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HHH: Concrete Goes High Tech

HHH: Concrete Goes High Tech


Being a company that has leveraged technology to improve its operations, we at Hard Hat Hub are always intrigued by how other organizations in our industry have used technology for the betterment of their business processes, too.

Ozinga, a concrete and material supplier in the Midwest, has a great story to tell pertaining to the use of technology to improve efficiency in their business model. 

The Old Dispatch Centers

In Ozinga's earlier days, every order dispatchers handled was processed over the phone, which, as you can imagine, did not come without difficulty (and sometimes error). Contractors would call into dispatch with jobsite dimensions, and Ozinga's dispatchers had to then figure out how much concrete would be needed for the job....with just a slide ruler!

The 'command center' then...

The 'command center' then...

To make matters more difficult, calls were not recorded and contractors often called in from pay phones. As you can imagine, any one of the following factors could make it difficult to communicate between the dispatcher and contractors: background noise, poor phone connection, inability to call contractors back once they had left pay phone booth, all orders had to be written down quickly and by hand, some times contractors would give the wrong dimensions for an order, etc.

It was quite the list. Ozinga knew there had to be a better way. 

The Evolution of the Command Center

The process of using technology to redesign the command center and their internal operations came in phases, beginning in the mid-1990s.

...the Command Center today.

...the Command Center today.

The first installment came when Ozinga added phone call recording to ensure accuracy in the orders and jobs they were processing, allowing dispatchers to play back messages if they were unsure of the order details.

Soon after came the addition of computer programs that would calculate exact concrete order details when a dispatcher punched in the numbers the driver had just called in. The computers stored the information as well, so dispatchers no longer had to be worried about misplacing order details. So long, slide rulers! 

Later on, the evolution went high-tech when GPS tracking and video monitoring solutions were installed on trucks and in the two command centers the Ozinga team had centralized operations out of - the South office center and the North. Video monitors throughout the office center allowed dispatchers to see the trucks moving to and from job sites in "real time," as feeds are updated every 30 seconds. This vastly improved tracking and reliability while project details that immediately download to workers' smart phones ensured everyone had access to the right specs for the order. 

What Problems Did The Advanced Technology Solve?

One of the biggest advantages to all of Ozinga's tech advancements was it allowed employees to be proactive with issues, instead of always having to be reactive, explains Barb Alford, Dispatch and Customer Service for the company. 

"All orders are received and processed on one database," Jeff Ozinga, Vide President and Director of Dispatch, said. "In addition, text messaging in trucks has eliminated verbal miscommunication, as has digital recordings of all verbal communications and job orders. As a result, there's less shouting in the office and stress levels are down."

For more on Ozinga, visit Burnham Works' own related short story and video from September.

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