Since 1950, Andernacher Bimswerk GmbH & Co. KG, abbreviated as ABI, has been creating value from concrete. For this German family-owned business in its third generation, sustainability and resource conservation are as important as tradition and innovation. With the IoT tracking and management solution from Sensolus, ABI has reached a significant milestone in its digitalization strategy. The medium-sized manufacturer of customized concrete prefabricated elements has equipped over five hundred of its inner loading racks with IoT trackers for the delivery of its products to construction sites. This has allowed the company to optimize its logistics processes and create transparency in its supply chains.
Challenges of Delivery-Oriented Production
ABI, with its two hundred employees at locations in Andernach, Sinzig, and Bedburg, produces concrete ceilings and walls, stairs, and balconies for residential, industrial, commercial, and agricultural buildings. Each prefabricated element is unique, tailored to the specific building and the requirements for which it was designed. To deliver these prefabricated concrete elements to the construction site, they are loaded onto short or long inner loading racks and transported by a logistics company to their destination, both domestically and internationally.
Florian Dietrich, IT Manager at ABI, explains the challenges, saying, “Our concrete prefabricated elements need to be produced with precise timing and delivered in the right order to the construction sites. Since neither our facility nor most construction sites have large storage capacities, we need to master the logistics processes for our delivery-oriented production. However, in the past, once the loaded inner loading racks left our premises with the logistics company, we lacked accurate information about their location and status to plan the next logistical processes accurately – this is what we wanted to change through the tracking project with Sensolus.”
Sensolus Impresses with Battery Life and Management Platform
ABI learned about Sensolus in 2022 through a recommendation from a logistics company and, in the initial discussions with the tracking solution provider, outlined its requirements. The goal was to optimize planning and dispatch processes, as well as eliminate time-consuming phone inquiries.
To withstand the harsh conditions on construction sites and operate efficiently, the desired trackers needed to be robust and have a long battery life. It was also important for ABI that the trackers – and thus the inner loading racks – could be tracked not only in Germany but also in the Benelux countries. Furthermore, the company wanted the tracking data to be integrated into its own systems, such as the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, to enable seamless work processes.
Florian Dietrich recalls, “Sensolus provided excellent support from the very beginning and demonstrated how their tracking solution could make our processes more transparent. We were convinced not only by the tracker’s features and the entire product package, including the management platform but also by the excellent partnership. In early 2023, we placed an order for 250 trackers, followed by another order for three hundred units in March. To date, over five hundred trackers have been successfully activated. Alongside the initial order, Sensolus set up the web-based management platform for ABI users and integrated ERP data through APIs.
Dietrich adds, “The Sensolus solution ran smoothly within a few weeks. What took the most time in the end was the gradual installation of the trackers as part of the normal usage cycles of the inner loading racks – whenever they returned to our premises. By the end of 2023, we aim to equip all transport racks with Sensolus trackers.”
Inner Loading Rack Tracking with Sensolus IoT Solution
The Sensolus tracking solution comprises two central components: rugged trackers that can be located via an IoT network and the cloud-based management platform that displays the located trackers on a map and integrates them with other company systems, such as ABI’s ERP solution, to share important status information with all involved systems.
The trackers, attached to each individual inner loading rack, are robust and capable of withstanding challenging outdoor conditions. They were designed for non-powered load carriers and are equipped with a powerful battery that allows for a runtime of over five years. The Sensolus trackers communicate for localization not only in an encrypted manner but also energy-efficiently via NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT).
To manage and track its inner loading racks, ABI utilizes Sensolus’ cloud-based management platform. This platform enables easy setup and configuration of the trackers and remains up to date through over-the-air updates. Additionally, all inner loading racks at ABI were assigned a unique reference number and asset tags, such as “short” or “long,” depending on their location and properties. This allows them to be scheduled efficiently.
Sensolus provided the necessary Application Programming Interface (API) for integration with ABI’s ERP system, enabling precise location information for deliveries.
Current Location Information for Dispatch and Billing
Real-time location information for ABI’s transport racks facilitates dispatch operations. The concrete prefabricated element manufacturer plans a total of 60-100 truck routes daily across Germany and the Benelux region, using about 30-35 of its inner loading racks. With current location information, ABI no longer relies on phone calls with construction site employees and logistics companies for reliable delivery and retrieval planning. Instead, all relevant data is available in the Sensolus management platform or directly in the ERP system.
Kai Thierolf from the dispatch department explains, “Real-time tracking has not only provided us with a solid foundation for planning our own processes but has also allowed us to significantly optimize cooperation with logistics companies. Thanks to precise location information, we discovered that some companies were storing our transport racks somewhere for their own route optimization, which deprived us of their use. Thanks to the Sensolus solution, we were able to prevent this, resulting in smoother collaboration with logistics companies.”
In addition to the traditional inner loading racks, ABI also uses a total of eight expensive tipping devices for oversized concrete prefabricated elements. The company charges customers a deposit and a weekly rental fee for these devices, and they too were equipped with Sensolus trackers.
Kai Thierolf adds, “For this scarce resource, current location information provides us with a reliable and verifiable basis for billing. This eliminates discussions with customers about the duration of the racks’ presence on their construction sites and the precise rental period – as such conversations occasionally occurred in the past. Sensolus tracking provides transparency and reliability for both parties.”
Streamlined Logistics Processes
Florian Dietrich summarizes the benefits of the Sensolus tracking solution, saying, “We benefit in many areas from this newfound transparency. Whether it is from the ERP system, tour planning, or dispatch – everyone can now access the needed information with the click of a button, whereas it used to require additional research or calls.
The new transparency provides continuity and efficiency, both in our own processes and in coordination with the contracted logistics companies. Additionally, overcapacity in the inner loading rack inventory, which was maintained as a buffer for planning uncertainties, can be reduced. Moreover, tracking lowers the likelihood of losing load carriers.
In conclusion, the IT manager states, “We not only benefit from optimized processes, but the new solution also pays off financially rather quickly.”