Separating the leaders from the laggards in digital tech

By |  July 11, 2018
Photo: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Photo: iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

A recent conversation with Cemex’s Eric Wittmann turned to technology, specifically how our industry is among the last “to be transformed by digital technology.”

The comment, on its surface, gave me reason for pause. I’ve always considered our industry to be on the cutting edge when it comes to equipment and technology. But here was Wittmann, the regional president of Cemex’s West Region, making a statement that challenged my rooted belief.

Are aggregate producers tech leaders? Plant automation is nothing new to our industry, and technologies that monitor the productivity of plants and support equipment are becoming commonplace in operations. Producers have also been among the top adopters of drones, replacing old methods of mapping and inventorying with tech that makes operations more efficient and safer.

These are areas where producers have exhibited leadership in adopting digital tech. Still, to Wittmann’s point, producers could undoubtedly make strides in other areas.

As an example, think about your customer’s ordering experience and how that compares to buying goods online. Sites like Amazon, Walmart and eBay simplify purchasing, providing digital platforms where buyers can easily place orders and track them in real time.

Imagine if your customers could buy crushed stone, sand and gravel in the same fashion. They’d pull out a smartphone, open up your company’s app and make their construction materials purchase.

Think about the effects such a platform would have, not only on the customer’s experience but on your internal management systems.

Building a digital world

One producer, Cemex, has already gone down this path, launching a digital platform for customers late last year that enhances the experience of placing orders, tracking shipments and managing invoices and payments.

More than 10,000 customers around the world are now utilizing the multi-device offering, Cemex says. The platform, dubbed Cemex Go, also provides users the ability to view a history of their transactions and receive instant notifications of their order status.

Other producers will likely follow Cemex’s lead and develop their own customer-facing platforms. As producers go this route, they’ll not only be better serving their customers, but also their own businesses.

So while producers continue to embrace digital technologies that make them more productive, efficient, safe and profitable within their plants, producers should consider areas where digital solutions can best serve them beyond the processing side.

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