For over 70 years, BARD Materials has been a leader in the ready mix concrete industry. Established in 1946 as a small sand and gravel company in Dyersville, Iowa, BARD Materials grew to become one of the first ready mix providers in the Illinois-Iowa-Wisconsin tri-State area. BARD Materials now has a network of 24-plus ready mix plants and 60 aggregate sources across the region.
We spoke to Eric Glendenning, BARD Materials’ Technical Services Director. He discussed how the Kespry drone-based Aerial Intelligence platform positively impacted the company’s inventory management and auditing processes, creating a seamless workflow across sites, departments and teams. Eric also explored how Kespry has taken some of the complexity out of measurement and management processes during this era of social distancing.
What problems did you want to solve with a drone-based Aerial Intelligence system?
Our industry as a whole has a problem with accurately measuring how much aggregate product is actually being produced. Belt scales and other technologies have calibration issues. A lot of times, a manual visual analysis doesn’t reflect the actual inventory. We needed a better way to validate what we had.
Outside of production, BARD Materials is a centrally-dispatched operation in terms of how our dump trucks our deployed. So, our dispatcher needs good, accurate inventory information when he or she is deciding which location to send that truck to for a certain product. Being wrong on inventory can add up pretty quick from a cost standpoint. We also have requirements from our auditors to ensure accurate inventory for tax purposes.
We’ve got 60 quarry and sandpit locations where we used to send someone once a week to in order to get a visual to validate inventory. Now, we can put one person in a pickup truck who just regularly flies those sites when necessary and gets good, accurate information. From there, we can make good decisions on where to send dump trucks, so we’re not showing up in a location where we have no current inventory. We like our dump trucks to be full and Kespry helps us ensure they are.
Why did you choose Kespry over competing solutions?
It’s Kespry’s customer service. Kespry is active in making sure things work smoothly. Kespry’s always trying to make things better and look forward. With how fast technology is moving, we feel that’s really important. We like working with companies who have that commitment. From our standpoint, Kespry is the leader in the industry in how well it works with its customers.
How easy was it to get Kespry up and running?
It was smooth and quick. When we bring new people in to use Kespry, we say “Here’s the Kespry stuff and here’s their phone number.” They make that phone call, build relationships with the Kespry customer service team quickly, and get good hands-on training. There’s also a lot of value in the online training Kespry offers. You can learn at your own pace. We also like that Kespry speaks the same industry language as we do. Everything’s very intuitive.
Describe some of the key use cases for Kespry at BARD Materials.
We always do a pre- and post-production flight, which means we know what we’re going to be pulling into a quarry or sandpit to produce a product. We get an idea of what inventory is already in there and then we’ll pull our production crew in, produce the product, and as soon as they’re done, we’ll fly the drone again.
Another use case involves our 24 ready-mix plants, which sometimes have long-term stockpiles of aggregate products. Our area managers need to know how much product is in there so they know if they can fulfill a specific project or across a certain amount of time. So, they’ll have us fly the site, validate they have enough product, so we can stay efficient and ensure our dump trucks can get enough raw aggregate material to adhere to plans.
In general, we’re always validating inventory before and after production. Kespry helps us balance the inventory sheets when it comes to all the in and out of material.
How has the Kespry Cloud changed your workflow for the better?
The Kespry Cloud is really good. We’ve got it set up for people to view information as needed. If our environmental team knows we’re flying locations, rather than them calling the drone operator, they can just pop onto the Kespry Cloud and see when it was flown and the data it captured. They don’t need to make any phone calls or track anyone down.
The other thing is Kespry gives us the ability to share information, so we can determine whether or not to fly a location. Also, with 60 locations, we need to be able to accurately track which locations have been flown and which haven’t.
The Kespry Cloud is also accurate. It can’t be manipulated. It can’t be misinterpreted. There’s no such thing as incorrect. That’s great for everyone from the front office to the back office. Building that confidence into our numbers is pretty significant.
How has Kespry helped you deal with the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing requirements?
We brought on a new hire to use Kespry right in the middle of COVID-19. The simplicity of the training side of learning the drone was great and hands-off. With Kespry, one person is able to manage the whole system, upload the information, pull the reports, validate the information, and send it all out. Right now, the fewer people you can involve in processes the better. So, Kespry has made things super smooth, even during this difficult time.