After years of effort, MINDS Inc. is seeing its innovative suite of software solutions enjoy growing success in the U.S. market. What’s behind our customers’ enthusiasm for our software, and what makes MINDS a leader in advanced customizable asphalt plant control systems? It’s a decision we made at the very beginning, which has consistently guided our product design: we see plant operators as our customer base.
We decided that our plant control systems needed to be perfect servants to plant operators, faithful and extremely competent helpers that would take care of control tasks without ever becoming overreaching, imposing on workflows, or restricting what operators could do. In other words, the system had to mold around the operator rather than asking the operator to mold himself around the system. This decision has impacted every choice we made, from the human interface, the signal interface, the type of wiring, choice of the technology platform, and more.
This way of thinking is evident in MINDS’ DrumTronic and BatchTronic asphalt plant automation and control systems. Our reliable, accurate, and customizable plant control systems were designed after consultations with actual plant operators, and give them the level of fine-tuned automation and control they need to get the most out of their plants. DrumTronic can handle anything from a simple bitumen and aggregates blending-only application to total plant control. BatchTronic helps asphalt batching plant operators understand and customize how actions are scheduled, with many options available to maximize asphalt plant flow rate and accuracy.
Assisting the operator, and making his life easier could have cut him off from “feeling” the plant, and this led to the second key decision that guides the product-development ethos for our plant control systems: helping the operator stay connected to the physical plant.
Making asphalt is a physical and chemical process, and production control software shouldn’t take away from that. The electronic and computer interfaces between the operator and the process are just that: interfaces. We believe that they should be minimized and make themselves forgotten in order to make the underlying physical process stand out clearly. For example, when displaying a flow rate for a weighed conveyor belt, we display ft/min for the speed and lbs/ft for the weight. If someone wants to check, it’s easy to zoom in on that belt, take a measurement of the speed with a tachometer, stop the belt, take a one-foot sample, and weigh it. That makes it easy to see that the product of lbs/ft x ft/min = lbs/min, which is indeed flow rate.
Another area that significantly helps the operator to stay connected to the physical plant is our choice of graphic representation. A MINDS system graphical signature is remarkable in its depiction of each plant's actual look and configuration layout, which our team customizes for each client, to help plant operators more easily visualize their operation. DrumTronic and BatchTronic also do away with vast arrays of numbers in favour of clear symbols to demonstrate important plant metrics. This “more real than life” look is not just done for aesthetic purposes: it helps make the interface disappear.
There are many more reasons our plant control system stands out from the crowd, including the choice of an industrial PC architecture rather than PLC, the choices and design of our IO devices, the reduction of electronics or software components to minimize failure rate, new improvements like real-time signal credibility assessment and process models. We invite you to browse our website to learn more about the philosophy and principles behind our asphalt systems.