Boral Limited is Australia’s largest publically listed manufacturer and supplier of building and construction materials. With more than $5 billion is sales Boral employs more than 15,900 staff across 717 operational sites in Australia, the US and Asia. Manufacturing and supplying a wide range of building and construction products. Products include asphalt, bricks, cement, pre-mixed concrete, pavers, plasterboard, timber and windows.
Boral also provide a wide range of customer services particularly the delivery of these products to the customers site. Some products such as asphalt and pre-mixed concrete are time critical requiring immediate delivery once manufactured.
From a customer perspective all products and their associated deliveries are time critical, requiring a high level of planning and control to ensure customers schedules are met and maintained to the highest standards, minimising loss of time and wastage.
Boral, understanding their customers needs for enhanced delivery capability and service conceived, in the early to mid 1990's, a system for the management of customer orders, tracking of vehicles and recommendation of next delivery vehicle for each customer order and delivery. Boral quickly began developing a real-time vehicle tracking and information system that promised significant benefits to the company's customers, and reduction in operating costs.
1996 Trunked Radio & GPS
1996 saw the implementation of this new concept of systemnatically managing the dispatch and delivery of products to end customers. The system based on GPS data over two way radio was installed into Boral's Victorian metropolitan concrete operation in late 1996 early 1997, with it's quarry delivery fleet following on immdiately
Partnering with Tait Electronics, Boral chose Tait VHF trunked two-way radios and GPS over radio solution supporting dispatch management systems designed and customised by Sidewinder Asia Pacific providing real-time information about each vehicle's location and status. This allowed the software systems to make next delivery vehicle recommendations to individual site based dispatch operators. Later Boral centrally co-located these dispatchers into a centrally located call centre. Boral's metropolitan operations fitted out the entire concrete and quarry delivery fleet with approximately 360 units.
2003 GPRS Mobile Network
In mid 2003 Boral decided to implement a vehicle tracking system that would become truly national. Taking advantage of new GPRS technology and software systems for managing customer orders and deliveries Boral sought to improve its earlier foray with technology. Their aim was to maximise each vehicle's utilization, whilst reducing the need for vehicle numbers to a highly controlled minimum by increasing the number of deliveries per vehicle per day.
To do this, new technology and software were required to overcome limitation of the earlier solution, which included:
communication dead spots created by buildings and topography, neither of which were easy to overcome cost effectively.
allocation of radio frequencies which were not easily managed, and frequently varied within states and certainly between states.
radio's required 'in vehicle re-programming' if moved to another state, or area with different radio frequencies.
relied on drivers remembering to press the required status upon discharge of product at the customers site.
With the development of the mobile telephone network throughout Australia in the late 1990's and early 2000's new technology was emerging onto the scene from a range of sources for vehicle tracking and communications. One particular source was the introduction of equipment using the mobile telephone GPRS networks. In Boral's case it was Optus providing the network connectivity.
The main benefits of this type of system were:
allowed for vehicles to be used or allocated nationally, regionally or locally.
tracking units could be managed and reprogrammed from a central location over the network facilitating movement of equipment between vehicles easily.
allowed allocation centrally to different business sub groups
unique contact ID for both data and telephone via the GPRS network.
introduction of the geofencing concept, an automatic virtual fence than\t when passed through triggers an event, alarm, message or condition. This overcame the limitation of drivers forgetting to update their status manually as with the earlier system.
provided both tracking and communications all in the one package.
To help achieve this vision, Boral partnered with SmartTrack and Optus. SmartTrack provided the hardware and software, Optus provided the network.
2004 Atoll Project (GPS Tracking and GPRS Communications)
The need to maintain the current system while allowing operators to integrate the new system in an orderly manner required some skillful management.
Robert Lyell was engaged as project manager for the new GPRS systems implementation and integration with existing systems into Boral business units in Victoria, and to incrementally decommission and replace old tracking hardware with the new GPRS hardware.
The process of migrating from one system to the other, removing old equipment and installing new equipment into a fleet of around 400 trucks took careful planning, review, practice and courage.
The proposal Robert put to Boral's business managers was to take each vehicle off line for 2 hours to remove the old hardware and install, test and commission the new GPRS hardware.
To balance the impact on the delivery fleet Robert sought to maximize the fleet availability at peak times by dividing the metropolitan area and creating two installations teams to manage each area. Requiring concrete trucks and quarry tippers at times that maintained both a continuous flow of vehicles for removal of old and installation of new equipment, while maintaining the businesses operational needs.
Robert appointed two installation supervisors to maintain a steady flow of trucks for the installers and work with each business to smooth the process. The installation teams initially installed 8 trucks per day, increasing to 12 and 13 trucks a day as skills were developed by the installation teams. One superhuman effort saw the successful de-installation and installation of new equipment into 28 trucks at one key plant over a 2 day period to coincide with an industry RDO.
Typically working between 7.00am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday, the entire fleet of was migrated to the new technology seamlessly in six and a half weeks. At the conclusion of installation works the previous Trucking Radio GPS data solution was decommissioned and switched off.
The careful recovery of aged but still usable radio and GPS assets allowed Boral to re-use much of the recovered equipment in other businesses, thus further lowering their implementation costs.
Keys to Success
The key to this impressive implementation was in the detailed preparation work to ensure a seamless operation regardless of which system a vehicle was operating on at the time, old or new. Further work was undertaken to ensure that dispatchers at the central call centre used one system only to manage and dispatch orders and vehicles irrespective of which system was providing the tracking and information data.
The implementation team of 5 key business people, lead by Robert, worked together for a period of 5 months planning; testing and re-testing software enhancements and modifications; testing integration with up and down stream systems; mapping and documenting system settings; mapping, building and calibrating geofences for each manufacturing site; establishing protocols and re-planning and reviewing the installation schedules many times to achieve the optimum through put of vehicles per day for installation.
Boral's improved delivery process provides customers with tangible business benefits as a result of careful planning and implementation:
Improved scheduling and fleet vehicle management: deliveries pinpointed to within metres and within seconds.
Lower costs: vastly improved business efficiency leading to less waste and wasted employee time.
Greater utilization of vehicles providing higher daily fleet payload.
Reduced unproductive travel with vehicles travelling empty to home base.
Greater control: vastly improved management of special orders and products.
Highly scalabe, streamlining the management of major concrete pours enabling coordinated deliveries from multiple manufacturing facilities..
Following on from this major upgrade Boral were well positioned to replace their dispatch management systems with newer systems while integrating greater functionality and unlocking further potential to provide superior customer service.
The experience made by Boral's staff and management was one of growth encouraging the ongoing pursuit of further similar process and systems change with confidence.
Robert's experience and understanding of the businesses, vehicles and data/voice communications ensured Boral a successful implementation, achieving all goals within agreed timeframes and maintaining a financial focus that ensured costs were controlled and budgets managed appropriately.
Robert's experience with software implementation, two-way radio communications and deployment, the integration of new and old software systems, together with his process and change management skills underpinned the successful maintenance of business needs while implementation proceeded smoothly. Robert's skills and experience are well founded by many successful projects such as Boral's Atoll project.