A popular misconception is that an older concrete plant can’t produce as much as a new concrete plant. The reality is that age makes minimal difference on the speed of a concrete plant. Yes, in many cases older plants have smaller batchers and conveyors making them slower, but the lower production is because of the smaller components not the age of the plant.
It is not uncommon for a concrete plant to slow and loose production over time but in most cases this slowing is caused by a mechanical failure somewhere on the plant, settings on an automatic not being optimized for plant performance, or a combination of the a control system being programmed to slow one or more parts of the plant in an attempt to solve one or more other problems with the concrete plant.
It won’t be possible in all cases to improve the speed of your concrete plant, but may plants get an extra load an hour just be improving the plant function. Other concrete plants may get extra production by modifying the slowest system to improve production.
The actual process of increasing our concrete plants speed is in reality a series timing and measurements to determine how fast your plant is currently operating as well as its maximum potential as configured.
1. Evaluate the timing of each major system. Over the course of several batches, using a stop watch time the how long it takes each of your major process from start to completion. If there are pauses in the process identify the length and reason of the pause.
Major systems include the storage, weighing and discharging of Cement, Aggregate, Water and Admixtures. Each of these major systems should be detailed and timed. Best practice is to time each system three or more times looking for consistency and an average rate.
2. Determine the maximum speed for each of your systems. This is definitely the most difficult step. It is also important to identify the common specifications that determine a plants speed. Specifically the width and speed (feet per second) of the transfer conveyor, the diameter of cement augers and gates, and the diameter of the water line. Armed with this information you will be able to identify a reasonable maximum speed of each system.
When formally evaluating a concrete plant best practice is to have an engineer take all of the specifications and calculate the maximum rates. If your company employs an engineer, they will in most cases be able to complete these reasonably simple calculations. For most companies without a staff engineer you may be able to get answers for an internet search, or many material handling equipment firms and manufacturers will calculate these rates for you at low or no cost.
It is important to understand your maximum production can only be as fast as your slowest system. These steps however will let you identify your slowest system and you may be able to selectively upgrade, replace or modify the plant to improve production.
3. Armed with the maximum rates and the actual operating speeds of your equipment you can now determine if your plant is operating at its maximum speed. If you are able to increase the speed of your slowest system you will be increasing the overall production of your plant.