Where’s my truck? Where’s my shipment? Those are two questions heard daily in every industry. But it’s especially true in the construction materials industry where time is indeed money. Historically, answering those questions has been a challenge, particularly for companies that use third-party haulers. What are those challenges? How is technology helping to provide enhanced visibility to trucks, orders, and shipments? And what are the potential business benefits? Those are the main questions I discussed with Matt Brinker, Product Manager at Command Alkon, in a recent episode of Talking Logistics.
Demand for Shipment Visibility
Demand for shipment visibility is very high in the retail and consumer goods industries today. I asked Matt if the same is true in the construction materials industry (CMI). Matt notes that demand for visibility is increasing in CMI too, driven by our experience as consumers with shipment tracking from companies such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS.
“Contractors want track and trace capabilities, not just to where the load is now, but where was it before, how did it get here, and where else did that truck deliver along the way,” says Matt. “Those are the types of questions we’re getting based on contractors’ experiences as consumers. We’re also getting new people into the industry who come from other industries with more advanced supply chains. They’re pushing the envelope for more efficiency and streamlined processes.”
Construction Materials Maturity Curve
As with all new processes, there tends to be uneven adoption of new capabilities across an industry. This is true within CMI as well. “From contractors building roads, stadiums or homes down to the haulers of bulk materials, there is a wide variety of technologies used,” notes Matt.
“I would say the ready-mix concrete sector is probably furthest along in adopting new technology mainly because the trucks hauling the materials are owned by the concrete companies. This makes adoption simpler,” Matt states. “Where it gets a lot more complicated is in the bulk materials sector because you have many companies involved. There is the company producing the materials, the truckers hauling the materials and the companies using the materials in construction, and there may be multiple layers within these groups. Often the transportation is handled by third-party haulers and that causes significant challenges. Most of the haulers are small companies with five or less employees and they usually do not have the technology necessary for visibility and tracking.”
The Role of Technology
What role is technology having in answering the demand for tracking and visibility? Matt says the biggest advancement in recent years is the widespread use of smartphones. “Over 90% of truck drivers have smartphones today because that’s how they are driving their lives and their business,” he says.
“Prerequisites for technology adoption are the applications must be easy to install and easy to use,” Matt continues. “It also has to deliver value for everyone. There are more loads to haul than drivers to haul them, so you have to provide value for them so they keep coming back.”
Matt explains that once you get third-party haulers online with technology, you can experience the same benefits as companies that have their own fleets. “There’s a lot of paperwork truckers have to fill out when making a delivery. If you can digitize that paperwork, not only does your business have access to the information immediately, you make the truck driver’s job a lot easier and he can get paid faster. That’s a huge deal for these small carriers.”
Matt goes on to point out that one of the key success factors is demonstrating to all parties involved — the drivers, those securing the loads and back-office personnel — the benefits they can each achieve. He discussed those benefits and other success factors, as well as the steps companies should take to implement this technology across their network. I encourage you to watch the full video for all of Matt’s insights and advice on this topic. Then post a comment and share your perspective!