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RFID Rocks at Graniterock

The construction materials company deployed an RFID system to improve customer service and boost customer loyalty.
By Bob Violino
Jan 22, 2007—Ever since Graniterock Co. was founded in 1900, the construction-materials company has made it a priority to provide its customers exceptional service. About a hundred years after the company opened its first granite quarry in Watsonville, Calif., Graniterock launched an initiative to use radio frequency identification technology, in combination with business intelligence software, to bring customer service to even higher levels. The company now uses RFID to speed up the arrival and departure of trucks through eight of its asphalt- and quarry-loading locations.

Major events of the twentieth century had a huge impact on the company's growth. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Graniterock helped meet the new demand for construction. When automobiles began replacing the horse and buggy early in the century, street paving became a necessity and Graniterock received numerous contracts to pave over the dirt and mud streets.

The firm continued to grow as construction boomed throughout California. In the midst of the Great Depression, Graniterock supplied material for Works Progress Administration (WPA) construction projects, and during World War II, the company supplied materials to build several military facilities. In the 1960s and 1970s, Graniterock grew with the huge development of the Monterey and San Francisco Bay areas.

Today, Graniterock has 850 employees and 17 locations throughout Northern California. Along with this growth has come an increasing reliance on operational data—and the accurate and timely reporting of that data to internal users and external customers is one of the key elements of providing effective service and winning new clients, says Steve Snodgrass, CIO at Graniterock.

In the late 1990s, the construction company began using Business Objects Enterprise and Crystal Reports, a business intelligence (BI) and reporting application created by Business Objects, to deliver data from its PeopleSoft enterprise resource-planning applications to key managers at Graniterock. The Business Objects software delivers information on multiple facets of the company's business, including finance, customer service, employee safety, vehicle compliance and maintenance programs. Users of the BI system include senior- and mid-level managers in the areas of finance, accounting, sales, operations and maintenance.

The BI application enables Graniterock to consolidate data from different operating groups, which has long been stored in separate operational data silos. "Our business is very vertically integrated," says Snodgrass. "We crush granite and sell it internally to plants, and we also have a construction arm that places the granite on roadway surfaces. Each process has had different systems associated with it, and to get at the data has been problematic."

Two years after the company began the BI implementation, managers decided to invest in RFID technology to improve service at Graniterock's quarries, and to collect data on inventory and supply movement. They realized it would make sense to link the new RFID capability with the BI application.

Prior to the company's using RFID, a customer truck would drive into a quarry and onto a scale for pre-load weighing. The driver would tell a Graniterock worker at the gate leading to the scale the customer for whom he was hauling, and to which particular construction job the material was headed. The worker would enter the information, including the weight of the truck, into a computer.
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