How Cemex’s new loadout technology is transforming FEC Quarry

By |  October 21, 2019
FEC Quarry in Miami is the third-largest producer of crushed stone in the United States, according to the latest United States Geological Survey rankings. Photo by Zach Mentz

FEC Quarry in Miami is the third-largest producer of crushed stone in the United States, according to the latest United States Geological Survey rankings. Photo by Zach Mentz

The modern quarry is interconnected through both equipment and technology, each designed and applied with componentry linked to and from one another.

While it’s certainly true that each quarry is unique, it’s also true that each operation strives for the same end goals of efficiency, safety and customer satisfaction.

Achieving all three of these goals undoubtedly takes meticulous planning and skillful expertise, and utilizing modern technologies can aid in these efforts.

Welcome to Cemex’s FEC Quarry in Miami, where one of the nation’s largest aggregate producers is leading the technological revolution the industry is currently undergoing.

Advantages of automation

Established in 1974, FEC Quarry is the third-largest producer of crushed stone in the United States, according to the latest United States Geological Survey rankings.

With production volumes in the neighborhood of 8 million tpy, maximizing efficiency is of utmost importance. That’s where Cemex Go Quarry Link, the company’s innovative program, enters the fold and differentiates FEC Quarry from any other.

The end goal, in theory, is simple.

Cemex’s FEC Quarry produces about 8 million tpy of crushed stone. Photo by Zach Mentz

Cemex’s FEC Quarry produces about 8 million tpy of crushed stone. Photo by Zach Mentz

“[We want to] load you accurately the first time and get you in and out as quickly as possible,” says Graham Hardwick, vice president of aggregate, west region, at Cemex.

In a nutshell, Cemex Go Quarry Link is a digitally-integrated process that allows customers to visualize product availability, pick it up on site and exit FEC Quarry in an efficient, streamlined process.

Using a Cemex-specific tag affixed on the windshield of the truck – similar to an E-ZPass – the entire process is initiated upon scaling in and the order is automatically prepared.

“Immediately when that truck leaves from the scale, once we validate that order, there is a green light is not just for the driver, but it also sends information to the system,” says Devon Coppock, loadout manager at FEC Quarry, who is responsible for ensuring order accuracy, coordinating production plans and managing inventory levels. “The system [truck] ID, the product he’s getting and his target for the load. That [automated signal] will blend up his load and [display] his truck number so he knows when and where to load.”

Once an order is mixed and prepared in the silos, the material is screened, sized out and conveyed to the loading station. The truck driver pulls up, tugs a string to initiate the loading process, and the truck is filled without the driver ever having to set foot on the ground.

“In order to help out the loader operator, we’ve got tablets in the loaders themselves,” Coppock says. “It shows the truck, the product, how long the customer has been here and their target weight. They all have bucket scales on their loaders, and they can use those bucket scales to hit that target exactly so we prevent overweight or underweight and no truck drivers need to get off and level their loads. It saves a lot of time.”

In fact, the process is so simplified that the truck driver can get in and out of FEC Quarry without having a single face-to-face conversation with a Cemex employee. This not only speeds up the process, but also improves efficiency and safety.

“If everything works the way it’s supposed to, we don’t even need to interact with that driver on site,” Coppock says. “It’s completely autonomous.”

Improving the process

According to Devon Coppock, FEC Quarry can blend “almost an infinite number of products.” Photo by Zach Mentz

According to Devon Coppock, FEC Quarry can blend “almost an infinite number of products.” Photo by Zach Mentz

With an average of roughly 200 trucks per day entering and exiting FEC Quarry, Cemex continuously strives to improve the customer loadout process.

“We’re looking at ways to speed this process up,” Coppock says. “There are times when we get a bunch of trucks in at one time and we want to move those trucks out faster, so our next steps are how do we speed the process up just a little bit more.”

According to Coppock, the average in-and-out time per truck currently sits around 11 minutes, but Cemex still aims to shed seconds – if not minutes – off that time.

“Our goal is 10 [minutes],” Coppock says. “We have many trucks that actually come in under six minutes on any given day, but when you average out busy times and slow times, we’re averaging right around 11 or 12 [minutes].”

