The pilot phase of an innovative mobile solution developed by software house DVT to track construction materials across Africa has gone live at two Group Five construction sites in Ghana and Tanzania. The solution has garnered calls from Group Five competitors asking for details, due to the competitive advantage the solution gives Group Five.

Tony de la Motte, contracts director in the mining division of Group Five, says: “Our construction materials are sourced and fabricated in South Africa and then shipped to sites across Africa. They range from bolts and steel beams to larger and more complex pieces such as fully constructed steel roofing systems. The challenge the industry as a whole faces is that every single item needed on a specific site – which can run to 2 000 items in one shipment alone – has to be available to the crews on that site to ensure the project goes off smoothly and timeously.”

If, for instance, a single large bolt is not in the shipment, it can delay the whole project, sometimes by weeks. The problem is compounded when one takes into account that workers on site still have to be paid, even if they’re unable to work due to a lack of materials.

The solution DVT tailored for Group Five provides operational value by ensuring that dispatch clerks have an electronic list of items, which the user ticks off as items are loaded. Dispatch clerks use handheld scanners to scan in each item as it is loaded onto containers. “The user is trained to release the shipment only once everything on the list has been loaded, and also doesn’t allow unlisted items to be added to the shipment,” says De la Motte.

The system has additional benefits in that dispatch notes, which were previously compiled manually, are now automatically generated, saving time and eliminating human error. The solution also allows Group Five to track materials across the continent, enabling better inventory management, which is fed via middleware (developed by DVT) into the company’s JD Edwards ERP system. On the receiving end, clerks on-site have better material control, as items are scanned into the site warehouse, and again into the plant where it is used.

“We’ve chosen two mine upgrade sites in Ghana and Tanzania as our pilot sites because they offer a range of test conditions, such as different climates and different types of projects. Both are also relatively small projects, which contains the risks should anything go wrong on-site. But so far nothing major has gone wrong,” De la Motte says.

While the concept of mobile materials tracking is not new, the way it has been implemented is, says Kevin Naicker, portfolio manager at DVT. “The pilot uses ruggedised Windows Mobile-based handheld scanners. Phase two, which is under development, will see us implementing tablet PCs, which are not only cheaper per unit, but also allow greater hardware capabilities. This speeds the dispatch process and allows greater functionality. It will use the same middleware system and involve a redesign on the front-end.”

De la Motte says, “The payback is not that we’re running anything cheaper, but once it is running operationally the workers on-site will have correct data, and management will have greater visibility as to what’s happening on-site, even if they’re in South Africa. This is a huge competitive advantage in an industry where materials tracking can make or break a business.”

About DVT
DVT provides tailor-made and packaged software solutions, and related services, to clients throughout South Africa. DVT’s practical business offerings include .Net and Java software development, Scrum and Agile teams, Mendix software solutions, enterprise mobile solutions, business analysis, project management, business process analysis, quality assurance and testing, systems integration and data management, integrated Internet solutions, practice management products, contractual resourcing and provisioning and professional services consulting.


Kevin Naicker, DVT, 011 759 5930, 082 653 8691, [email protected]
Karen Heydenrych, Communikay, 083 302 9494, [email protected]