The Crucial Role of Asphalt Plant Control Systems
As a production manager at Aggregate Industries, Richard Stott’s job is to ensure that asphalt is made – and lots of it, but that’s only the start. There is also the matter of the company’s pledge to “create a better-built environment through sustainable approaches.”
Delivering on both fronts is no small task, but Stott has done exactly that at Aggregate’s facility in Sheffield in the United Kingdom.
RAP utilization is extremely high and meets the company’s sustainability goals. Production has been good, too; nearly 2 million metric tons of asphalt have been created since the Sheffield plant was commissioned in 2013.
Stott is quick to give credit to many sources: operators, other staff, suppliers and the plant itself – an Ammann ABP 240 Universal Asphalt-Mixing Plant.
But Stott doesn’t stop there. He also praises an essential yet often underrated production and sustainability tool: the plant’s operating system.
Ammann, too, understands the importance of the control system, Stott said. “The Ammann as1 Control System is an industry-leading software system that complements the already-excellent asphalt plant perfectly,” Stott said.
System is Essential
Ammann knows the technology built into the plant is only as good as the operator running it. Too often that operator’s performance can be limited by the control system.
Ammann plants run on the proprietary and intuitive as1 Control System. “The as1 system is an innovative package designed with the operator in mind,” Stott said. “With a well-designed and laid-out interface, the as1 system gives the operators the confidence to run the plant safely and efficiently.”
Training makes the system even more productive and efficient.
“Full training was provided to all operators by knowledgeable Ammann staff prior to handover,” Stott said. “This gave these operators the competence and ability to not only operate the plant, but to be able to pass on this training to future operators. All staff who have operated competitor plants comment on how user friendly the software is.”
On-going support helps overcome any challenges as well. “Twenty-four-hour emergency support is always available and helpful,” Stott said. “The Ammann engineers who attend the site are well informed and helpful and know the system inside and out. Their knowledge is invaluable when making changes and identifying problems.”
The system also includes “modules” – optional software supplements that help plants deliver even more value. Aggregate Industries’ sustainability goals led the company to turn to two key Ammann modules: EcoView and the as1 Dynamic Recycling Addition (RAD).
This module helps discover and eliminate energy waste. An intuitive display informs operators and enables immediate adjustment.
“EcoView allows for real-time reporting and monitoring of energy consumption and raw material use,” Stott said. “This gives operators the data they need to make decisions around throughput and material control to maximize savings and efficiencies.”
EcoView also determines the values of emitted carbon dioxide and calculates energy costs that result when adjustments are made and operations become more efficient.
Dynamic Recycling Addition
The RAD module makes it easy to modify the RAP ratio. An integrated wizard guides the operator through the recipe input process. Slide controls enable adjustment of the RAP ratio during production.
“It is designed to ensure that RAP addition, and therefore binder saving, are always maximized,” Stott said. “This gives operators the confidence to keep throughput high while maintaining quality as the overarching priority.”
The system works so well Stott calls it “the industry leader and a must for all asphalt plants.”
“Having real-time information keeps the operators one step ahead at all times,” he said. “It allows them to keep throughput high while maximizing RAP addition without compromising quality. This, in turn, ensures that efficiency is excellent and therefore profitability is maximized.”
Reports are Key
The as1 Control System, including EcoView and RAD modules, collects data at all stages of the manufacturing process. Some information is relayed to operators in real time so they can adjust to maximize fuel usage and achieve other efficiencies.
In addition, data is stored and processed to provide great insight into plant operations, Stott said. “Reports are in-depth, informative and relevant to the operation,” Stott said. “All levels of personnel at the facility gain something from the reports. The operators can monitor their own performance. Management can get details regarding usage and efficiency. All of the details from the suite of reports are used to drive improvements and plant efficiency.”
Aggregate Industries uses the reports on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, he said. Accessing the information is very easy.
“The biggest win we have identified from the reports is the detailed information surrounding RAP addition,” Stott said. “The RAP usage report allows us to identify every missed opportunity to improve the cost-savings the addition of RAP gives us. It also drives improvements for how we control RAP.”
It’s not surprising Stott endorses the as1 Control System based on what he sees daily. “It’s highly recommended,” he said.
AS1 CONTROL SYSTEM – POWERFUL, RELIABLE AND PROVEN WORLDWIDE
The powerful and future-oriented as1 system concept combines proven Ammann software with specially matched industrial hardware. The as1 computing environment has been designed and tested for use in tough environments.
Its networking capability also has been optimised. Customers profit from the flexible workstation configuration, networking and administration.