A new e-ticketing service designed to save contractors time and money – as well as enable contactless transactions – will hit the market in the new year.
Soil Connect is launching the new e-ticketing service as part of its strategy to become a one-stop shop for contractors who need to buy or sell dirt and other haul materials, says company founder and CEO Cliff Fetner, who is also a third-generation builder and developer.
“It’s time to get rid of these old-school, manual, handwritten tickets,” Fetner says.
The new service is all conducted by software and mobile app, requiring no paper. All delivery tickets are stored digitally and can be viewed and approved by Android or Apple mobile device without the delivery driver, workers on the jobsite or back office administrators having to come in physical contact with anyone.
Soil Connect joins a growing marketplace of e-ticket providers, but Fetner says what sets his company apart is its focus on small to mid-size contractors, while others go after the departments of transportation and the large aggregate producers and asphalt plants. “We here at Soil Connect have chosen to not compete with any of them,” he says.
Fetner says his company can save this segment of the market thousands of administrative dollars and hours by eliminating the paper ticketing process, from order to delivery.
Jonathan Alvarado, the company’s chief growth officer, presented an example of a client that was averaging 9,000 paper delivery tickets a month. By calculating the administrative and other costs involved with handling all those tickets, the company said the e-ticketing service would save $200,000 in administrative costs alone.
“And when all is said and done, and tons of administrative hours and dollars get spent to process all this paper inefficiently, they then go store it and stack it in boxes in their offices because they don’t want to lose them,” Alvarado says. “Because it’s too scary to think, ‘What if that invoice comes back? Or what if there’s a problem? This is our audit trail.’”
Soil Connect’s e-ticketing service provides a digital chain of custody of when materials are delivered, all stored digitally to be accessed at any time for billing, an audit trail and other needs, he says.
It also shows contractors how much material they’re moving. And with the pandemic, it prevents virus spread among the parties involved in the transactions.
“We can be truly contactless and have material moved, tracked, signed for and documented digitally, where everyone has the same transparent data, and no one has to touch a thing,” Alvarado says.
A digital dirt marketplace
Soil Connect launched in 2018 as a digital marketplace for contractors to easily find and get rid of dirt. Over time, Fetner has added 18 types of soils, aggregates, asphalt millings, recycled materials, mulch, compost, basically any type of haul material a jobsite needs.
The service is free. Contractors simply fill out a brief set of questions about what material they need and when, and they can then connect with potential suppliers. The reverse is the case when they have excess material to get rid of.
With the help of Fetner’s son, Daniel Fetner, the company has been able to tap into $3.25 million in venture capital funds to help launch its e-ticketing service as well as to continue to expand its offerings. Investors include a mix of venture capital firms, real estate managers and construction companies, such as CEMEX Ventures, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Situs Real Estate, Altmark Group, AB Investment Group, J.G. Pertucci Company and Bazella Contracting. Daniel Fetner is an adviser to Soil Connect and also a principal at Alpaca VC.
Following the e-ticketing launch, the company plans to provide products for digitizing the regulatory paperwork associated with material delivery, and it’s also working on a bidding and quoting module.
Fetner reports the company has also been successful with its Dirt Alert. That service allows contractors that have an immediate need to reach out to other nearby contractors. For example, if a contractor is digging a foundation and has 100,000 cubic yards of dirt to get rid of, they can post to the Dirt Alert system. The service will then text all contractors in the system, say within a 50-mile radius, about the available dirt. Fetner says the company has more than 400,000 names in the Dirt Alert database.
“We’ve been amazingly successful in helping guys find and get rid of dirt and aggregates through our texting programs, and by them having access to our database,” Fetner says.
Ready to launch
Soil Connect recently completed several months of testing of its new e-ticketing system and is ready to launch it January 4.
Those interested in the service can go to the company’s website. The company plans to charge a monthly fee for the service. Fetner says the company will be flexible with contractors on the cost. It is currently offering a 30-day free trial.
Soil Connect is in the process of getting the word out about the service and feels confident that contractors will sign up when they learn how much it can save in time and money. The pandemic has also speeded up the need for paperless transactions.
“I think that the pandemic has created a sense of urgency and pressure that hasn’t been there,” Alvarado says. “I think we’re right on the cusp of something huge.”