Scott Dugan, Command Alkon, explains how companies can streamline business processes and operational tasks necessary to ticket and scale cement, enabling drivers to check-in, load, and ticket trucks without interruption.
Digital innovations and intelligent networks offer tremendous opportunity to supercharge efficiencies in the cement industry. New technologies have the strength to create powerful connections between physical and digital systems. Many cement players know the benefits of implementing digital solutions, but few have seen its full power or taken advantage of its full potential.
Cement operations can realise incredible results through digital technologies that enable employees to manage the business from quote through to collection – enabling dispatchers, field workers, and customers to communicate directly with each other, while adding accountability and tracking that can be seen from the office. Apex from Command Alkon streamlines business processes and operational tasks necessary to ticket and scale cement, enabling drivers to check-in, load, and ticket trucks without interruption.
Once on site, the vehicle is identified in the Apex system as it passes the check in ALPR camera.
Rush hour to rapid flow
Apex can expedite the ticketing process by ensuring all information about an order is in the system from the start, so that the truck driver knows exactly what is being picked up and where it needs to go as soon as they pull on-site. These point-of-sale modules interface directly with the sale, dispatch, transportation management, and back-office modules for quoting, invoicing, receivables, inventory, reporting, and business intelligence. When order information is entered into the system from the get-go, that data flows through the entire ticketing process and throughout the entire enterprise so that everyone is in the loop.
Advanced-scale ticketing software works to improve the speed and efficiency of operations.
Seeing as cement is such a pricey product, accurate loading is crucial. Site-automation technologies work in tandem with Apex to deliver improvements in loading accuracy, speed, efficiency, and safety, and integrating Apex directly with the site PLCs and loading system can ensure that the right material is in the right truck and reduce the risk of lost loads.
Utilising Apex point-of-sale and back office modules in conjunction with site-automation technologies typically presents the opportunity to cut down 35% of time in the yard. The system cuts down verbal communication once the truck pulls on to a site because the loads are already in the system and a truck is already assigned to those loads. Automating the process keeps the driver in the safety of the cab of the truck the entire time they are in the yard, promoting safety while streamlining throughput. The system also has the ability to interface with the loading system and receive feedback that permits them to prevent the truck from being loaded unless certain safety measures are in place.
Boosting speed and efficiency
Apex’s Auto ID module uses Radio Frequency (RF) devices or License Plate Recognition for vehicle identification and assignments. The Apex Express Reader works in conjunction with the Auto ID module to automate the ticketing process with a ‘swipe only’ device for vehicle identification. The Apex All-Terrain Kiosk (ATK) supports the Auto ID module to further automate the driver check-in process. The ATK provides a touch screen interface for load assignment, driver selection, and load confirmation. This automation piece is intended to increase the speed and accuracy of the load processing without the addition of scale personnel. The Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) uses a combination of camera and Auto ID technology to identify and process a vehicle entering the site and/or scale in seconds.
The Apex Express Reader works in conjunction with the Auto ID module to automate the ticketing process with this ‘swipe only’ device for vehicle identification.
Scale Watcher is the next generation of hardware and software to provide photo and video verification of a truck’s weighing process. This is an integrated photo verification tool that overlays ticket information onto a photo of a truck on the scale. This image is then saved in a PDF, HTML or other image-friendly format by ticket number. The ticket number provides easy retrieval of the image to email to customers. The tool also provides proof of vehicle pickup without signatures.
With Scale Watcher, an optional gate/valve anti-theft module alerts authorised personnel of potential theft of materials. The anti-theft module sends an email alert to one or more designated addresses whenever the gate/valve is opened and closed on a loading system and a ticket is not printed. The gate/valve anti-theft module is not reliant upon the scale or software to function and will work after hours when the plant is shut down. The scale sensing feature will also send an alert if:
- A truck has left the scale, but no ticket was generated.
- The tare weight is above the set threshold.
- The gross weight from the scale does not match that printed on the ticket.
- The weight on the scale exceeds the truck GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight).
- The ticketing system loses connection with the scale indicator.
New functionality also supports bagged cement, providing the ability to cross-check that the load is accurate. If a certain number of bags are ordered and the truck comes over the scale, the system has the ability to check that the right number of bags are loaded based on a certain configurable threshold. If the truck comes over the scale and weighs more than the given threshold, the system can flag that load and the truck will not be allowed to receive a ticket unless someone manually overrides it.
Finally, the Remote Printer Enclosure enables drivers to pick up their scale ticket after weighing without getting out of the truck. Combined with a movable swing arm option, the enclosure is installed at cab height immediately following the outbound scale and rotates easily out of the way if bumped.
Apex’s rugged Remote Printer Enclosure keeps drivers in the cab, out of harm’s way, and gets vehicles on the road quicker.
Apex can also integrate with TrackIt, Command Alkon’s truck tracking and telematics system. Utilising a telematics system provides full visibility of the truck throughout the entire delivery process. The system can provide statuses for when the truck arrives at the plant to be loaded and when the truck is in the loading area so that it is easy to determine the difference in the time during check-in to loading, when the truck leaves the loading area, when the truck is ticketed, and then all the way to the delivery site. The result is the ability to improve customer service by improving insight into what is really going on.
Site automation in action
The back office is an integral part of any organisation, and a significant percentage of customer dissatisfaction can be traced to back office inefficiencies, which has the potential to greatly impact the operation’s profitability. The lack of insight into back-office activities costs many companies tons of money each year. Not having a system in place to manage and optimise productivity can present some serious implications on customer service and business reputation.
One of Command Alkon’s Apex customers built a custom application for their back-office processes in 2001. In 2018, the company decided to add the Apex sales and back office modules for quoting, invoicing, receivables, inventory, reporting, and business intelligence because it had expanded its services and had undergone some substantial growth. The company’s in-house system no longer had the power to handle its volume of work.
The All-Terrain Kiosk provides a touch screen interface for load assignment, driver selection, and load confirmation.
The company’s employees responded positively to the addition of the back-office modules because the interface is familiar, and it is very similar to the way that their custom application works. The system is also highly customisable, so the company was able to easily tailor the solution to work the way that made the most sense for the business and for its people.
Because this particular company had been an Apex user for more than two decades prior to adding back office modules, they already had a firm relationship with Command Alkon. This helped in making the implementation process as seamless as possible. The implementation caused no interruption in the company’s operations, and Apex has allowed it to universalise its process across the entire enterprise and have better insight into what is happening in real time from all parts of the organisation.
Now that the company has the back-office modules in place with the loadout and scale ticketing, it is using the Apex system with each local plant to manage orders. The system has helped them go from a 15-day close at the end of the month to a three-day close because all the invoices are contained within one platform.
Apex’s integrated Scale Water functionality provides proof of vehicle weighing and ticketing without signatures.
The company is now able to manage demand and keep trucks moving, and since implementation, it has maintained a record-setting year. The company also claims that Apex’s modularity is a big factor in this success.
Having one point of reference for information on the product from the time it is ordered, out the door, and billed, and streamlining check in and loadout processes, eliminates tedious manual tasks and allows companies to handle the orders that customers need each day.
About the author
Scott Dugan joined Command Alkon in 2005. He has performed roles in customer support, implementations, project management, product management, technical sales, and is currently the Director of Operations for Bulk Materials Products. His degree in management information systems and prior experience in information technology brings technical expertise to the Bulk Materials industry.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/special-reports/18032021/thats-the-ticket/