Graniterock in Watsonville, Calif., is exploring ways to harvest data from its equipment more effectively.
Graniterock Graniterock in Watsonville, Calif., is exploring ways to harvest data from its equipment more effectively.

Every time we buy a soda or snack from a vending machine that’s connected to the internet (most are now), the machine’s sensors generate a report about what was purchased and when. The servicing company uses the sales data to keep machines stocked, and to make purchasing decisions. This process revolves around the Internet of Things (IoT); essentially very limited, individual sensors reporting data through wireless or cellular connections.

IoT is changing the construction and building materials industries, albeit gradually. Most modern construction equipment has relatively sophisticated computers that control its operation and capture data. Imagine what we could do if we not only collected data from our own trucks, but also from the paving machine or pump truck at the jobsite. Although we are not yet taking full advantage of what IoT can provide, some concrete producers are beginning to rely on “intelligent” equipment to improve processes and decision making.

Graniterock in Watsonville, Calif., is exploring ways to harvest data from its equipment more effectively. Mike McGrath, concrete business manager, sees opportunities to tighten delivery timeframes, manage inventory, and reduce costs throughout the producer’s concrete, aggregate, and asphalt operations.

McGrath is improving ready-mix delivery logistics by comparing batching and dispatch data with truck GPS and status time stamps. “When we marry up ship rates and pour rates with the customer’s order requests, we can easily see room for improvement on both sides,” says McGrath. The data provides a clear picture of each project so he can see, for example, cases in which the customer is over-ordering to cover anticipated gaps, or the producer is over-trucking a job.

“Once you uncover a problem, whether it’s product- or process-related, you have to be prepared to act on it,” he says. When issues come to light, Graniterock can have informed discussions with customers about working in a way that’s more beneficial to both parties.

Of course, having accurate data is critical for realizing any kind of benefit. McGrath pays careful attention to data sources and discrepancies to avoid basing decisions on bad data. The amount of data is also important.

“You have to have enough information to show a trend before you can meaningfully measure and improve upon it,” he says. Graniterock is in the process of benchmarking vehicle maintenance goals based on truck sensor data, a process McGrath expects will take two or more years.

The ways in which Graniterock is capitalizing on IoT are available to most producers now.
The ways in which Graniterock is capitalizing on IoT are available to most producers now.

The ways in which Graniterock is capitalizing on IoT are available to most producers now. However, the sophisticated technology in our vehicles and equipment is limited unless we collect, analyze, and act on the data it provides. We have to take the initiative to get a return on the investments we’ve already made.