4 Tech Innovations to Boost Productivity at Concrete Plants

In the past few years, rising costs have pushed concrete producers to seek out ways to create efficiencies and digitize manual tasks and processes. The challenges created by the pandemic — maintaining safe workplaces and reducing physical touchpoints — have accelerated attempts to transform operations with technology.

In a recent cross-industry roundtable, Ryan Cialdella, VP of Innovation and Market Development at Ozinga Ready Mix, moderated a discussion with technology experts from Command Alkon, Giatec, Climate Earth, and CarbonCure.

Each of these companies has developed solutions that make it easier for concrete producers to create efficiencies, boost productivity, drive more profits in their business, and meet sustainability mandates with low-carbon concrete. 

This blog post summarizes four solutions discussed on the call that can:

  • Improve cubic yards/metres per man-hour and increase driver utilization through dispatch optimization.
  • Automate the testing of fresh and hardened concrete to ensure compliance with specifications and relevant standards.
  • Measure carbon as a new performance metric with instant Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
  • Implement carbon utilization to create high-performing, low-carbon concrete.

Image Source: Supply Chain Times

Digital Collaboration, Quality, and Dispatch Optimization by Command Alkon

Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, Command Alkon is the supplier of a leading collaboration platform purpose-built for the heavy building materials industries. 

Command Alkon’s CONNEX platform helps concrete producers, contractors, and project owners manage material and transport costs daily and capture real-time visibility into orders and deliveries by digitizing concrete tickets and invoices.

“The platform allows us to say goodbye to paper in our industry and hello to electronic ticketing and electronic proof of delivery. This has been a real game-changer, especially during the pandemic which has limited the close proximity of driver-to-driver and driver-to-contractor interactions,” said Jeff Van Grootel, Optimization Sales Manager at Command Alkon.

Command Alkon also launched CommandAssurance to measure the quality of freshly mixed concrete from batch to truck to jobsite as well as CommandOptimize to help dispatchers evaluate trucks, plants, and other variables like traffic and weather to use resources more efficiently.

Source: Giatec

Smart Concrete Testing and Real-Time Data Collection by Giatec

Giatec Scientific’s smart testing technology monitors concrete properties — temperature, humidity, maturity, and strength — and analyzes data during the design, production, delivery, and placement of concrete. Giatec’s sensors capture data in the field in real-time to help producers create efficiencies and address problems before they arise. 

“We want to put information in the palm of our user’s hands through our app, whether that be the testing labs, the ready mix companies, the contractors, or the engineers,” said Sarah McGuire, Senior Director of Sales at Giatec. 

Giatec has also created a new web-based dashboard called SmartMix that uses AI algorithms to help concrete producers calculate the ideal amount of water, cement, and admixtures in their mixes to reduce material costs and environmental impacts.

Source: Climate Earth

Digital EPD Generation by Climate Earth

Climate Earth creates innovative applications that enable concrete producers to create a competitive advantage in the emerging market for low-carbon construction and sustainable supply chains.  

The company’s CarbonCLARITY applications are engineered to ensure the construction industry can save millions of pounds of embodied carbon and enable concrete producers to accelerate the rate of low-carbon concrete innovation. 

“GWP or Global Warming Potential is a new performance metric in construction, and it is changing the way we think about concrete,” said Chris Erickson, CEO and Co-Founder of Climate Earth. “In this new world, we still have to optimize for key performance requirements like strength, but we also must consider how we do that at the lowest embodied carbon footprint.”

Climate Earth’s EPD Generator is the first of its kind in the concrete industry and enables concrete manufacturers (ready mix, block, aggregate, and cement) to instantly generate EPDs and connect them to other digital tools. 

Carbon Utilization by CarbonCure

CarbonCure’s technology beneficially repurposes carbon dioxide (CO₂) to reduce the carbon footprint of concrete without compromising concrete performance. The technology is currently implemented in over 300 concrete plants and has been used in more than 10 million cubic yards (7.6 cubic metres) of concrete.

CarbonCure injects a precise dosage of CO₂ — collected from industrial emitters — into concrete, where the CO₂ becomes chemically converted into a mineral. Once injected into the concrete mix, the CO₂ reacts with calcium ions from cement to form nano-sized Calcium Carbonate, which becomes embedded in the concrete. 

This makes the concrete stronger, enabling mix optimization while permanently eliminating the CO₂.

“Ultimately, concrete created with CarbonCure meets the same strength and performance requirements, but with an optimized mix,” said Christie Gamble, Senior Director of Sustainability at CarbonCure.

The Role of Sustainability in Next-Gen Concrete Production

In addition to cost reduction and maintaining physical distancing measures, concrete producers have discovered another benefit to digitization: sustainability.

New technologies create efficiencies and provide data to help concrete producers gain a greater understanding of the impact of sustainability on their business.

Since sustainability specifications are being requested more frequently by construction clients — especially if the clients are hoping to receive green designations like LEED or special tax credits — having the data at hand to show your concrete is sustainable will be a competitive advantage. 

Technologies like those on offer from Command Alkon, Giatec, Climate Earth, and CarbonCure are not just tools to help producers boost productivity and profitability, they also help them meet sustainability goals.

Learn more by watching the recorded round table: The Next-Gen Concrete Producer: 4 Tech Innovations to Boost Productivity.

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