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Considerations When Selecting An Automatic Control For A Concrete Plant

The selection of an automatic control system to use for your concrete plant is very important. Of course you need the control system to complete your desired operations, but modern control systems are capable of much more than just operating a concrete plant.  Today’s control systems can be the core of your entire business from sales to accounting. They can monitor your inventory and assets in live status and interface with multiple LCD screens or touch screens or as simple as a single push button to activate the batch. Determining the right amount automatic control necessary for your concrete plant and business without selling yourself short on affordable options that can improve profitability without getting more bells and whistles than your operation needs is where the tough decisions have to be made.

At the very foundation you will need to decide if you will be using a PLC based system or s PC based automatic control system. Some automatic control systems for concrete plants use a combination of PLC and PC of technologies.  Like any piece of equipment, each has its own positives and negatives.  The most obvious comparison between PC and PLC technologies is that PLC equipment is usually built for dirty industrial environments while PCs don’t perform as well in industrial environments. Conversely when a PC based system goes down replacement can be very fast sometimes as easy as buying a PC from your local electronics store and downloading the software, where replacement of a PLC is not as easy or fast even under the best of circumstances.

Another basic decision is how you want to interface with the control.  Most large producers like ready mix, central mix, and paving plants use multi-screen interface with a mouse to monitor and control various aspects of the plant operation, material storage and other aspects, while smaller producers often opt for s less elaborate touch screen control station with a single demand station near the mixer discharge. The physical configuration of your facility as well as the frequency of mix design change, quantity of materials being used and desired control of the mix are all factors that should be considered when making this decision on how you want to interface with your concrete plant control system.

The options and additional features offered with a concrete plants automatic control system should be considered for the positive financial impact they will have on the business and the length of time necessary to recoup the the investment of the option.  Too often times, people move toward the extremes. They will only consider the most basic systems and pass on a $5,000 option that can save $15,000 in employee costs in the first year and other times people will buy expensive options that don’t offer much positive impact on their business.  Smart buyers should consider and understand each of the different options available on the control you are considering. You should also understand and know the common available options available from competitors.  Then consider how those options benefit your concrete plant and business and make the educated decision.

Matthew Gladen is the managing partner of FESCO Direct. FESCO Direct sells, services, and installs equipment used to manufacture concrete including automatic control systems, concrete plants, water heating and cooling equipment, conveyors, silo’s, dust collectors and other equipment used for manufacturing concrete. More information can be found on automatic controls and fescodirect st www.