eTools for concrete
April 12, 2012 by Ross Monsour
The world is changing as fast as you can send an email.
Technology is pushing the boundaries on accounting, social media, project management, cell phones, data transfer, maintenance and applications too numerous to mention. In order to keep abreast of these changing times, companies must adapt to their environments and make use of the tools at their disposal.
The construction industry is notoriously slow at adopting new technologies on the jobsite, but some inroads have been made in communication and timely delivery of data. Today, we are revisiting CMATS, a database management technology that was introduced into the Ontario Provincial Standards and Specifications – Municipal (OPSS-M) in 2006. CMATS was developed by the Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario (RMCAO) for the recording and distribution of concrete test results (as per CSA A23.1).
This Internet-based system tracks a concrete supplier’s production for one or several jobs, while the testing agency controls access to the information.
Demand for CMATS stemmed from costs being incurred by the industry due to testing results not being forwarded to concrete producers in a timely fashion. One company estimated that bad testing was costing them $3 million annually. CMATS was designed to give testing companies the ability to notify all affected parties of concrete testing results as soon as possible – as per the CSA A23.1. This would allow for quicker resolutions to ongoing problems on jobsites.
Unfortunately, the testing agencies did not see CMATS as their own tool and chose to disregard its use, as did most municipalities. To this day, only a few companies have adopted CMATS as part of their quality control procedures.
However, times are changing. In recent months, the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario (MTO), after having investigated the CMATS portal, recognized its potential. Their investigation has led them to invest in, and create, a much broader adoption of the technology to include asphalt and aggregate testing. Once developed, the revised version of CMATS will offer access to testing data in real time for all components of an MTO project.
While CMATS is in the development stage, it will provide key benefits for tracking asphalt and aggregate business.
The following is a summary of the benefits for various industry professionals:
– Instant access to project data through the Internet
– Allows for the identification of trends and statistical analysis
– Test results can be integrated with payment calculations and project reports
– Instant access to project data through the Internet
– Allows for identification of trends and statistical analysis
– Optimizes material changes to ensure product quality
– Electronic storage of all project test data
– Ensures all construction team members are receiving quality assurance test data instantly and allows them to react appropriately
– Standardizes reporting procedures for the industry
– Eliminates repetitive data entry and inefficient communication on large projects
– Eliminates paper handling costs (faxing and mailing)
– Ensures that a secure electronic backup exists at a secondary off-site location
– Allows for electronic searches for specific test data
– Electronic information can be downloaded into existing computer systems
– Offers basic statistical analysis tools for clients
– Provides quality control features for the testing process and the product
– Provides a CD copy of all completed project test data
– Ensures construction teams have the necessary quality assurance test data
– Shortens jobsite reaction times
– Minimizes jobsite specification compliance issues
– Improves the quality of the finished product
– Allows multi-location access by multiple users
– Download feature allows QA test data to be combined with QC test data for further statistical and trend analysis
The completed version of CMATS Version 2.0 is anticipated to hit the market in Spring 2012.
Another eTool becoming increasingly popular is the use of Apps.
These simple applications have provided instantaneous access to information from the weather, ordering pizza, travel bookings, music recognition and more. The only limitation with a mobile App is your imagination.
So what is the potential for this type of tool for the concrete or construction industries?
In October 2011, RMCAO was approached by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade – recently renamed the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) – with a request for information on how eTools might assist the industry. RMCAO proposed the development of two mobile Apps for use as concrete industry tools, one for the Blackberry and one for the iPhone.
The proposal was accepted and RMCAO and MEDI entered into an agreement to develop the Apps. LIXAR was hired for the development work through a competitive process. The Apps will be designed to deliver real-time information to the ready-mixed concrete industry as well as its industry partners and clients.
There are four components to the App:
1) A plant locator will provide a Google map locations of plants within a 40-km radius of the user. The screen will be scrollable to locate plants in other parts of the province.
2) An events calendar will display RMCAO-sponsored seminars, conferences and social networking events. The user will be able to schedule them into their mobile calendar.
3) A searchable membership directory will offer detailed information on producer members and associate members, including links to maps and websites when available.
4) Access to the RMCAO library of technical documentation. The documentation will be accessible to read or emailed directly to a client. For example, if a concrete salesperson was visiting an engineer and questions arose on cold weather concreting, the salesperson could pull up the document and automatically email it to the engineer.
With this information in-hand, RMCAO members will take up a leadership role within the industry. eTools provide the data that will keep the smart contractor ahead.
Ross Monsour is marketing director of the Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario. Send comments to email@example.com.