Earthwave customer, Barriere Construction, was recently featured in Asphalt Contractor magazine. Barriere is on the leading edge of utilizing technology in the field. Click here to see the full article (pages 16-18).
How to Implement Mobile Technology into Your Asphalt Business
Barriere Construction offers tips on getting started
Founded in 1949, Barriere Construction is a fourth generation, family-owned industrial, highway and civil construction, asphalt and concrete paving company. Headquartered near New Orleans and with facilities in St. Charles Parish, Washington Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish, Barriere is a leading asphalt producer in Louisiana and employs more than 500 people.
It’s no wonder that information needs on day-to-day activity at this company is a high priority.
“We strive every day to ensure our employees have the best information possible so they can make the decisions that will insure the safety of our projects, as well as maintain high quality and profitability,” says Brian Cooney, recently retired EVP – finance and administration with Barrier. “Having the ability to provide our field managers with timely accurate and consistent data gives them the information they need to make the best informed decisions on every project every day. The data is also critical for the safety and performance of our asphalt plants, equipment fleet and other areas.
Mobile tech helps deliver information faster
Barriere has always focused on using information to make accurate decisions; mobile technology has merely sped up and improved accuracy of the collection and feedback of the data.
“With the improvements in mobile technology and integration with software, we see the next generation of mobile technology giving us the opportunity to eliminate all paper forms and manual checklists that will help us to maintain compliance with our programs,” says Cooney.
Starting as far back as 1990, Barriere collected daily information from the field that could be readily turned in, entered, and generated useful reports that matched the plan to the estimate. This information continues today by assisting the field in their planning of all of the project resources.
“Plant, trucking, and equipment information has been a priority throughout Barriere’s history, and we have used many sources of information -- from CFMA, AGC and trade media -- to be on the cutting edge,” says Cooney. “In addition we have always focused on partnering with software companies that understand construction, specifically unit-based construction, asphalt manufacturing, materials, trucking and equipment.
“These business partners also understood that they had to integrate with our total platform -- be it estimating, safety, equipment tracking, maintenance, costing, asphalt manufacturing, etc.,” he continues.
Where to start
Barriere did not have a dedicated team to implement mobile technology into its processes, but it did have a part-time programmer who has been with the company for over 25 years. “This person is a great asset to our company,” says Cooney. “He has helped set our technical vision, which is crucial.”
In recent years, Barriere has added resources for information technology and now has an active field technology committee, chaired by CFO Heath Wahden. The company has focused on field, trucking and plants information that will improve its safety and quality and increase throughput both at the plant and on the job site.
Before beginning any kind of mobile technology program, Cooney suggests ensuring your information system has good infrastructure as its backbone. “Your primary consideration at the beginning is making sure your estimating, manufacturing, and operational system can readily share information,” he says. “This is critical to the success of any mobile program.”
In addition to a good backbone, highly skilled IT resources that can coordinate the flow of the information is a must. “If you’re going to make information a priority, setting an expectation of zero downtime for your system is critical,” he says.
Actual devices used to collect and report information at Barriere include smart phones, iPads, lap tops and GPS devices. And the types of data being collected follow the construction cycle and run the gamut from estimating, scheduling/dispatch, safety, payroll, equipment telematics and more.
Today, all foremen, survey/GPS staff, field engineers, quality control/assurance, superintendents, plant managers, logistics/trucking and equipment staff, and project managers use mobile devices to share and supply information on all the moving pieces that make up Barriere’s day-to-day operations.
“We are also testing collection of project data -- safety, equipment inspections, toolbox talks – by operators and other field employees,” says Cooney. “Information is strategic. The use, collection and access should be available to those same individuals supplying the information as well as all compliance and information needed to make improvements.”
There may be many questions in your head if you’re getting ready to introduce or expand your company’s use of mobile tech. Cooney has some simple questions for you to get started.
- Is there a budget? Is there support for this type of program from owners and top management?
- What is your vision? Create a five-year picture of where you want to be.
- How will the data be used – and by whom?
- How will you communicate the results of the analyzed data?
- What are the benefits? Lower costs? Improved throughput? Will the information generated be useful to your overall vision?
- Do you have a technology leader?
- Who will implement the programs and conduct the training?
- What is the return on investment? How will you measure it?
It’s also imperative to find software and technology partners who share your vision and are focused on the information generated, not just its collection.
“Make sure your partners understand your business and will help you achieve all of your goals,” says Cooney. “We have very strong partners focused on continuously improving their product. We also have a shared vision for working together to generate not only ease of use but actionable information for our asphalt and heavy equipment teams.”
Barriere’s goal and focus right now is integration and coordination of planning and scheduling of all its asphalt resources with seamless information flowing to each crew tied to their paving plan.
“We have the ability, tools and business analytics to share data and information across all ‘silos’ – from estimating, daily collection of project information, plant data, field and trucking information along with equipment telematics – and only a few data points need to be analyzed,” he says. “Partnering with providers that share our vision and back it up with technology has the potential for greater rewards.”
Barriere’s future goals include integrating all components of the construction cycle in real time.
“We see reporting on a real-time basis – be it location and load information of asphalt delivery trucks, plan versus actual information, open work orders on equipment by project on a map, or alerts requested by field management – as the next step,” says Cooney. “Paper will be eliminated; all forms and information collected will be online. Data collected will be validated, and compliance measured and graded on a real-time basis. We will be able to plan – and determine the success of those plans – more effectively.”
Cooney says the integration of mobile technology into your asphalt business is definitely worth the effort, but he notes, it’s not a one-step procedure.
“It’s not easy,” he says. “Plan on a journey – a long, continuous journey.”
Due to the complexity and quickly evolving nature of information technology, Barriere has added resources to manage their diverse portfolio of software programs. Below are a few examples of what Barriere uses to gather information:
- B2W for estimating, data capture at the jobsite for payroll, equipment, trucking, production, dispatch/scheduling, maintenance inspections (repair, preventive maintenance, scheduling) and more
- Fleetwatcher/Earthwave Technologies for trucking, GPS cycle time management, real time field information/mapping, equipment telematics/GPS incuding paver/MTV speed, distance, hours and location
- Vision Link for Caterpillar telematics
- Trimble Zonar for equipment location, hours, speed, idle time and on-road vehicle DOT compliance
- E-Safety for claim management
- Bird Dog for employee recruitment and application management
Earthwave is proud to work with Barriere Construction. If you'd like to learn more about how our application, Fleetwatcher, can help you improve your paving operation visit our Materials Delivery Solution information and schedule a demo with one of our experts.