Sources: CP staff; Command Alkon, Birmingham, Ala.
In a sign of rapidly changing times for information technology and heavy building materials, Command Alkon departed from past annual customer conference agendas at ELEVATE 2017. Attendees of the early-November gathering were compelled to grasp the a) parallels between their business-to-business operations and two business-to-consumer service and product brands; and, b) role of analytics and Big Data in anticipating construction market conditions driving profitability and growth.
CEO Phil Ramsey, Vice President of Products Chris Strickland and Vice President of Engineering Charles Evans opened the two-day event in New Orleans with a novel look at how Uber Technologies and Domino’s Pizza leverage Internet of Things-grade, vehicle- and temperature-tracking technology to improve the Customer Experience. Compared to traditional taxi hailing, Uber in many instances offers timelier rides at lower cost in more desirable vehicles. The Domino’s Tracker application, on other hand, allows customers to follow orders from oven to their front doors, knowing baked goods arrive at or very near an optimal 162° serving temperature.
Addressing 500-plus COMMANDseries, COMMANDbatch, Apex, FiveCubits and Integra users, the Command Alkon executives examined how the sensors and GPS-enabled services powering Uber rides and Domino’s Tracker can also inform delivery of ready mixed concrete. They underscored the potential of premium pricing for a typical 9-yd. load in the face of improved value and customer experience a contractor would realize with timely concrete mix data relay and tight quality control. They explained how some of the company’s current offerings, COMMANDassurance, COMMANDoptimize, MOBILEconnect and TrackIt, are tools with which producers can move towards emulating applicable Uber and Domino’s processes in concrete, aggregate, cement or asphalt supply chain and inventory management, production, quality control, fleet operations and customer service. (Their Customer Experience address is posted here.)
A drum probe measuring real-time slump, temperature and other properties of ready mixed concrete in transit or at point of placement, COMMANDassurance was the newest offering at ELEVATE 2017. The device combines a stainless steel probe anchored by an exterior, drum-mounted solar panel plus a receiver logging data from accelerometer, load cell and thermistor sensors. It is based on a design Command Alkon acquired from IBB Rheology Inc., Quebec, and modified for the COMMAND platform. COMMANDassurance is set for 2018 beta testing then limited release following early deployment with respective COMMANDseries and Integra users, Minnesota’s Cemstone Products Co. and Ohio’s Ernst Enterprises.
Once the technology reaches the general release stage in 18-24 months, Command Alkon envisions COMMANDassurance users launching mobile device applications enabling customers to monitor arriving loads’ slump, temperature and other quality control metrics—in the spirit of Domino’s Tracker. Such applications will draw from TrackIt, the fleet- and load-tracking platform Command Alkon continues to build and integrate since acquiring FiveCubits.
At ELEVATE 2017, FiveCubits division staff demonstrated how the latest TrackIt builds on earlier driver time management features to afford users a cab-mounted device in light of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. Effective December 18, 2017, it applies to commercial driver’s license holders who operate heavy-duty trucks beyond baseline mileage and daily/weekly hours parameters. Command Alkon customers most likely required to equip drivers and fleets with ELD are those hauling cement and bulk materials; the mandate likewise applies to mixer truck drivers whose delivery range or work schedules exceed guidelines for which FMCSA accepts conventional logs.
TrackIt is also central to another technology Command Alkon spotlighted in New Orleans, supplyCONNECT, which moves into 2018 as general release. The technology serves as a demand calculator predicting the amount of cement, aggregates and admixtures a concrete plant will need for a specified interval. It integrates functions from COMMANDseries, COMMANDbatch, Apex and FiveCubits platforms to enable what Command Alkon notes is delivery of “the right amount of material to right place at the right time.”
supplyCONNECT is poised for wide deployment after testing with three initial users: California bulk hauler Reliable Trucking (The Conco Companies), which is testing the technology to manage cementitious material replenishment for San Francisco Bay Area ready mixed concrete market leaders Cemex USA and Central Concrete Supply Co.; and, New Jersey-based Sika Corp., which is applying the technology to manage admixture replenishment for Georgia’s Wayne Davis Concrete Co., which additionally has adopted supplyCONNECT to manage cement and fly ash replenishment for its 14 ready mixed plants around metro Atlanta’s northern and western reaches.