December 1, 2013
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
For more than a decade, Aggregates Manager has reported on technology trends and how they impact productivity. After all, with aggregates prices ranging from $5 to $15 per ton, depending on the product and market, shaving a few pennies off the per-ton cost of production can have a substantial impact on a business’ profits.
Numerous companies have demonstrated leadership in automation: Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., Casper Stolle Quarry & Contracting Co., and Luck Stone are a few of the innovators that come to mind, but many recognize the value that technology offers.
As I talked with Rod Martin, the 2013 AggMan of the Year (see page 8), he recounted how much it has changed during his tenure. “I remember working in the operation during summers when I was in college. I’d walk up to a big board and see 20 little buttons that would have to be pushed — in the right order — to get the plant started,” he says. “Now, you just go down into the control room, hit a button, and the computer starts everything up.”
But not all operators have embraced technology. During a recent media event sponsored by Caterpillar, John Thomas, Cat’s construction technology and marketing manager, shared the graph shown below with an international group of press editors. It definitely got my attention. The running lines show the constant dollar value of contracts divided by work hours. While the non-farm labor productivity index has more than doubled since 1964, the construction productivity index has actually declined. According to Thomas, the difference between the two lines can be attributed to several factors, including the cost of labor (which is higher for construction) and lack of effective implementation of technology.
These results beg the question: is the aggregates industry falling behind? In a world of smart phones, iPads, and laptops, instant information has never been more readily available, but are operators using in a way that helps them shave the cost of those pennies per ton? Are they using telematics to monitor equipment? Can they differentiate operator behavior and its impact on their bottom line?
I’d love to hear how you are using technology to improve your business, so pull out that smart phone and send me an email at email@example.com. You might be the next innovator showcased in Aggregates Manager.