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Bluetooth Beacons Help Palm Beach Aggregates to Reduce Errors

The Florida company is using TACinsight's solution to identify each truck before it is filled with sand, gravel or other material, thereby preventing errors during the loading process.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 10, 2015

A stream of trucks arrives at Florida mining company Palm Beach Aggregates to pick up one of approximately 20 different products, loaded in quantities specific to each vehicle's weight limits, and destined for a variety of customers. On any given day, about 100 to 150 such trucks move through the facility and are loaded as ordered by the dispatcher. To help loader operators identify which product, and how much of it, should be placed on a particular vehicle, the company is employing Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology supplied by its management software provider, TACinsight.

Palm Beach Aggregates processes about 2 million tons of crushed limestone, sand and other materials for use in asphalt, cement and concrete products, and as base materials for building foundations, as well as for roads. The company's products are often used for Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) projects, which must meet specific material requirements. When a truck arrives at the facility, says Albert Moragues, Palm Beach Aggregates' project manager, it is weighed and the dispatcher assigns that vehicle to a specific location, where it is loaded with a particular product to transport to a designated destination, such as a customer's construction site. If a truck becomes overloaded and material needs to be taken off, that removed material can no longer be sold as FDOT-certified.

A GeLo Bluetooth beacon is mounted on each truck's windshield.
The trucks queue up at the loading area for the appropriate material and wait to receive it. Loaders then fill up the vehicle with that material (without an automated system, they previously used the weight limit printed on the side of the truck as a guide to indicate how much to load). The truck is then weighed again on its way out of the facility.

This process can lead to errors, the company reports, such as the wrong product, or too much or too little material, being loaded onto a truck. If the amount of material is excessive, the driver must proceed to a dumping area to discharge the surplus. Since that material often cannot be reused due to FDOT requirements, a single error can cost the company hundreds of dollars.

Palm Beach Aggregates' Albert Moragues
TACinsight offers software for quarry, mining and construction customers, according to Mike Mendiola, one of TACinsight's co-founders. The firm has been providing RFID-based solutions for about 10 years—typically, active RFID tags with fixed readers. RFID readers are usually expensive and cumbersome to set up, Mendiola says. In the case of Palm Beach Aggregates, fixed units would need to be installed in individual loaders. "The RFID reader needs to be mounted, powered and cabled to the operator interface display," he states. What's more, the reader needs to be connected to the device on which the application is running.

The solution was Bluetooth Low Energy, says Steve Rasmussen, another TACinsight co-founder. "BLE was intriguing," Mendiola adds, "because we could use an off-the-shelf phone or tablet as a reader, and in that way, integration becomes much more simple. We could then build an app to bring beacon information to the loader operator. The use of BLE through commonly available smartphones or tablets enabled us to eliminate a costly external component [an RFID reader] and greatly simplify the deployment."

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