Running a modern quarry with digital technology

By |  October 12, 2022
Modern software empowers truck drivers to proceed directly into operations for material loads upon their arrival. Photo: P&Q Staff

Modern software empowers truck drivers to proceed directly into operations for material loads upon their arrival. Photo: P&Q Staff

Aggregate operations are undergoing a digital transformation by utilizing technologies that make profound impacts on site productivity, efficiency and flexibility.

Technologies that automate manual processes, improve communications and foster internal and external collaboration are key to successfully run a modern quarry. Here’s a look at three ways producers can take their operations to the next level.

1. Automate bulk site operations

Traditionally at a quarry, truck drivers will pull up to a weighbridge and either check in manually or use the check-in window if available. Dispatchers enter vehicle numbers into a system, and truck details fill a computer screen. Dispatchers then inform drivers about the load and send them into the quarry.

Another way to handle this is to install an automated identification system using technology that guides drivers through the quarry. This approach saves time and improves safety and health records by keeping drivers in trucks at all times.

Still, complexities arise in the automated check-in process when it comes to third-party haulers. With third-party haulers, there isn’t always visibility into which broker vehicle will pick up a particular order and when.

Typically, brokers will send a certain number of trucks for the day. And when trucks show up, scale operators do not know in advance which truck is going to pick up which order. So drivers must go through a check-in process in order for trucks to be associated with orders.

This means scale operators must manually associate them in their ticketing system with orders, but the process slows the beginning of the workday.

Still, by integrating scale ticketing and dispatching software with a third-party truck management solution, quarry personnel can communicate with brokers, get advanced notice of vehicle assignments, and electronically push information to the ticketing and dispatch system so all vehicles are preassigned. Also this way, truck drivers do not require interaction with quarry personnel upon arrival.

After being loaded, vehicles proceed to the scale house. And with a digital solution, the scale is linked to a computer system. The ticket prints the correct weight, and tickets no longer have to be adjusted.

An alternative is that once the ticket is created at the scale, the ticket can automatically be fed to drivers’ mobile apps in a digital format via phone or tablet.

Automating these processes improves customer service and provides a common system allowing employees to manage the business from quote to collection. It also reduces the risk of under and overweighs by having the scale head linked directly to the software, and it automates invoices upon completion of jobs. Managers, meanwhile, can access information about entire operations at any time.

2. Improve visibility of materials transportation

Once material is loaded at plants, truck management solutions can be utilized to optimize material hauling. Such solutions can lower costs and increase profits.

Users can keep up-to-date rosters of all available trucks and drivers. This is not just limited to owned trucks and salaried employees, though. Truck management solutions can simplify the management of third-party haulers from the same platform. Plus, such solutions are a way to tap into a network of trucks and drivers when jobs are pouring in.

Consider, too, that ticket management has been a massive industry headache for decades due to paper tickets piling up, lost tickets, inaccurate quantities and fraud. With cloud-based digital ticketing, drivers can take a photo of the ticket while an optical character recognition system extracts data to be verified.

Digital tickets are one way to make inaccuracies and fraud things of the past. With technology, all tickets can be digitized, stored and organized to easily create invoices.

Additionally, once jobs are completed and invoices must be created, accountants no longer need to manually record paper tickets to draft invoices. The task is already done, as invoices can be sent to customer inboxes in seconds or exported as a CSV file if that is preferred.

3. Dispatch smarter, not harder

Dispatchers have new tools available presenting details that can be communicated to truck drivers. Photo: Command Alkon

Dispatchers have new tools available presenting details that can be communicated to truck drivers. Photo: Command Alkon

Another way to impact the bottom line is to optimize truck use by reducing empty bed time and accurate location dispatching.

By creating geofences for loading and unloading locations, users can see how long trucks are on sites. If a location has a 10-minute load time, jobs can be set up in a way that allows for staggered dispatch times so trucks aren’t waiting in line when they could be on another nearby delivery.

Geofences also help to pay drivers more accurately and fairly. Timesheets can be adjusted by dragging the timeline to the correct shift start and end times, and changes will be reflected for accounts payable summaries.

Dispatchers also have tools to communicate exact locations for drivers. When drivers are dispatched, they’re notified and given directions to exact locations. Notes can be added for drivers to let them know about road closures, conditions, hazards and more.

Jobs can also be dispatched from mobile phones, making it easier to send drivers for extra loads if they have downtime.

Additionally, while trucks are out running jobs, management can monitor daily progress from easy-to-read dashboards and heatmaps in real time. Dashboards display the trucks that must be dispatched for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs, the time spent at loading and unloading for the locations of jobs, the up-to-the-minute production of each job and which drivers accepted assignments.

Scale success through collaboration

Although labor shortages and insufficient communication and productivity are putting a dent in profits, a move toward digital tools can eliminate or mitigate such activity.

Many construction materials producers realize the benefits of simple process improvement, streamlining the flow of data from the time an order is generated, throughout the delivery cycle and through to ticketing and invoicing.

Ranjeev Teelock is chief product officer at Command Alkon.

Comments are closed