Capturing performance data and using it to adjust operations offers competitive advantages across the construction sector. Requirements for aggregate operations, however, are specific and unique.
Alex Gribben, assistant aggregate production director at BARD Materials, knows this full well. BARD, which is headquartered in Dyersville, Iowa, previously relied on complex spreadsheets to track performance at a number of mobile production sites in operation at a given time.
“Logging into Excel on laptops to report quantities was cumbersome, and it was easy to make mistakes or delete formulas,” says Gribben, whose company has dozens of quarries and sand pits throughout Iowa and Wisconsin. “We weren’t efficient or accurate, and we had trouble maintaining consistency across our sites.”
According to Gribben, reporting and analysis required an extensive manual effort once data was recorded on aggregate production, downtime, and hours for employees and equipment. Variations in how data was collected compounded the reporting challenge.
On a new track
BARD partnered with a software vendor to replace those spreadsheets with an improved production tracking and analysis system tailored to multiple production sites.
Customized, electronic daily logs and reporting capabilities with B2W Software’s B2W Track are the key components BARD utilizes. Supervisors at BARD sites now record performance data each day using mobile tablets. The B2W Track log is customized for BARD’s operations and is the same across all sites. Production reports based on data arrive the next morning for comparison of actual and planned performance.
“B2W Track is far easier and more accurate than Excel,” Gribben says. “We capture information while its fresh, and it’s a simpler, systematic process. It’s also more consistent. Nobody can change the background settings or the methodology.”
Supervisors can work offline during the day at sites where connectivity may be a challenge. They then sync and submit logs when they get a connection.
Rather than struggling with Excel or relying on generic options, Gribben and his team worked with B2W to design reporting capabilities for the specific needs of the company.
“B2W built custom reports and dashboards that provide instant feedback,” Gribben says. “We know right away when numbers don’t line up with what we expect. We can dig into it, figure out why and address issues fast.”
B2W Track reporting also makes it simple to analyze production at a specific site or compare across multiple sites, Gribben says. Each month, BARD exports data from daily logs directly into a system for comprehensive production and financial reports.
“This is now much more streamlined than with spreadsheets, with far less manual effort, redundant data entry and opportunities for error,” Gribben says.
Tracking production, hours & downtime
BARD now records and analyzes tonnages of various products produced at each site, as well as hours for employees and equipment with B2W Track.
Unexpected downtime – a critical KPI for aggregate operations – is also easy to record and review, Gribben says. Managers and executives use the data to understand individual incidents and spot trends or patterns related to the performance of equipment in crushing lines. They see, for example, if a certain piece of equipment is down more often than others.
“Having this information at our fingertips and being able to compare across sites helps us evaluate whether we need to upgrade or replace equipment,” Gribben says. “We can also analyze how much we might be able to get production numbers up by making that investment.”
Acceptance in the field
Some supervisors at BARD offered what Gribben describes as “minimal resistance” to the new software at first. But that’s typical of any technology-based initiative in a construction environment, he says.
“Once they got the tablets in their hands and saw how it worked – how easy it was – there were really no complaints,” Gribben says. “I don’t think anyone would want to go back to the way we were doing it before with Excel.”
Support requirements have also been minimal, he adds.
“The software works the way it is supposed to work, so we really haven’t had to call B2W for support,” Gribben says.
Future plans at BARD include refining and adding more reports and dashboards to take further advantage of production data.