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Data-collection system for Tarmac

Tarmac have commissioned Three X Communication to design and implement a data-collection and analysis system for their quarries and related sites across the UK. Three X will be supplying software development, communications hardware, systems integration, training and ongoing support.

Following a two-site pilot programme, the second phase of the project (covering a further 10 sites) was completed in 1999. The contract value to date is œ190,000. Phase three will see an expansion of the scheme to a further 90 sites. Total contract value will exceed œ1 million.

The introduction of field computing came after a review of Tarmac's business systems. The company were looking at measures of improving their existing systems as part of an ongoing programme of improvement and innovation. Three X developed the inspection and performance monitoring system working closely with Tarmac to define their exact requirements. The Windows-based application runs on Telxon (PTC 1134) hand-held computers with serial ports used throughout.

Operatives carry out extensive daily checks, including health and safety inspections and checks for mechanical and electrical defects, and information is input straight into Telxon pen-based devices using a number of electronic forms. Users are prompted to enter specific information against standard checks by means of pull-down menus, tick boxes and key word lists. When the inspection is complete the device is returned to the site office where it is placed in a docking cradle. The data is then downloaded automatically and fed directly into the host system. Three X's software handles the translation between the hand-held and host applications.

Fixed units record process-performance-related data on dry stone, sand and gravel, and asphalt plants. The user logs start and stop times for each process, together with reasons for scheduled and unscheduled stops. Information on site output, eg the tonnage of material processed, is also logged. Information is downloaded in the same way as the inspection data where it can then be queried using a set of standard reports created by Three X. These include a rolling record of material processed per day/week, time lost owing to unscheduled stoppages, and plant utilisation levels. Bespoke querying capability has also been provided, allowing Tarmac to analyse the data as required.

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