Command Alkon took the opportunity at its 2015 Customer Training and Technology Conference to affirm commitment to legacy construction materials production, enterprise and dispatching platforms, as well as announce a resource shift to next generation information technology products—many offered under the pay-as-you-go, Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription model.
Command Alkon MOBILEconnect Business Unit Vice President Chris Strickland characterized SaaS and attendant cloud-computing methods, when compared to traditional licensed software running on individual producer servers, as enabling faster deployment of high value products; offering the company and customers shared risk and flexible pricing; moving information technology from a capital to operating expenditure; and, lowering delivery costs thanks to subscriptions with Amazon Web Services or other cloud platform hosts.
SaaS led the agenda of the 2015 conference, whose record attendance level of 650-plus was split between COMMANDseries and Integra (concrete), Apex (aggregate, cement, bulk material), and FiveCubits (bulk material hauling and transport) users plus participants from 11 countries outside North America. The cloud-based service ramp up augments the top priorities Command Alkon indicated at its 2014 conference: Build out of the MOBILEconnect suite of smartphone or tablet-ready applications for sales and ticketing (producers) and commerce (contractor customers); and, integration of mobile-geared FiveCubits technology platforms, acquired in August 2014, with core COMMANDseries, Integra and Apex offerings.
SaaS in a cloud environment accelerates integration of Command Alkon’s new (mobile or core) and existing (core) platforms. Cloud methods’ potential is best demonstrated in supplyCONNECT, a new raw material demand calculator linking FiveCubits’ TrackIt or HaulIt functions to COMMANDbatch and Apex platforms. Modeled on “just-in-time” delivery principles, supplyCONNECT equips internal logistics managers or contract haulers to automate inventory replenishment, order tracking and dump or tanker truck scheduling. Programmers note that it ensures delivery of the “right material to the right place at the right time and right cost.”
supplyCONNECT’s premier user is California bulk material hauler and concrete pumping contractor Conco Companies, which has deployed the program to manage aggregate and cement deliveries to Bay Area ready mixed plants. The program’s short window from concept to field duty owes to efficient interfaces typical of cloud computing methods, plus Command Alkon’s escalating research & development. CEO Phil Ramsey told 2015 conference attendees that R&D outlays reached $12.5 million this year—25 percent above 2014 figures, and nearly 50 percent higher than 2010 levels. The present R&D commitment is supported by an 18 percent boost in year-over-year revenues, nearly all of the 2015 gain attributable to North American business.
Automation and asset optimization prospects that go hand in hand with the SaaS strategy, coupled with cloud-computing platforms’ flexible financial terms, Ramsey added, align with challenges resonating across Command Alkon’s North American customer base: high capital demands for plant equipment and fleets, stemming from deferred investment throughout the recession; and, a budgeting mindset or management mandate precluding companies’ return to pre-recession payroll levels or headcounts.
Command Alkon has begun preparations for the 2016 Customer Training and Technology Conference, scheduled October 31–November 1 at the 73-story Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta. Full-day, in-depth training sessions on select platforms will take place October 29-30. More immediately, Command Alkon plans regional training events January 13-14 in Chicago, plus a spring session on the West Coast.
CEMENT DELIVERY SCHEDULING: CONVENTIONAL VS. supplyCONNECT
Command Alkon charts a day’s prospective cement tanker dispatching schedule for four ready mixed plants—two requiring three loads, one two loads, the remaining one a single load. The schedule on the bottom left chart is prepared according to a producer’s existing metrics: acceptable minimum cement supply level, powder consumption projections, typical terminal-to-plant or vice versa route times, and drivers’ availability. The eight-hour schedule calls for four tankers delivering nine loads; estimated driver hours: 28 regular, 5.75 overtime.
The schedule on the bottom right chart is determined by supplyCONNECT, whose algorithms use data from COMMANDbatch, COMMANDseries and Apex platforms, plus inputs from FiveCubits HaulIt vehicle and load tracking technology, to chart an optimized eight-hour delivery sequence for three tankers and nine loads; estimated driver hours: 24, 1.75 overtime.