction is part of a larger paving family, Quigg needed to take the TMS concept to Oldcastle management before implementing it. He described it as a “culture change” that he was asking the overall team to make.
“Many change-management projects require our workforce to challenge old beliefs, such as ‘we’ve always done it this way,’ and then focus on process improvement,” Quigg shared. “Previously, we had very little visibility to the delivery cycle and could not make real time changes to truck demand. Now we have more visibility than we ever had, and are working to deliver material in the most efficient manner possible.”
“We approached the development and implementation as a possible cost reduction as we drove efficiency in our operations,” Quigg continued. “We are continuing to work to develop tools to track improvement and increase the time a haul unit is productive.”
John Ritenour is the dispatch manager for Harrison Construction, and he shared what initially seemed complex about the system.
“The live dispatch summary, when we were discussing implementation, seemed very overwhelming and very labor intensive to enter all the data that used to be on one sheet of paper. Now, we live with it every day and it shows where we are effective and where we need to focus our efforts. We get instantaneous feedback on how the delivery cycle is operating and it allows us to tailor each delivery cycle to the needs of the crew or plant.”
The savings and the introduction of additional efficiency were top selling points for the team to embrace the system.
“This tool can allow the back office to take management of trucks off the paving crew foreman, plant operator and trucking foreman, and put it into an office setting where communication and visibility allow for real-time decision-making,” Quigg said. “If your field personnel will support the change, it can make their lives better and grow the bottom line of your company.”
So far, using the truck management system has already realized the savings of one truck per day for Harrison operations. That came about for their team through precise trucking fleet management. When the dispatcher knows exactly how many tons are on the job, he has the ability to check in with the foreman on site and communicate about actual yield.
He then knows when it’s acceptable to remove a truck from rotation before loading it with perishable material and sending it to a work zone that doesn’t need it. Dispatchers can work with the job superintendents prior to job startup to assess an accurate number of trucks needed for a project.
“I believe that adoption of this tool and process change will save at least one truck per day [for an operation],” Quigg said. “As you do the math for that savings, over the course of a year, the return on investment for the tools is met within the first year.”
Libra’s Ken Cardy listed the main benefits the Harrison Construction team realizes with this system:
- Libra is the only company to offer a dispatch solution that is purpose-built for the asphalt industry.
- Coupled with a telematics solution, Libra TMS allows for active management of supply chain in real time, taking the team from passive to active management.
- TMS gives the operations team a live look at where the trucks are in regard to the estimated delivery cycle.
- TMS has the potential to save money by eliminating inefficient practices such as over-trucking.