According to Devon Coppock, the average in-and-out time per truck currently sits around 11 minutes. Photo by Zach Mentz

According to Devon Coppock, the average in-and-out time per truck currently sits around 11 minutes. Photo by Zach Mentz

Speeding up that loadout process, however, requires careful attention to detail and analysis of all parts of the process from start to finish.

“In one pass, you can see the different readers and steps of the process, so if you dig deeper, you can always find where the problem is and what to do in order to serve our customers faster,” says Luis Garza, business evolution manager at Cemex Research Group. “We’re able to see the dashboard with information capturing the timing and loading stations, so based on that, we’ve been able to identify bottlenecks and explore new technologies to make the process faster.”

Production planning

While the in-and-out truck timing is the main focus of the loadout process, what’s perhaps understated is the diversity of material mixes this automation process can provide for Cemex customers.

Communication between Cemex and its customers is initiated at the scale house. Photo by Zach Mentz

Communication between Cemex and its customers is initiated at the scale house. Photo by Zach Mentz

“We can blend almost an infinite number of products here,” Coppock says. “We have many, many products. We’re using screens, sizing out materials for the different finished products. All of our finished products are fed to the loadout system through feeders that drop down to a conveyor and tunnel those products.”

The available material, of course, is dictated by on-site production. FEC Quarry features a “scoreboard” displaying how many dump trucks are coming through per hour, which, in turn, has a direct correlation to on-site production volumes.

“If we load too quickly, we’ll back all the trucks up, we’re going to have a bunch of blackbelt time and then we’re running the plant just to run it without any material, and that’s expensive,” Coppock says. “That’s why the scoreboard is important, because we know how well we’re spaced. What you’ll see during production is, as the truck dumps, one is pulling up ready to dump in the hopper. It’s that close. We bring the right number of trucks based on which pits we’re loading from so we have exactly what we need without going over, because it does cost to have the truck sitting as well.”

Based on production, Cemex can update the Cemex Go Pick-up app to alert customers of available material on site for their orders.

“We can actually choose which products show up in the app just by toggling them on and off, so we give the information to the customer,” Coppock says. “It’s updating almost [in] real time.”

Added benefits

Once customers scale in, their order is automated and information is sent throughout the system to streamline the loadout process. Photo by Zach Mentz

Once customers scale in, their order is automated and information is sent throughout the system to streamline the loadout process. Photo by Zach Mentz

In addition to efficiency and safety, this automated process assists with labor and customer service.

“It does [help with labor] a bit, but it also allows us to focus on the issues,” Coppock says. “If everything is in order, the truck can just continue through the process. Any customer concern or issue, we can get to that a lot quicker. We know that when we’re responding to something that needs a manual intervention, it’s because that customer needs us to look into it and we can actually respond to those a lot more quickly now.”

That communication between Cemex and its customers is initiated at the scale house, where each customer enters and exits and oversight of the entire loadout process is conducted.

“We have a speaker so we can talk back and forth to the driver,” Coppock says. “We’ll see what [the problem] is and we can tell them to pull around. Maybe they’re overweight, maybe there’s an issue with the order or sometimes we have a customer that might go on credit hold or something like that. We try to resolve that before we send it out the gate.”

Embracing technology

One positive sign for the future is that Cemex Go Quarry Link program has proven to be beneficial for both Cemex and its customers.

“The drivers are embracing it,” Coppock says. “We have a quick conversation, [explain] we want to put the tag on the truck, here are the benefits and we’ll help you get in and out [and] where you need to go more quickly.”

Since debuting at FEC Quarry, Cemex Go Quarry Link has been rolled out at other Cemex operations across the country.

For new customers or those unfamiliar with Cemex Go Quarry Link or the company’s streamlined loadout process, the reception has been largely positive.

“We’re seeing drivers who don’t have the tags coming upstairs and saying ‘hey, do you have a tag I can get on my truck?’” Coppock says. “That’s how we know it’s working, because the drivers are asking for it themselves.”


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