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07 aug 2019

Beating the logistic challenges of ready-mix concrete

How to expect the unexpected

Jan Tønder

Route- en bedrijfsoptimalisatie

Ready-mix concrete is a perishable product, which involves inherent challenges in order to give your customer a quality pour. You already know the challenges you face distributing this material, but let's touch on them anyway. Laying everything out can give you a different perspective on how to address the issues.

Transporting ready-mix concrete is not unlike walking a tight rope. Everything – every step in the process – must happen seamlessly. You might face up to 20 changes on an order right up until the last minute. It doesn’t matter. You’re still expected to come through. One of your trucks or its mixer breaks down? Good luck with that, but where’s my ready mix?

You need to make sure that the water-cement ratio, slump, air content, and homogeneity are not modified from their intended states. Miss your window of time due to unforeseen circumstances such as traffic, and the material will turn solid up to two hours after the batching process, rendering it unusable.

When delivery doesn’t go according to plan and you’re not prepared, margins erode. The costs of idling trucks, fuel, and of course the material that customers reject, add up. The larger your company, the more plants, the more volume you’re handling and you’re looking at hefty operational costs.

All of this, of course, puts incredible pressure on your logistics to deliver just in time. As a result, your transportation must be minutely planned and organised for efficiency. But how can you plan for the unexpected? You can’t, of course. Delays, last-minute orders – the old adage ‘expect the unexpected’ is applied nowhere better than to ready-mix concrete distribution.

However, the right tools can make you agile, enabling you to respond instantly. It’s all about optimising your fleet and improving your accuracy so that you can deliver fantastic customer service while cutting operational costs. Surprisingly, there’s a simple solution.

The tool: a specialist digital solution
There are plenty of planning software products out there aimed at distributors. But ready-mix concrete is a different beast all together. What you need is something industry specific – a robust solution with the functionality and configuration options that addresses your planning, distribution and execution. 

For you to operate with agility, you need transparency between order reception, planning and scheduling, execution and follow-up, all in real time.

Imagine this: You can combine planning your distribution with planning across plants. You have the flexibility to work with time slotting, while delaying decisions as late as possible. Last but not least, you can continuously reshuffle your plans.

If you had a wish list, and of course you do, then you’d also like to see automatic splitting of sales orders into delivery loads for parallel or sequential delivery. Knowing when you have vehicles sitting idle on site. Forecasting detailed plans so that you can calculate raw material consumption. Handling of alternative capacities and loading times. Building and comparing what-if scenarios.

A best-in-class planner can give you capabilities you haven’t even thought of.

What results can you gain?
Let’s start with an overall reduction in operational costs by up to 15%. It’s also usual to see an increase in the number of delivered loads per vehicle by up to 20%, driving up productivity. Users report that they spend up to 50% less time on planning and resource scheduling, which allows them to concentrate on other tasks. Another visible difference is that users spend between 30—60% less time on registration and follow up.

Because you improve your ability to deliver within tight deadlines, you can also expect a rise in customer service levels. Another important factor, which contributes to productivity, is significantly less stress for employees, thereby also giving them more job satisfaction.

What’s behind it? The answer is simple: Data
Real-time connectivity to your vehicles collects all KPIs and adds these to the planner’s KPIs. This creates your platform for analysis and follow up. You can use your data for billing, to evaluate customer service fulfilment, pay drivers, analyse order handling time and fine tuning your planning model and parameters.

The power of the algorithms
The type of system we’re talking about uses algorithms that are specific to the ready-mix concrete industry. They’re designed for quick reaction and to act upon data, such as ordering changes and feeding you delivery updates by the second. If something unexpected happens, you’ll know about it right away and can react accordingly.

Your planners can maintain a continuous, timely flow of delivery while freeing up resources. They can prioritise deliveries by service agreements – it’s all made possible if the algorithms are high quality. 

Your next move
AMCS best-in-class Concrete Planner is designed to integrate with your ERP system, streamline your processes and give you tremendous advantages to make you more competitive, all while cutting your operational costs.

It covers the entire planning cycle for your distribution, from order entry to follow up for data analysis. If you’re ready to simplify the complexities of ready-mix concrete distribution, it’s time to get in touch.