Canadian concrete company pours the perfect foundation for productivity with Microsoft 365
From its Didsbury headquarters in Alberta, Canada, a small family business is prospering. TANAS Concrete serves the building trade in nearby prairie towns, coordinating a fluctuating and seasonal workforce, several concrete plants, and the administrative processes that are the backbone of a growing company. Exchanging data between mobile workers and the head office is no longer an issue. TANAS deployed Microsoft 365 to make collaboration easier, to share information securely, and to streamline processes.
A handful of small towns punctuates Central Alberta along the province’s scenic Cowboy Trail, a 400-mile stretch of highway running from the Rocky Mountain foothills through the Canadian prairie to the northern country. TANAS Concrete is a prime example of how small businesses are prospering in this growing area. The full-service ready-mix concrete (manufactured for immediate delivery) company has supplied concrete to local builders since 1943, serving the towns of Sundre, Airdrie, Three Hills, Didsbury, Drumheller, and surrounding areas. The company is making life easier for employees with the seamless collaboration it gets with Microsoft 365 Enterprise.
Tying workflows for disparate teams together
A full-time staff of 10 runs the company from TANAS Concrete’s head office in Didsbury, administering finance, HR, payroll and benefits, and customer relations. The head office work environment differs sharply from the five TANAS ready-mix plants, where frontline workers and construction vehicles blend in a hive of constant activity. The dispatch office—the command center for each plant—was traditionally a challenging environment, with dispatchers working with customers and relaying orders to production and trucking crews.
Aligning trucks to load with a fast-hardening product requires an exquisite level of organization in coordinating production, load times, and quantities to keep a constant flow of vehicles and product moving. The scene could be chaotic, says TANAS Controller Randy Walton. “The constant ringing of phones, people talking loudly—it was a zoo. Sometimes staff would throw staplers across the room out of frustration.”
And that wasn’t the only issue. Batch operators who run the concrete mixing equipment must precisely weigh out ingredients for different concrete recipes while also responding to requests for new batches. A distraction at the wrong moment can cause costly mistakes that can ruin an entire batch. The company needed to find an unobtrusive way to communicate with its batch operators, and its Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone system needed updating.
Could one technology platform satisfy all the company’s requirements for communication, collaboration, and interoperable systems? Walton thought so. He had been hired to sort out the company’s business needs and to implement a system that would streamline operations, help staff collaborate, and secure data. Working with its local Microsoft representative, Neddal Assaf at the Calgary Microsoft Store, TANAS combined several separate licenses into a Microsoft 365 Business subscription, optimizing budget and administration. In late 2018, Walton took the next step, engaging regional consulting firm AMG Services to plan TANAS’s migration to Microsoft 365 Enterprise for its cloud-based combination of Microsoft Office 365, Windows 10, and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security.
Solving business and productivity issues with ready-to-go apps
Prior to its first Office 365 deployment, TANAS used a computer-based accounting system with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for analysis. But the company’s plants were paper-based and reliant on manual data entry, creating the possibility of errors and data loss. TANAS had also implemented a cloud-based dispatch system, ConcreteGO by Sysdyne, to give dispatchers and batch operators access to production data in the cloud. The application exports data via Excel directly into TANAS’s third-party accounting system.
ConcreteGO doesn’t cover the full spectrum of the company’s needs, though, because TANAS is more than a ready-mix concrete company. TANAS also sends concrete preparation crews and finishers to customers, and time for these employees can’t be scheduled and invoiced with ConcreteGO. Says Walton, “I realized that we needed more. That’s when we implemented Office 365 so that we could share files with SharePoint and OneDrive.”
For TANAS Human Resources Manager David J. Blackburn, tracking a hundred or more employees and multiple project commitments during the busy summer construction season is key to ensuring that the company runs at peak efficiency. “Using Group Calendar in Microsoft SharePoint to track vacations, absences, and exceptions, plus having an accurate document trail and quick access to information, is imperative in HR,” he says, “and Microsoft products ensure this.”
Walton and the head office team enjoy productivity-boosting applications like Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Planner. He loves the searchable flexibility of OneNote, writing notes by hand with Surface Pen.
Front-office receptionist Madison Keller relies on Teams to manage a constant stream of documents, such as certificates of insurance, registrations, and other construction documentation. “With Microsoft Teams, I just set up a team structure so that everyone can find what they need. No one needs to ask me where documents are, and it’s easy for everyone to use,” she says.
TANAS construction crews now use Planner as a key coordination tool to streamline each project, saving time and money by delivering the right supplies at the right place and time. Even with last-minute changes, they now arrive at worksites correctly equipped, and extra trips for material are becoming a thing of the past, says Walton.
All of our workers use Microsoft 365 apps. They’re more efficient, we waste less time, and most of all, everyone is happier.