February 2022 | by Jason Campbell
In a Ready-Mix Concrete Dispatch office, the end of the day can be hectic. This job is the nerve center of the entire operation: Getting drivers home safely, wrapping up end-of-day pours, scheduling drivers for tomorrow, shutting down the plants, coordinating material deliveries, etc.
Dispatchers are responsible for getting everything delivered to customers’ satisfaction but also make sure costs are kept down. It’s important to maintain that balance between providing customer service and being as efficient as possible. Let’s look at a scenario that may be familiar:
It’s 6:15 PM – all your plants are shut down, traffic is a mess, you’ve communicated with your customers, there are a few trucks out you’re trying to get back to the plant ASAP so they don’t exceed the day’s hours and make sure they’re scheduled correctly for tomorrow. You closed your last batch plant 45 minutes ago, you’re at the office to make sure the Drivers get back ok.
Then you get a call from a Driver: “Dispatch, my load isn’t going to finish them, they’re going to need more concrete.”
A few options come up:
1) Pick up and throw any/all papers within reach in the air and run out of the building screaming.
2) Start to think of solutions:
> Can they put a “header” in it? – No it’s a slab
> Can they stretch this load? – No that would damage the concrete
3) Say “tough, you told me you were finished”
…Does that get you off the hook? Maybe in court… you have the recording right? But ripping out a 100+ cyd slab is very expensive. So you may “win” this argument but you’ve lost a customer and potentially months in litigation.
So you start calling the Plant Manager. Do they answer? Maybe, maybe they’re available. Can you get in touch with the Batch Plant Operator? Depends on if they can get in touch with them. How close does the Plant Manager live to the plant? Batch Plant Operator?
Any other plants opened? Nope… all shut down.
Should we have implemented a policy to keep plants open “just in case?” Maybe that’s an option… it costs money and adds way too many hours, but it’s an option.
Bottom line is, the clock is ticking on that freshly poured concrete… it’s setting up and it doesn’t care about your issues.
By the time you get someone back to the plant, get the truck loaded, and get it back out there… is it too late? In this situation, getting the truck back to the plant was fine… but how do you get it loaded? Let’s just say we couldn’t get someone back over there in time… ouch.
What if there could’ve been a better way? What if I were able to say to the customer “ahh man, you said you were done but don’t worry, I’ll get you taken care of… Turn the truck around and we’ll get him to you. You need 1 more yard? We’re going to send you 4.” He would’ve gladly taken and paid for that 4 yards.
So then the truck turns around and instead of worrying about finding the batch operator that is home after a 15 hour day… what if we could load the truck remotely from dispatch? I have a happy customer, don’t lose the slab, don’t need to bother my batch operator, don’t have to keep plants open longer than necessary… it’s a positive outcome for all.
Since remote batch solved that problem, what else could it solve?
How hard is it to hire right now? How often do we have to sacrifice service for cost? How many times a day do we shut down plants based on personnel? How many hours/day are our plant operators working? Could we finish the day earlier if we utilized all the plants in our network? We dispatch multiple plants centrally… why not batch multiple plants centrally as well?