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Materials supply chain, mobile platforms central to Command Alkon’s future

Sources: CP staff; Command Alkon, Birmingham, Ala.

Command Alkon presented 2014 Customer Training and Technology Conference participants new and concept-stage smartphone, tablet and desktop offerings from the integration of core software plus products of the company’s last two domestic acquisitions: FiveCubits, a bulk materials hauling and transport supply chain solution specialist, and 323 Technologies, an early mover in concrete-centric business intelligence and mobile applications.

 

Although the deal behind it was announced less than four months ago, the new FiveCubits Division was front and center at the conference, November 12-13 in New Orleans. FiveCubits’ cloud-enabled technology extends the entire business process into the cab of concrete mixer and bulk material trucks. Its mobile data terminal is equipped for GPS tracking, statusing and navigation; driver clock in and clock out, inspection and hours of service logging, plus safety measures; engine diagnostics; quality control information retrieval; and, electronic ticketing via MOBILEticket, one of three field-ready applications.

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The supplyCONNECT platform is programmed to optimize material flow, linking producer fleets and plants with the inventory and rolling stock of their suppliers and contract haulers. Command Alkon will test the platform toward alpha user deployment in 2015.

“We have focused on the front end of construction materials for 35 years,” says Command Alkon CEO Phil Ramsey. “This is a new game for us. It’s not just batching and dispatching.” FiveCubits supply chain management products, coupled with charter MOBILEconnect launches, he adds, bring the company farther into the construction cycle and support critically timed rollout of asset management tools.

“Customers face material delivery challenges. New truck prices are up and driver availability down. The overall trucking industry is facing a shortage of up to 200,000 drivers in 2015,” Ramsey affirms. “Our product development investments will help customers improve fleet utilization and offset some of the added costs of operating [EPA 2010 emissions-compliant] heavy-duty trucks.”

Addressing the conference general session, he credited a nearly 7 percent climb in year-over-year revenues almost entirely to North American business. Command Alkon is set to close 2014 with sales up 53 percent from 2009—gradual gains through 2013 reflecting more international orders, plus U.S., Europe and South America acquisitions. Over the same period, research, product development and new business investments have increased 78 percent.

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Moving into the new year, the company is preparing limited release of MOBILEcommerce, with which producers can offer their smartphone or tablet-equipped customers snapshots of truck status and pour rates.

Command Alkon delineated core and growth business units in New Orleans. The former span COMMANDseries and Integra products for concrete operators and JWS/Apex platforms for aggregate and asphalt customers. The North American customer-geared growth units were central to the conference agenda and made the host’s commitment to mobility for heavy building material producers and haulers unmistakable.

The MOBILEconnect initiative announced late last year has netted three device-neutral applications with mid-2014 through early-2105 limited releases: MOBILEticket, a straight up file exchange between drivers’ devices and various Command Alkon platforms; MOBILEcommerce, enabling customers to view and track orders; and, MOBILEsales, an automation tool with select customer relationship management functions plus map of bidding, sold and lost projects.

The mobile development team envisions up to three applications per year. At the concept stage, with prospective test or alpha deployments over the next 12 months: 1) MOBILEincident to log complaints, problem orders, road activities and smartphone-captured images; 2) MOBILEhauler, tracking bulk materials deliveries; and, 3) plantCONNECT, an equipment performance tool extracting data from COMMANDseries software to troubleshoot, improve quality control and augment key production components’ life-cycle costing.

MOBILEhauler is a limited version of TrackIt, an anchor in the suite of FiveCubits, whose technology will be leveraged in what could be the most far-reaching product announced in New Orleans. supplyCONNECT is a demand calculator predicting the amount of cement, binder, admixtures and aggregates a concrete plant will need over a given period. A potential business-to-business-to-business application, it factors COMMANDseries and COMMANDbatch inputs in coordination with Apex and FiveCubits functions. The supplyCONNECT algorithm borrows from a vehicle- and plant-assignment technology, Dispatch Optimization or COMMANDoptimize, formally launched in 2010 and now powering 23 centers responsible for 2,700-plus mixer trucks delivering more than 13 million yards of ready mixed annually.

The 2014 Customer and Technology Training Conference drew 550, more than 10 percent higher than the 2013 gathering, held in Las Vegas—the planned site of next year’s conference.