In 2017, MAQER—Holcim Ltd.’s open innovation unit—developed and began piloting a free app, called ConcreteDirect, that would help customers manage orders, track deliveries, and monitor the performance of concrete pours from the palm of their hand. By connecting customers, customer care agents, and truck drivers with essential information on their smartphones, Holcim Ltd. envisioned a simpler and smarter way to handle concrete purchases.
When ConcreteDirect expanded across the U.S., Aggregate Industries, Lattimore Materials, and Lafarge, all members of LafargeHolcim in the US, were ready to support the needs of its users. Then, in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the app delivered a critically important level of safety, protecting the health of employees and fellow essential businesses, in addition to keeping projects moving under difficult circumstances. LafargeHolcim in the U.S. was able to quickly support customers’ transition to the app, leading to swift adoption throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Timing is Everything
"We know when the truck leaves the plant and what time exactly it arrives on the job site."
—Florent Pichon, Poly Beton
“The construction industry is traditionally slow to change, and there are so many opportunities to improve through technology and innovation,” says Philipp Leutiger, Chief Digital Officer at Holcim Ltd. “Adopting technologies that save time and money, while increasing safety for both customers and building materials companies should be a no-brainer.”
Because concrete is a perishable commodity, timing is everything. Before the app, buyers had to call dispatch agents on the phone to place and adjust orders, check ready-mix truck arrival times, inquire about order history, and more. The phone system left room for error, and without a way to edit mistakes in real-time those errors sometimes lead to wasted time and money, both internally and externally.
ConcreteDirect changed all of that. Users across technology platforms (iPhone, Android, and PCs) are now able to follow truck positions live on GPS, message customer care representatives within the app, share tickets with whomever they want, view active orders and order history, correct order mistakes in real-time, and monitor the performance of their site crews from anywhere in the world.
LafargeHolcim North America Inc.“We can follow up on orders in real-time. This means we know when the truck leaves the plant and what time exactly it arrives on the job site. This way, I can inform my customers and manage our waiting time on site, which increases our flexibility, proactivity, and productivity,” says Florent Pichon of Poly Beton. “In sum, a great app that we use every day!”
While there are startup companies focused on optimizing the construction business, Holcim Ltd. is jumping into the space as a global leader. MAQER used an agile development methodology, continuous collection of feedback, and regular software releases to produce an app that optimizes the B2B experience.
While the app was in development in the years prior to 2020, the pandemic both pushed the adoption of the app and brought new safety needs to light. When COVID-19 struck, LafargeHolcim in the U.S. and Lafarge Canada rapidly moved to add QR codes onto each one of its ready-mix trucks, transitioning to a scanning system to track truck arrival. The app-enabled drivers to drop a pin at their arrival location on their tablets instead of requiring signatures, reducing the need for physical contact between drivers and customers and effectively making delivery contactless.
Within the app, drivers are also able to view their mandatory travel routes via GPS, helping them to stay on track and meet regulatory requirements. Employees can also access field level risk assessments (FLRA), which detail any hazards that are present on-site during construction work due to site or equipment conditions.
Safety enhancements from the app include:
- Touchless tickets
- Contactless delivery
- QR code tracking system
- Pins as signature replacement
- GPS routes
- Field Level Risk Assessment
Improving customer experience was the chief catalyst for the creation of ConcreteDirect and the industry had room to innovate in a way that could make doing business faster, simpler, and more effective.
The MAQER team’s major goals for ConcreteDirect were to create an app that would:
- Save time at the jobsite and at the office
- Offer full transparency on concrete orders
- Help optimize crews on site
- Include a paperless offering feature
“Innovation for innovation’s sake is a waste of time and effort,” says Sean Ali, Digital GM for ConcreteDirect. “We wanted to create something that made a real difference for both employees and the clients who choose our products. The whole point of the app is efficiency and ease of use. Its beauty is in its simplicity.”
As the world recovers from COVID-19, ConcreteDirect doesn’t lose its value. In fact, the push to adopt the app significantly enhanced productivity. In North America alone, the app delivered:
- More than 100,000 hours of customer time saved
- More than 1 million messages
- More than half a million touchless deliveries since the functionality was introduced in April 2020
- 90% reduction of short alignment calls between customers and dispatchers
“The way ConcreteDirect has performed so far is a strong case for implementing the technology at our locations across the globe,” says Ali continued. “The app has huge potential to provide the best possible level of service to our customers.”
Holcim Ltd. aims to be the first company in the world to make ordering and receiving ready mix concrete completely contact-free. The app, now used across North America and Mexico, will be piloted and scaled in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Latin America.
While it’s true that going digital became necessary for protecting thousands of customers and team members in 2020, it’s also true that the necessity made business simpler, smarter, and safer than ever.