What’s A Digital Collaboration Network?

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By Lori Allen

A collaboration network is a collaborative solution built on a multi-tier, cloud-based architecture which supports a community of trading partners. Participants can collaborate with many different supply chain partners and access mission-critical data that enhances decision making across the supply chain.

A digital collaboration network enables a data-driven world rather than a process-driven world. Digital technologies, such as IoT devices, telematics, track and trace, and jobsite software, mobile devices, order capture and fulfillment technology, production automation, and more, enable companies to replace manually entered data or nonexistent data in the construction supply chain where these data gaps exist. Companies operating within a collaboration network require strong digital tools to successfully understand what each constituent is doing upstream and downstream.

Having insight into the end-to-end business process helps to make decisions that improve experiences for customers, employees, and partners. Digital networks cut across traditional organizational structures, silos, and technology investments to enable a different set of policies and processes that keep operations moving more efficiently and productively, and ensuring that mission-critical data can be accessed when it’s needed the most.

How Does a Digital Collaboration Network Drive Value in the Construction Space?

The popular phrase “time is money” really rings true in the construction space; time really is money. For example, from the moment ready mix concrete is batched, the materials’ clock starts ticking and its window of opportunity starts to catch flame. There is only a short amount of time to get those materials where they need to go before they’re ruined and the cost is ripped from your bottom line. Having insight into the material’s properties and location at the moment it’s needed is the difference between making money and losing it.

Throughout the project life cycle, digitization enhances communication. It helps to avoid delays and waste by ensuring all parties involved — including contractors, suppliers, haulers, logistics providers, and buyers — are on the same page, working from the most recent document, using open communications. Project owners are realizing the advantage of the digital technologies and collaboration capabilities that are available to keep operations on the jobsite pushing forward with ease. This process can start from the very beginning – from the moment an order is created. The move from paper-based POs to electronic orders can be a lifesaver for most construction businesses, many of whom are already moving to digitize their paper-based processes for better transparency and increased productivity.

Progressive and productive construction firms use digital tickets to ensure data flows seamlessly from suppliers to contractors and owners. By digitally capturing information from paper tickets, buyers can see ticket data in real time, throughout the ticket’s life cycle. Solutions like these can deploy notifications for when a load is on the way, allow the user to view records of load status times, and automatically match incoming delivery tickets with hauler pay sheets and invoices. Further, tools that let construction firms collect both real-time and historical data on the properties of fresh concrete – from load to pour – help ensure better decision making to ensure quality, avert risk, enhance production, and increase delivery efficiency.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a word buzzing throughout many industries, and construction is no different. IoT data is embedded in construction project lifecycles and gathered from a myriad of sources, including remote and wireless sensors. IoT enables companies to sync equipment, materials, asset usage, and worker productivity in real time. Companies can also track expensive equipment or tools more effectively, maximize materials management and inventory control, minimize project delays, and deliver insight that allows managers to stay on top of required equipment maintenance.

Digital tools help materials suppliers to optimize concrete mixes to comply with strength, durability, and aggregate grading requirements. By monitoring batches in real time, companies can reduce out-of-tolerance loads, produce concrete mix submittals in a fraction of the time they took before, and craft professional reports and documentation to build trust and authority.

As mentioned before, delivering materials in a timely fashion is crucial to the success of a project. If the materials are not at the required specification, time is wasted adjusting slump. If the materials result in a bad pour it costs the supplier money (and possibly legal troubles) and the job is no longer on schedule. Digital monitoring and instant alerts helps to eliminate wet loads, simplify calibration, minimize process heating and cooling costs, and achieve consistent results.

One Platform, In One Centralized Location

Having all of these tools live within a digital collaboration network establishes one single point of management. This lets companies manage materials, mixes, tolerances, documentation, and testing and analysis in a single location. As an added benefit, a single point enables construction firms to show customers that incoming raw materials conform to supplier and customer requirements.

A differentiator for companies that operate with a digital collaboration network is that the network provides the flexibility to conduct business from anywhere, at any time, with anyone who has access. Information can be accessed via phones or in-cab systems or in-office systems. The system can display testing results or provide a time-stamped piece of information that everyone can see, providing the opportunity to proactively address issues.

Given the number of parties involved in construction projects today, excellent communication and information-sharing are critical to keeping materials costs in check and keeping all parties on track. With the ability to collect and exchange digital data, project teams gain visibility into others’ supply chain operations for greater efficiencies, improvements, and value.


Lori Allen is a Solutions Marketing Manager at Command Alkon. She is strong in her role which involves defining product messaging and executing product, sales, and training enablement programs and events. Additionally, in her 20 years with the company, she has worked in training, technical writing, product development, quality assurance, and process development roles. Lori graduated from Murray State University with a BS in Engineering Physics. www.commandalkon.com

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