Digitize Aggregate Practices
BY Kerry Dougan
All of the intricacies that go into running a business operation can be challenging enough, but when you throw in the “unknown of unknowns” during this era that we are living in, quarry managers can really start to feel the heat.
For the last few years, electronic ticketing has been adopted across the industry to facilitate paperless transactions. Having these capabilities enables businesses to optimize operations by getting people in and out of the plant safely and keeping electronic records to track cost, mitigate risk, and reduce manual tasks. Taking advantage of solutions like these also provides new abilities to keep tabs on trucks and the drivers operating them.
Now, with the rising costs of raw materials, scarce labor resources, and an uncertain economic situation, the implementation of new technologies to automate business processes and enable data accessibility is pertinent to success. A combination of automated data capture using network-connected devices and web-based reporting and analytics tools will help support the quarry of the future.
Technology is not only instrumental during this era but is also necessary in addressing the shortage of labor. The labor shortage is genuine across many industries, but is especially tough for contractors, material suppliers, and others struggling to meet hiring requirements.
Even before the COVID crisis, labor was a major issue. It is difficult to recruit skilled workers to work long hours either doing manual labor in the elements or sitting in a truck for extended periods of time. As the unemployment rate has been decreasing, the number of job openings has been increasing, creating huge talent shortages for companies across various industries. As a result, the talent pool for the construction materials industry has shrunk even more, which is why automation and technology is so important. Operations need to do as much, if not more, with fewer people.
Terms like big data, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) have become buzzwords in the heavy building material markets in recent years, and industry members are learning that they need to abandon a lot of manual processes and embrace this technology-driven era. Luckily, this new generation of workers already has a thirst for technology and the means to better understand it. By nature, this younger generation is adaptive to technology and is interested in taking the data and discovering ways to best utilize it.
Data Is Like Oxygen
Access to accurate, timely data regarding safety, quality, maintenance and performance metrics has never been more important. Managers need up-to-the-minute information from the field to operate with the agility today’s volatile environment requires. Foreknowledge of surfacing trends, critical issues and operational efficiency can make or break the operation. Often, the challenge is not a lack of access to data but rather the ability to collect the right data and to put it to work in the right way.
Data is the fuel that supports teams in the decision-making process. Making data easily accessible to business users is the first step in empowering teams to make data-driven decisions. Scaling this capability across the organization can significantly improve productivity and streamline operations. All constituents can quickly gain insight from the data they are collecting to uncover new opportunities and areas for improvement.
Cloud-based solutions allow all employees and specified trading partners to connect and exchange information from one single source, providing a deeper understanding of what is happening within the operation and the supply chain as a whole.
Now, sharing knowledge has not only become easy, but it’s become a regular part of business. If COVID had happened 30 years ago, life would have been a series of phone calls. Now, because we utilize solutions that offer connectivity across the operation, most plants were able to weather that storm without missing much of a beat.
Aggregate operations are increasingly conducting business through digital collaborative platforms to orchestrate all connections, workflow, and collaboration among all so that everyone works smarter, faster, and more safely. Collaborative digital technologies transform the way internal and external partners work together to turn knowledge into action and create new ways to succeed—and this is a trend that we don’t see going out of style any time soon.
Kerry Dougan serves as the market manager for the bulk materials segment at Command Alkon where he is responsible for the pricing and packaging of new and existing bulk materials offerings, identifying new growth opportunities, prioritizing key initiatives and product roadmaps, identifying key CONNEX platform partnership opportunities, and managing the competitive landscape of the bulk materials segment.