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Lightening the load of logistics: part 1

World Cement,

As the owner and operator of Europe’s largest granite quarry and manufacturer and supplier of heavy building materials, Aggregate Industries has to ensure a smooth operation across its plants, quarries and fleet of vehicles. Over the past few years, the company has seen an increasing demand for materials delivered within shorter timescales as the construction industry continues to recover from the recession. This may be due to the need to meet tight deadlines concerning new city projects, rapid repair work or the release of new government projects, including major renovations from the Highways Agency. Whatever the reason, Aggregate Industries acknowledges that the needs of the construction industry are continuously changing and at the heart of its service is the logistics arm.

Picking up, transporting and delivering material plays a major part in the company’s operations, yet it is recognised that more needs to be done in terms of creating a strong, sustainable and flexible network that would act as the backbone to the business. Aggregate Industries began by taking a look at what pressures were directly affecting performance and how structural changes could effectively improve and standardise its overall strategy to streamline logistics across a multitude of sites and facilities.

Transparent transport network

Customers want quick, reliant and reactive deliveries, and no matter how much the company plans and what time it allocates there will always be circumstances where material is needed within a short timescale and it has to deliver on these customer expectations. With haulage making up 30% of the business, Aggregate Industries wanted to ensure that it could accommodate such needs and have greater visibility on its fleet network of over 800 vehicles, which consists of 523 franchised tippers and 296 mixers.

This has resulted in the trialling of a new haulage tracking system, which has seen the business make a substantial investment into redefining the way it tracks and navigates its fleet. The sophisticated technology allows the business to see where fleet vehicles are, monitor what load they are transporting and, most importantly, when material is being collected and delivered. By receiving such data direct from the tracking technology the company has been able to gauge a better view of what works within each region.

A new strategy that enables the company to provide realistic timings and utilise the capacity of each vehicle has also been implemented. This has meant that the fleet is now maximised, carrying loads from local plants and quarries to local construction projects, reducing environmental impact and creating a more efficient service, strategically placing operators on to projects within a realistic distance. This is just the first step in the implementation, as Aggregate Industries recognises that greater synergy is needed between not only materials being delivered to customers, but also between its own facilities, for example when sand is delivered to the ready-mix concrete plants. Tracking the fleet has allowed the company to optimise its capacity, reduce the pressures of workloads and resolve weaknesses that have been exposed by the programme.

The introduction of the tracking programme to the operators was met with some scepticism at first, as ‘tracking’ could be seen as the all-seeing eye or ‘big brother’. However, although in its infancy, the company has begun to see improvements thanks to the new structure. This has enabled it to deliver projects efficiently, and these effects have been welcomed by operators through to customers. Aggregate Industries has been able to meet challenging time frames, transporting materials far and wide from quarries to final locations at short notice. This includes projects along the Cumbrian coastline in the far North West of England to rock armour being delivered with a two-day time period to repair flood defences in West Sussex, on the South Coast.

The next phase of the project will see a new app being introduced, which will incorporate key performance indicators (KPI’s) and will allow the company to create a whole dashboard of data. This means the fleet network will work in sync and can adapt to the changing circumstances it encounters on a daily basis. This will result in quicker turnarounds, the ability to cater towards large-scale projects, as well as deliver last-minute loads, which will also lead to prioritising journeys and reducing energy consumption.

Read part 2 here.

Written by Jeff Stobbart, National Logistics Manager UK, Aggregate Industries. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the March 2015 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can read the full article by logging in. They can also read the magazine on smart phones and tablets by downloading World Cement’s app.

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