Barry Smith, Boral Asphalt’s Queensland project manager, has been working with the team at N2P Controls to upgrade some of the region’s 14 fixed and mobile plants.
Upgrading the Gray Matter
Barry explains that upgrading the plant’s control unit is a bit like giving the equipment a brain transplant. “Our plants vary in age, with some well over 20 years old,” says Barry. “The plants run just fine, but the control units can be problematic as the hardware starts to age.
“The biggest issue is that very often the original manufacturer no longer supports the operating system,” says Barry. “And that means that we can’t get any support if issues arise. That’s where N2P has been able to step in, not only by providing new control units, but also with a great ongoing support system.
“The most recent upgrade we undertook was on a mobile plant that had just completed a new runway project at Norfolk Island Airport. When the team at Boral got the plant back it was due to go off to a new project in Townsville. But it was also clear that it was really in need of a new control unit.
“It was a case of getting it done as quickly as possible between jobs,” says Barry. “The team at N2P got it sorted straightaway with minimal downtime.
“The upgrade included having a ‘mini brain’ on each trailer unit which meant we no longer needed to have a heap of massive cables being dragged from each trailer unit back to a central hub. So that’s made a huge improvement around set up effort and time. And it also means we don’t have all those big cables lying all over the site.”
The new control unit means the Boral team now have better control over the plant with a more accurate mix. “We were finding the mix could be inconsistent and that can be a real headache for the operators,” says Barry. “With the new unit now in place, the controls are working exactly as they should be, and those headaches are gone.”
A better standard all round
“One of the benefits of using N2P Controls is that we can start standardising our systems,” says Barry. “So rather than having a variety of manufacturers supplying different units that all operate differently, we made the conscious decision to stick with N2P. We’ve had good success with them, so it was a pretty easy decision really.”
Having a unified control system means that Boral’s plant operators can quickly get up to speed if they’re needed to work at a different plant. “Although each plant is a bit different, it’s a big advantage for the operator to have that sense of familiarity and understanding of how the control unit works.”
Support when you need it
For the team at Boral, having access to N2P’s unlimited aftersales support has provided much-needed peace of mind. “It’s certainly a big benefit to know that if we ever need to make a change or need help troubleshooting that we can speak to Niki or Peter, or one of their technicians, and get it sorted quickly. ”I’d recommend the team at N2P very highly,” says Barry. “They’re very responsive, and that’s a big bonus because getting good support can be a bit of a struggle in our industry. And the fact that they’re based here in New Zealand makes a big difference.”