By: Fara Foster, Director of Communication & Community Engagement
Over the past ten years, technology has played an increasing role in how our operation functions. We hear the term “paperless” used often, sometimes even jokingly, as we move towards the eventual goal of conducting business without passing pieces of paper between people. In an odd way, the coronavirus pandemic may have given us a big boost towards that goal.
“DOTs had been talking about going to an e-ticketing system for a while,” said Don Broadhead, our IT Systems Manager. “TDOT made it a requirement at the end of April.”
Electronic ticketing, or e-ticketing for short, is just a way of getting the required information to the Department of Transportation for our state jobs without the use of paper. Because of the work Don had already done implementing the JWS system we use for truck ticketing and billing, he was able to easily set up a process to meet that requirement.
Essentially, every time asphalt is loaded onto a truck at one of our plants, the JWS system records the customer, the job, what type of mix was loaded, and the quantity. The system creates a ticket, stores an image of that ticket, and sends that image to the server at our main office. Once the information is recorded on our server, reports are generated to show the amount of asphalt produced that day at each of our plants.
The DOTs needed a way to receive those images. Since the images already existed, it became a matter of setting up a system where the appropriate DOT personnel could access them any time they were needed.
Dropbox folders were created, categorized by day, plant, and material, in that order. The final material folders contain the information needed by the DOTs, including running totals and job summaries. Don set up a system that automatically pushes that information from our JWS system into the Dropbox folders. From that point, it was just a matter of granting access to the appropriate people.
Don said the system was started for our DOTs, but the structure will work for any job or customer. Using Dropbox made sense because it’s an easy way to share content, either by direct access or by use of a link. Because our reports run every 15 minutes, the information the DOTs see is updated throughout the day.
TDOT only required paving contractors to set up an e-ticketing system. They did not make demands on how those systems functioned, leaving it up to each contractor to set up a system that worked well for them. “We have already heard praises from TDOT for the system Don created on its efficiency and ease of use,” said Richard Moore, VP of Strategy. “He did it very quickly, too.” According to David Middleton, our IT Manager who was a part of the conversations on how to make it work, “I’m pretty sure Don worked around the clock for 24 hours. Maybe longer.”
Because Don works behind the scenes, he rarely receives the public accolades others receive. However, Don’s dedication and expertise are the reasons our internal systems work as efficiently as they do. He is often called our “Cosmic Guru.” Now you know why.