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There are two tracks for increasing the efficiency of your asphalt plant. One is to increase the effectiveness of the facility and the equipment. The other is to increase the productivity of the humans who work there. In this article we address both paths to asphalt plant efficiency.
Asphalt Plant Facility
Two key drivers of asphalt plant efficiency are reducing energy use and keeping equipment in good working order.
Clean It Up
Just keeping the facility, equipment, and fuel clean can increase your asphalt plant’s efficiency.
Keeping the overall asphalt facility clean helps reduce the amount of stuff – dust, dirt, and grime – that can get into the equipment. Oil buildup in your asphalt machinery may not cause them to breakdown. They just work less efficiently. For example, dirty burner components require the burner to work harder to turn the fuel to vapor. Which uses more fuel.
In time, all the filth can stress the equipment’s components until they do fail. Now you may need to replace equipment that otherwise would have years of service left in them.
Recycled fuel can gum up the works. Any type of recycled fuel requires processing and filtering so it’s clean when it enters the burner.
Insulating both the asphalt plant facility and the equipment can greatly reduce energy costs. One-inch insulation around pipes reduce heat loss by millions of BTUs a day. That can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a year. You can also use insulation blankets in hard-to-reach areas. The blankets are readily removed when needed. Tanks should have 4 inches of insulation. New tanks may have up to 10 inches of insulation. However, that much insulation does not add enough value to cover the extra cost.
Paint It Black
Painting the silos and other asphalt plant components, such as drag slats, retains more of the sun’s natural heat inside the facility, saving energy. You should consider rotating your mixing probes to make sure you get accurate temperature monitoring. This also extends probe life.
Keep Aggregates Dry
Your burner and dryer use the most energy at any asphalt plant. Keeping your aggregates as dry as possible means the dryer is using less energy. A 1% decrease in stockpile moisture can reduce costs by about 12%. There are two ways to reduce the moisture of your stockpiles: cover or slope. A cover reduces moisture and dust emissions. Sloping the stockpile (ideally at 4%) will also reduce moisture by draining water away from the aggregate. Cover-tech has a line of custom-made covers.
Another way to keep the moisture out is to cover the feeder belts as well as the conveyors. This too will reduce dust emissions.
Depending on the age of your equipment, it may not have been built with energy efficiency in mind. It’s possible that replacing certain components of older equipment can decrease its energy consumption. In some cases buying new (or newer) equipment can increase energy efficiency enough to cover the cost. In addition to lower energy consumption, high-quality new equipment, such as an industrial heating system, typically needs less repairs. This also reduces downtime, saving money. American Heating Company has thermal fluid heating systems that are made in the USA.
Keeping your existing equipment well-maintained can extend their service life. It can also increase their energy efficiency. Of course equipment that breaks can lead to plant shutdowns that cost money. Develop a regular equipment maintenance plan and stick to it. An effective maintenance plan also includes training in employees in how to communicate maintenance issues, how to schedule regular maintenance, and how to prioritize issues that do arise to reduce or avoid plant downtime.
Your workers can impact asphalt plant efficiency in two ways: good ideas and safety.
Who knows better what’s happening with your equipment and your plant processes than the people who are using them every day? Talking with your workers can be done formally and informally. Walk the floor and talk to them. A simple “How’s it going?” or “What should I know about?” can open up a discussion about issues that should address that you may not have known about – until it becomes an expensive problem.
Meet with workers regularly and give them an opportunity to air grievances and present their ideas. Foster an “open door” policy where workers can talk to you privately. Not everyone feels comfortable sharing in front of a group. This requires your management team to have an open attitude and be respectful. You may think a worker’s idea is not feasible, but don’t discount their feedback out of hand. Take action on good ideas and give credit to those who came up with ways to improve the asphalt plant’s operations.
Keep Them Safe
The best way to keep workers safe is to promote a culture of safety.
- Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring they use it.
- Install proper lighting so workers can see what they’re doing and where they’re going.
- Create a documented safety program.
- Provide regular safety training.
- Give incentives for positive safety outcomes.
- Provide training to refresh and improve your workers’ skill set.
Keeping your workers safe is the right thing to do, but from a purely efficiency perspective, it reduces downtime which saves money.
It is not unusual for an asphalt plant to be working with multiple crews and different mixes simultaneously. Scheduling mixes strategically can improve your asphalt’s plant efficiency. Ensuring that you are regularly communicating with the different work teams throughout the day can reduce mistakes. This way you’re not producing the wrong mix on the wrong day and wasting time and resources.
Hire a professional auditor to work alongside your team to review the asphalt plant’s processes, systems, and equipment. It’s important to have an “outsider” who can objectively look at all aspects of the plant. But the “insiders” provide context to what the auditor is reviewing. The insights of both the regular employees and management team are equally important in providing a full picture of the plant’s operations. The goal is to document areas of potential improvement to increase efficiency.
10 Tips to Increase Asphalt Plant Efficiency
Here is an overview of our 10 tips to increase efficiency at your asphalt plant:
- Keep the facility, equipment, and fuel clean.
- Insulate the plant and equipment.
- Keep aggregates dry with covers or sloping.
- Consider replacing older, less efficient equipment.
- Schedule regular equipment maintenance.
- Talk to your employees regularly – formally and informally.
- Develop a safety plan and train your employees on safety procedures.
- Provide quality PPE for your workers.
- Employ strategic scheduling.
- Consider a professional audit to identify areas where asphalt plant efficiency can be improved.
There are many ways to increase your asphalt plant’s efficiency through a combination of thorough cleaning, equipment maintenance, moisture control, and energy conservation. Regular deep cleaning of the plant may cost a little down time. But the savings in decreased energy use and increased equipment service life can greatly offset the cost of a periodic plant system shutdown. Consider having a professional audit to identify areas within the plant to increase efficiency. Remember that the people power who interact with the plant every day can be your greatest asset.