Remote Control Hot Oil for the Plant or Terminal
Editor’s Note: In this controls-themed edition of AsphaltPro, the team from Heatec discusses one solution for monitoring multiple tanks across multiple facilities with a case study at C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc., headquartered in Marietta, Georgia.
It is a real challenge for a company with multiple asphalt plants and asphalt terminals to keep track of the inventory coming in and out. C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc. is no different. The company operates 25 asphalt plants and an asphalt terminal in the state of Georgia, and a second terminal in Tennessee.
While C.W. Matthews already had systems in place to manage their numerous plants, they looked to the Recon Central Monitoring System from Heatec, Chattanooga, to make management easier and more efficient.
About two years ago, Heatec created the Recon Monitoring System to remotely monitor hot oil heaters and tanks at asphalt plants. One of the key features of the system is that an operator can view the status of the heater and tanks on a smart phone, tablet or PC from anywhere through a web browser. The system will send alerts via email or text messages if there is a problem.
Each Recon system is installed at an individual plant and operates independently of another. If you want to survey each of your plants, you have to log in to each plant individually. For companies with a few plants, it’s simply a matter of opening another tab or window in your web browser. C.W. Matthews, however, installed the Recon system at 24 of their plants, making supervision of all their systems possibly overwhelming and cumbersome. That’s where the Recon Central System could help them. It gives management a bird’s-eye view of all plants on a single screen, so they can make sure everything is working properly without having to log in or make a call to different plant locations.
Get Liquid to the Right Spot
The Recon Central System appealed to Joe Hines, superintendent of asphalt plants for C.W. Matthews. “Our workload tends to continuously rotate around our different regions,” Hines said. “Currently, one of our largest obstacles is the availability of trucking. Using the Recon Central page, we can quickly assess the real-time inventory level of all our asphalt tanks at all our plants.”
Hines continued: “Before, the only way we would have been able to determine the same information, was to call each plant individually.” Now management can see information for each plant on the Recon Central page and “we can make hauling decisions within minutes.”
Will Wetherbee, asphalt plant superintendent, added, “When our crews are working around the clock, typically one plant manager has the responsibility of ordering all the liquid. Using the Recon system, I can access detailed information of individual tank farms directly from my smartphone before leaving the house. At that time, we can adjust our hauling needs as necessary. As far as capacities and stuff like that, it’s helped us out big time in my opinion.”
Another benefit that Hines finds useful is the trending data that is recorded by the Recon system. They are able to use the trending data to find possible inefficiencies or problem spots in the heating system. Each day, they pull the trending data the Recon system provides and they record it in reports they have created internally.
“We can look at three or four days worth of data and graph it, and you can see the cycles of your heater and it shows which ones are running better and which ones need help,” Hines said. “It really focused the standardizing of temperatures on heaters and tanks across the board.”
Hines trusts the readings from the Recon system. “It’s gotten to the point where, if the Recon system sends an email we believe what the Recon says. We’ve had a couple of heaters show they are in low temp, or they will drop down to a certain temperature and it fires off an email,” he explained.
C.W. Matthews uses either pressure transmitters or radars to monitor tank levels at their plants. The Recon system helps them keep accurate readings for the devices. Hines explained, “The Recon system’s ability to log historical data has given us the ability to fine tune these devices. If we get a false reading within a certain area of our tank, the logs let us know exactly where to focus our corrective efforts.”
Hines added, “The Recon system uses thermocouples to translate temperatures into the system. Historically, thermocouples do not need consistent calibration. Now, when the Recon sends an email letting us know that temperatures or levels are outside of our custom set points, we can quickly address each situation as necessary.”
When C.W. Matthews installed the new Recon systems, they discovered areas for improvement. “It was a good operation for us to go through and install these at all of our plants,” Hines said. “We were able to develop a checklist to confirm that all aspects of our tank farm were operating as intended.
“With the Recon system’s help, we were able to isolate some areas of improvement,” he continued. “We discovered that several of the tank heating control valves needed to be recalibrated so that the optimal operating temperature was maintained. Also, the Recon system allows us the ability to analyze operating temperatures across all areas of the tank farm. Loss of temperature can be related to plumbing, side pump efficiency or faulty valves.”
Hines believes the Recon and Recon Central systems are valuable additions to C.W. Matthews’ plants and he looks forward to using it more to aid inventory and operations.
For more information, contact Heatec at (423) 821-5200.