New on-board computer technology may change the way producers handle customer accounts

Tickets to go: new on-board computer technology may change the way producers handle customer accounts

Rick Yelton

As Tommy Fox finishes delivering a load of concrete to AK Construction, something seems very different. Instead of handing the foreman a clipboard with a standard four-part paper ticket to autograph, the driver offers a small computer. The foreman makes his mark on the signing board using a blunt pointer.

Fox and his fellow drivers at Green’s Concrete, a subsidiary of Moraine Materials of Franklin, Ohio, are the first drivers in North America to go paperless, using a recently unveiled ticket collection system called DigiTic, a recently unveiled handheld computer and ticket control system.

Jack Delperdang, Moraine’s former operations and IT manager and co-founder of Paradyme Technologies with INSINC Corp., the manufacturer of DigiTic, has helped spearhead this innovative approach of bringing the electronic age to concrete delivery. He also has formed an Integrated Software Technologies (IST) group consisting of industry leaders such as INSINC, Control Solutions, and Paradyme to develop software around DigiTic that is not only integrated, but is also designed and developed with shared technologies.

Delperdang looks at his involvement in the DigiTic software design as his legacy to the industry. Many of the innovations and features included in the package are based on his 31 years in the industry. “I’m sure some of my past employees and managers will discover themselves in what we’ve put together,” he says. What began as a way to reduce the producer’s back-office cost of handling paper tickets has become the look and the future of the whole delivery process.

A man on the go

It might be hard to catch up with Delperdang at this year’s CONEXPO. He’s planning to be the man on the go. Previously at trade shows like CONEXPO and World of Concrete, the industry veteran would look for new items to help his company. This year, he hopes Paradyme is the center of attention for his fellow producers.

After more than a year in development and several months of conducting two beta sites using DigiTic, Delperdang is eager to learn from his peers about his concept. “I think the industry’s workforce is growing younger, so the opportunity to digitally connect drivers with the front office in all operations is a concept that will be accepted by many producers,” Delperdang explains.

He isn’t alone in his belief that digital is on the way. During the development phase, Delperdang researched his concept with others. Finding interest and support, he formed the IST work-discussion group. Engineers and software designers from concrete industry computer, software, and wireless service companies such as INSINC Corp., Control Solutions, and Paradyme Technologies have agreed to develop software around the digital ticketing computer’s full capabilities.

With this support, Delperdang plans for DigiTic to be the key to a more productive ready-mix operation. “We designed the driver computer to be more than a keyboard, to be integrated with all levels of a plant operation by designing it and developing it to be shared with other technologies,” says Delperdang.

For producers of all sizes

When Delperdang envisioned the digital ticketing system, he had the needs of small and medium producers in mind. “Many small and medium producers haven’t embraced automation as fully as large companies,” says Delperdang.

The digital ticketing system controls costs by handling tickets more efficiently. When the driver receives his ticket on the device before loading through existing WiFI technology, he now has all the information that will tell him when to load, what products he will need, give time to review the directions and mapping, load, and leave on time.

Each time the truck returns to any of the producer’s plants, the software program will automatically upload the records contained in the DigiTic’s memory through the producer’s LAN or WAN network into its own SQL database at the host site. The file containing the ticket, batch weights, voice notes, and image information, including a copy of the job foreman’s signature, is saved directly into the database.

“We plan to eliminate almost three days in our billing cycle,” says Delperdang. While there is some advantage regarding quicker billing, the real savings comes when bookkeepers will no longer have to track down missing tickets. They will have all the ticket information they need and have the ability to pass that information on to their customers as quickly as the driver returns to the plant.

Initial reports from his beta testing on the digital ticketing system has shown a very quick payback. “Any methods with which a producer can eliminate paperwork without losing accounting accuracy is sure to save the operation significantly in operating costs,” says Delperdang.

The key to his innovation is a rugged, yet powerful handheld computer. Similar to the units used by car rental companies, the DigiTic unit weighs less than a coffee thermos and is smaller than most lunch coolers, allowing it to be portable. A shoulder strap and case allow the driver to carry it with him at all times.

The computer is powerful enough to eventually transform the driver’s role to product deliverer, observer, and reporter into a more active participant in the entire sales transaction.

For example, the program contains a feature for handling ready-mixed CODs. “We’ve included a sub-program that enables drivers to collect cash or checks on multiple load deliveries and verify payment type and amount,” says Delperdang.

There’s also a feature safety directors will enjoy. The unit is equipped with a digital camera, whose images are linked through software to that particular job and ticket. “If the driver sees something that needs to be reported such as improper testing procedures or an unsafe site condition, it becomes a matter of record with a simple click of the finger,” says Delperdang.

Map source

One upgrade aimed for the smaller and medium producer is the driver’s computer can also serve as a map source. For a onetime up-charge, the producer can have its own map page images loaded into DigiTic and have it available for the drivers.

“Notes” is a standard and exciting feature that will allow drivers to type or record voice notes on the device for future jobsite or delivery reference.

Another upgrade is having the unit send information so that dispatchers can monitor and track truck activity. The system can, in effect, create a historical record of the truck’s activity through sequencing that is linked to the ticket. While not a real-time look at what’s happening in the field, the data can help fleet managers discover trends and study potential problems.

The unit’s size makes it easy to be incorporated in many common truck delivery activities. While the driver is in the cab, the computer is attached to a mount similar to a standard truck tracking display. The unit can be used as a status monitor. A readout reminds the driver of special concerns or directions.

It might even replace the plant’s time clock. Future plans call for software that enables the driver to punch in and use the computer’s login and PIN number.

The unit is also equipped with an antitheft device that renders the unit useless if not returned.

To learn more about the DigiTic onboard ticket management system, telephone 978-856-1670, visit www.paradymetechnologies.com, or visit booth S11251 at CONEXPO.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Hanley-Wood, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group