由维多利亚·西卡拉斯（Victoria K. Sicaras）
With so many technology options available these days, end users expect a lot from their software providers. This is especially true in the concrete industry, a niche market that requires specialized solutions and on-demand user support. Yet even in an increasingly digital world, many concrete and bulk materials producers are frustrated by a lack of modern, industry-specific solutions.
“Remote working conditions during the pandemic have put a spotlight on technology for us and our customers, and it’s even more critical that we have the right tools for our business,” says Jay Ritchie, president of Geneva Rock Products, a Clyde Company based in Orem, Utah.
The materials producer uses internal staff as operational “focus groups” to evaluate new systems. The focus groups collaborate with technology providers to ensure their solutions will be as tailored as possible to the unique needs of concrete, aggregate and asphalt production.
In the Seattle metro area—one of the most competitive construction markets in the U.S.—Miles Sand & Gravel’s in-house experts spend time educating their technology partners and advocating for better solutions. They also have been known to turn away software vendors who won’t use open APIs to share data.
“Investing in technology for us means investing in efficiency,” says Miles VP Lisa Kittilsby. “We want to partner with the right vendors who will really listen to what a concrete producer needs, and who will work with other vendors to create solutions that make sense for us.”
For Geiger Ready-Mix Company of Kansas City, Kan., an investment in technology goes straight to the bottom line. “Our team is constantly working to make improvements across the business, and lately that means looking at new technologies available to our industry,” says Todd Geiger, president and CEO. “We are very hands on with trying new processes or tools that can help us—and our customers—work smarter. Even if it seems like a small adjustment, shaving minutes and hours can add up to big results.”
All three companies are part of a unique network of producers who has partnered with a technology company to develop tech tools that benefit all producers.
THE BULK CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS INITIATIVE
提供者有很多关于将客户变成“合作伙伴”的口头服务。对于大多数人来说，这意味着增加他们对建立关系和客户服务的关注。BCMI Corp. BCMI Corp.这家真正的客户合作伙伴关系的少数示例之一。软件开发公司与客户积极合作，为所有生产商提供基于云的调度平台和移动应用程序。
The BCMI acronym stands for Bulk Construction Materials Initiative, because the company began as a collaborative process between materials producers and expert software developers in 2014. A group of eight producers contributed input that led to the BCMI platform, a fully integrated, end-to-end software system for analytics, operational management, customer relationship management, quotation, dispatch, quality control and invoicing.
Second, each producer designates “champions” who meet with the BCMI support team weekly by phone and bi-annually in person. Producers have the opportunity to discuss specific topics related to the software, implementation and new features as they relate to the individual company’s needs, but also—and often more importantly—as they impact the entire customer base.
生产者带来了通常难以表达的未实现的需求。通过与我们的生产者网络进行持续的沟通，我们的软件设计人员可以将所需的内容引导到可行的功能计划中。” BCMI总裁兼首席执行官Craig Yeack说。“然后，软件开发人员在小型迭代或冲刺中工作，我们的制作人顾问委员会不断检查他们的进度。这样，任何误解都可以被抓住和纠正，思想可以发展成为可扩展的解决方案。”
BCMI’s producer network helps to create the best possible new tools for customers. For instance, in the past 18 months, Geiger Ready-Mix has rolled out two major initiatives: BCMI’s ready-mix quoting system, which automates repetitive processes and improves collaboration for the sales team, and eTicket+eSign for paperless ticketing and job tracking through BCMI’s Material Pro and Material Now apps.
“Electronic ticketing has really been a catalyst for our customers to dive into the digital age with us,” says Todd Geiger. “The paperless ticketing option has been extremely well-received in our market, and we’ve been able to get away from some time-consuming manual processes as a result.”
Miles Sand & Gravel is working toward integrating their ready-mix dispatch, sales, invoicing and bulk materials data management systems into one cloud-based platform with BCMI.
“At BCMI, we welcome producer customers who will share the time and talent of their staff to contribute to new ideas, refine current functionality and relentlessly push our organization forward,” says Yeack.
与技术提供者是一个定向断裂较少ive option than building in-house, custom solutions. That is an expensive path that has, historically, only been available to large or otherwise well-funded companies and requires a significant amount of time and resources. Plus, it could take years to roll out. Once a custom system is in place, in-house staff or a third party will be needed to provide user support (i.e., a help desk) and upgrade the system as needed.
Recently, BCMI reached a new milestone by allowing customers a minority stake in the company. Co-founder Bernard Benson retired and exited the company in late 2021, leaving room for investors. Instead of seeking outside financial support from private equity firms,BCMIgained new minority shareholdersincluding Geiger RM, BARD Materials (Dyersville, Iowa) and principals of Miles Sand & Gravel. All three producers are privately held and family-owned.
“Our customers’ data belongs to them. Period,” Yeack affirms. “Data is strictly segregated from all others by something called single-database tenancy. It is safeguarded and will never be shared with any other customers, regardless of shareholder status, without explicit, case-by-case consent.”
The time frame for growing speculative value is so short and the returns so high that the process is often augmented by “rollups” (purchases of allied companies to present a well-rounded portfolio), but with little time or desire for integration, observes Yeack.
“Hopping from one owner to the next in this manner does little to create actual, useful functionality for our industry,” he explains. “Our philosophy is BCMI belongs in the hands of the construction materials industry, and not the private equity industry.”
LOOK FOR INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS
Construction materials producers have opportunities to shape the future of our industry’s technology landscape. One way is through exploring trade associations’ technology initiatives or through industrywide partnerships, including the国家建筑材料电子票务工作组.
The eTicketing Task Force provides the support necessary for the public and private sector to work together to establish best practices, overcome challenges and facilitate an honest dialogue to embrace a digital transformation. They are welcoming new members: visit e-ticketingtaskforce.org.
维多利亚Sicaras是有限的自由撰稿人untryside, Ill. She has more than 15 years of experience working as a writer and editor serving the concrete and construction industries.