MINDS Plant Software Integrates Emulsion Control for Blythe
BY MINDS Inc.
Blythe Construction, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, opened its first emulsion plant in the United States in early 2011. The company is a construction firm and subsidiary of the Hubbard Group of Companies, and needed the plant to support its paving operations. Blythe turned to MINDS Inc., Boisbriand, Quebec, to deliver a plant automation solution for its mix controls and software to handle its loadout and ticketing needs.
MINDS installed its EmulTronic plant control system, which is a Windows-based automation solution for emulsion and modified bitumen plants. EmulTronic is based on the same platform as MINDS’ other asphalt plant automation systems, DrumTronic and BatchTronic, and is designed to control all the phases of the emulsion or modified bitumen manufacturing process, including the unloading of trucks carrying raw materials, mixing and blending, storing, and heating.
MINDS worked closely with Blythe team members to design a system that was fully integrated with the new plant. The system has four display monitors that operators can review: the first screen shows operators the status of the emulsion tanks and related equipment; the second displays any production-related information that they need, such as the state of aqueous and anhydrous phases; the third shows bitumen tanks and related equipment; and the fourth is the ticketing and loadout display. EmulTronic is a highly visual system, designed to be easy for operators to understand. The process is controlled on the screen only, and both the continuous and discontinuous processes can be controlled with software that displays 3D graphics of the plant.
“MINDS designed graphics for the system off of P&ID drawings, and the graphics were spot on,” said Randy Turner, Blythe’s emulsions plant foreman. “When they downloaded the graphics into the system they pretty much matched the actual physical piping in the plant.”
Turner said he appreciates the valve graphics, which are color-coded depending on their status, making it intuitive for operators to understand.
EmulTronic’s many levels of safety features were also integrated into the plant to prevent pumps being turned on without the operator’s approval and give the operator visual control over the entirety of the operations. Sensors installed on all the tanks and filling devices prevent tanks and trucks from being overfilled.
To address Blythe’s ticketing and loadout needs, MINDS installed its Tessera software, which can be integrated with production management. Tessera was integrated with Blythe’s controls to allow staff to print tickets after material was loaded onto a truck. The ticketing system allows users to print tickets and invoices easily and to store information on customers, haulers, jobs, materials and trucks. The Tessera software is built on the MySQL database management system—a standard for the industry—and integrated seamlessly with Blythe’s SAP enterprise software. MINDS’ modular add-on architecture allowed Blythe to customize its import and export functions to accommodate adding or exporting data into or out of the system.
Turner said he appreciates the work MINDS put in on adding conversions to their systems that Blythe needed. As the density of emulsion changes from batch to batch, Blythe needed to choose a specific gravity that would work on every batch. “There’s a lot of conversions that we do from tons to gallons and they had to do that for all the chemicals and raw materials,” Turner said. “On the Tessera system, they also had to convert specific gravity over to volume, and they did a tremendous job doing that for us.”
Rick Owens, Blythe’s former emulsion manager, said MINDS’ solutions played a big role in the success of the company’s new plant. “MINDS was an integral part of this project from the beginning,” he said. “Without the close support from the MINDS team, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this.”
Eight years later, Turner said the company is extremely satisfied with the software.
Blythe also had MINDS install another system for them, Turner said. The system, only used during extremely busy times on the loadout side, is a copy of the ticketing monitor and the loadout screen, which allows one operator to run the plant as normal while another can handle all loadout functions. “They did that for us and we’ve only used it a few times,” Turner said. “That was a special request that they came up with for us. Their ability to take your needs and actually deliver it to you is just tremendous. They’re great systems,” he added. “I would use them again and I’d put it in another plant if we had one.”
For more information, contact MINDS at (866) 505-8893.