Integrated Solutions, Added Value

Command Alkon

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Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama and serving customers from multiple office locations worldwide, Command Alkon has been bringing innovation to the construction materials industry since 1976. The company has come a long way to offer highly-innovative supply chain solutions that control, measure and improve performance.
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Command Alkon’s integrated suite of products provides solutions to producers, haulers, and suppliers of ready-mixed concrete, aggregate, asphalt, cement, and manufactured concrete in key markets across the globe. “Business started by automating operational processes in the ready-mix concrete industry,” explained Command Alkon North American Territory Sales Manager Mark Harris. “Our original systems automated the concrete batch plant and then grew to the order entry and truck tracking functions within the dispatch office. As technology grew, our systems continued to evolve in functionality and have become the backbone of construction materials operations in countries around the world.”

By innovating these processes, Command Alkon has been able to optimize batching, dispatching, quality control, fleet management, workforce management, plant/site automation and business intelligence. “Our product offerings cover the complete ‘quote to cash’ cycle for construction materials companies and touch on all areas of the construction materials supply chain. The needs of constructional materials producers, haulers, and raw materials suppliers are all addressed by the breadth and depth of our solutions,” Harris noted.

Command Alkon has been able to extend the reach of its software using cloud-based applications, and the next big change is underway. The company is currently transitioning its products to software as a service (SaaS) model. As Harris explained, “This means that we will also transform our teams from a services focus to a consultative model that becomes more embedded with the success of our customer’s operation.”

The company has forward-thinking leadership and an innovative approach to construction materials processes. Its simple business model uses both standardized products and customizable solutions to meet the various needs of its customers. Command Alkon is now offering mobile solutions that will improve overall efficiency, performance, and output. Good examples are Command Alkon’s MOBILEsales and MOBILEjobsite.

“MOBILEesales is a mobile application that fulfills a significant gap in the industry, allowing sales personnel to produce and manage quotes from any location and to streamline their accounting processes. The MOBILEjobsite application provides the contractor with real time updates on their deliveries and the ability to submit orders for approval to dispatch.”

Command Alkon can have a significant impact on the industry as a whole by improving efficiency and productivity and by holding products and services to new standards of delivery by connecting customers directly to the producer, hauler, and supplier through these applications.

“Eventually, we believe we can get there if all of our applications are running on Android or iPhone devices,” he added. “I think it allows for greater competition, in terms of even more people participating in the supply chain that might not have been able to participate in the past.”

Harris believes that this can have a major impact on the industry. “With our mobile applications, we can already see the impacts even one layer away from that. So we have heavy construction materials suppliers, their customers, and potentially even their customers’ customers realizing the benefit.”

“Each product line has a specific focus to provide infallible upgrades. It is important that our customers remain current with their systems and maintain a positive perception of our development efforts. This allows us to maintain the best long-term support.”

Command Alkon’s team of 553 employees across its global operations are vital to delivering expert service and support at any time. “To provide customers with the best possible support we need to keep their systems current. Keeping all of our customers current with the latest technology and the right software is a full-time job, and we need to be able to execute that every time.”

“Command Alkon offers a unique blend of industry experience combined with technical expertise and global diversity that has been focused on the specific needs of the construction materials supply chain for over forty years. We have a large number of employees with decades of experience in the industry,” Harris explained.

“One of the things that gives us a competitive advantage is our configuration technology. Because we know so much about the industry, we provide a lot of switch settings in our software that others don’t provide. As a result, we have to invest in training for our people so they understand exactly how all that works. It’s a fairly big job to do that.”

Command Alkon hosts the annual Command Alkon Training and Technology Conference, a gathering dedicated to education, technology and professional networks. This year’s event runs from October 29 to November 1 at the Atlanta Westin Peachtree Plaza and is the largest of its kind for materials producers, haulers, and suppliers.

“The event includes two days of intense user training on all of our major product lines, two days of breakout sessions and one-on-one labs focused on new products, new technologies, and general industry and professional topics, an expo for working with other industry vendors and a variety of activities that promote networking with peers, vendors, and Command Alkon employees,” said Harris.

“There are a lot of people that come for product specific training.” According to Harris, the company provides this and more. “We bring in third-party industry consultants to assist with training on specific subjects.” This year there will be exhibitors dedicated to the manufacture of self-consolidating concrete or self-compacting concrete (SCC).

“There is a very stringent process that you have to go through to manufacture SCC reliably,” he said. “There is no real financial benefit for us to provide this training necessarily, but as part of our commitment to our customers, we recognize the benefit and are willing to bring in third-party specialists in specific areas to provide training beyond Command Alkon solutions.”

“A lot of our customers tell me the biggest benefit they receive is just being there, networking with other customers and being exposed to information that they probably wouldn’t otherwise have had access to,” noted Harris of the many advantages of this event.

Command Alkon is regularly recognized by Software Magazine’s list of Software 500, ranking 332 in 2015. According to the magazine, “the Software 500 provides a look at changes in the software industry from a revenue, employee, and research and development (R&D) perspective. The 2015 Software 500 is based on each company’s 2014 fiscal year reports.” The company has also recently been acknowledged by the Birmingham Business Journal as one of Birmingham’s top ten places to work.

Harris says that the company is proud of the “collaborative, team-oriented work environment” it has developed. The company has an ‘I Treasure Your Service’ award program that employees can use to acknowledge each other’s daily contributions and quarterly awards for larger recognitions. There is also an annual President’s Club recognition program. Employees are nominated for these recognitions, and they have become a motive for improved employee performance metrics. Employees also benefit from competitive benefits and compensation as well as the company’s professional and technical training programs so they can continually upgrade skills.

“We’re trying to create a culture that retains the best of the best employees,” acknowledged Harris. Command Alkon endeavors to be a service provider of choice as well as an employer of choice, and the approach has resulted in high-quality output and service.

The company makes a point of identifying new technology that can be integrated with its current offerings. For example, it has an extensive mobile system for fleets, which includes GPS. This sophisticated technology is being further developed to provide route info, data, and analytics to improve efficiency and mitigate issues before they arise.

“We’re essentially turning the vehicle into an IP hotspot, so there are various devices that we can use within the vehicle and collect that information and use it. We’re starting to look at how we can respond to delivery conditions well before they can happen and we can notice these things in transit,” Harris explained. “We’re really trying to move the response and data acquisition to a real-time basis.”

Measuring data in real time enables predictive analysis to make material delivery more efficient. For example, concrete quality can be minimized during transit if the temperature and plasticity isn’t properly monitored.

By continuously innovating, Command Alkon is better equipped to bring value to its customers and their needs throughout their supply chain. These advancements still have a long way to go, but they indicate the drive to lead the cutting edge of technology, improving the way things are done and changing the industry along the way.

May 26, 2017, 11:02 AM EDT

The Automated Future

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) is a leading global advocate for advancing the entire ecosystem of automation technologies and services. A3 serves as an umbrella organization for the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging and the Motion Control and Motor Association (MCMA).