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Unlike in the old days, technology is allowing plant design and engineering firms to keep in close contact with their projects to keep materials flowing at full speed.

Tim Lease, president of Wagester & Lease Inc., a Pittsburgh-based plant engineering company, suggests that the industry is upgrading to standard hardware that makes it easier to capture vast amounts of data, exchange information, and achieve an increasingly friendlier operator interface and increased system reliability.

According to Scott Humphrey, president of Dave Humphrey Enterprises, a Livermore, Calif., engineering, design, and equipment manufacturing firm, practically every client has installed a computerized batching system that contains a wealth of information on the plant's overall operation. This stored data have greatly reduced much of the requirements of time-consuming plant motion studies.

For many clients, Humphrey starts by downloading several months' worth of plant computer reports. By focusing on days when production demands were heaviest, Humphrey can pinpoint loads or times in which the plant has been consistent and concentrate on those loads in which bottlenecks occurred.

In high-production modes, Humphrey encourages clients to allow the computer to use asynchronous batching rather than synchronous batching. Another relatively easy and quick production boost can come from adjusting plant jog durations and activation times. On plants where there are multiple feed gates for the same aggregate, Humphrey often programs the controller to tie the bin discharges together. Another way to increase the production rate is to incorporate automatic moisture monitoring "on the fly."

The article includes a list of eight steps in a good control implementation plan.

The article also includes a list of key questions with which producers can compare potential productivity gains.