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CONCRETE has a shelf life of just two hours. Each day, Pan-United's trucks ply the roads between batching plants - where concrete is produced - and construction worksites, delivering the material just in time.
Taking orders from worksites and dispatching trucks accordingly were Puah Soon Chai's tasks when he joined the firm in 2007.
At the batching plant where he worked, he would climb the stairs to the small, dusty container office housing the plant's control room.
There, he would receive customer calls and faxed-in orders, then contact the drivers via walkie-talkie to tell them where to dispatch the concrete.
The work did not end after the last trucks were sent out. As Mr Puah recalls: "We did a lot of manual work at the end of the day." He had to tot up the orders received that day, accounting for all the material dispatched.
Pan-United's dispatch operations look very different today. Gone are the tiny on-site offices and walkie-talkies. Instead, the sleek, modern command centre in its Kaki Bukit headquarters boasts a wall of flatscreens and rows of headset-equipped operators.
Mr Puah, 31, had previously "never imagined" he would work in such a setting. He became a supervisor in 2012, overseeing areas such as staff productivity, truck locations, logistics, and trucking arrangements.
When Pan-United's centralised command centre was set up in 2014, he moved there instead.
At the start, only a few plants were handled by the command centre. Over the course of a year, more plants were added zone by zone, until the centre was handling all 30 of Pan-United's plants.
The centralised, paperless system makes a big difference, Mr Puah notes: "Now it's all computerised."
Going paperless saves time and effort, with data on orders and deliveries collected automatically in the system.
Instead of mere data handling, as was the case in the past, Mr Puah now performs data analysis: identifying which are the peak hours for orders, for instance.
The giant screens at the command centre present useful information for operators and supervisors, from truck locations to order data.
Previously, monitoring drivers involved calling them up to ask where they were, Mr Puah recalls: "How is your situation, are you loading or unloading yet?" GPS tracking has now eliminated that need.
In the past, each plant also had to handle planning and scheduling based on rough estimates. Now, there is live hourly data on incoming orders and plant capacity, allowing for greater certainty about when a required quantity can be delivered.
"You can advise the customer on timing," says Mr Puah. "For the next six hours - you can know for sure."
Brought to you by The Future Economy Council