The simplest way to describe RPM, or Ratio Percentage Manager, is that it is a data management tool—a new interface that allows customers to design their mixes and input material data and ingredient channel data. Currently, it’s available exclusively with the new PM3 system. In the future, it will be backwards compatible with the PMII and TCII systems.
However, when compared to Astec’s previous methods of inputting mix design, this program is independent of the main control systems. As long as users—whether at the plant or in the office—have access to the system’s Data Dictionary, they can input mix design data right where they are, and the plant can access that data.
FLEXIBLE AND STREAMLINED
The Data Dictionary is the same one that Astec’s popular WM2000 truck management system looks at and that the plant’s main control systems log data to. However, RPM doesn’t need to be run from within the main control system, whereas previous mix design systems did. Offering an independent mix design entry point, RPM is primarily for hot mix, but there is potential for expansion. If a client is running a concrete plant, for example, RPM can be used for that as well.
“If an Astec customer has an existing mix design and wants to update it, it’s really simple to do in RPM,” said Marlene Williams, lead engineer for RPM. “There’s one tab, dedicated to specifically designing the customer’s mix.”
RPM is a more adaptable, user-friendly, and streamlined interface, giving the operators greater flexibility in how they access the data they need.
EASY TO USE
This simplicity in design gives RPM an inherent advantage over other data management systems in the field. By being focused around ease-of-use, RPM offers more options in how plant personnel view, edit, and record their designs.
“So let’s say plant operators choose to remove an ingredient,” added Williams. “They would just select the mix design they want to look at, click on whichever ingredient they wish to remove or edit, and now they are just one click or a couple of keystrokes away from removing or updating a data field for that ingredient.”
Furthermore, after all the changes are made in RPM, the user can now save those changes and know that they are accessible from the main control system as well. Once the data is saved using RPM, if other users access the main control system or if the user needs to access it at a later date, the data can be re-selected and all of the previous changes will be there.
LEARNING FROM HISTORY
Before RPM, with previous mix design systems—especially as it related to material data and calibration data—users could go into data records, make a change or delete a record, but there was no going back. RPM instead provides the user with a more reliable way to update data. The user is guided as to what type of data can be input and can also back out of changes before they are applied. Tools are also available to help maintain data integrity.
“In the past, with regard to material data, one concern we heard from our customers was a common occurrence in many plants,” reported Williams. “One user might establish a name for a particular material, yet other users could make a change that could potentially lose any data associated with that name—the ‘where is my data?’ problem. But in RPM, if someone makes a change to a material name, RPM can make a change to that material name universally throughout the system so it all stays consistent.”
In previous mix design systems, calibrations were actually done from within the system. Now, calibrations are done independently of the mix design system. From RPM, users simply look at and edit calibration data as needed. Any data updated from RPM is flagged as such, so it’s easy to distinguish between automatic calibration points and manually updated points. RPM will save to the previous point in addition to any edits that a user makes to the calibration point. Now, a plant will have a comprehensive history of all calibration points ever created.
VIEW AS REPORT
In addition to making data easy to use and easy to record, another advantage of RPM is that it makes mix design data easy to share—either at the plant or around the world.
“Some customers didn’t think there was an adequate way to see reports of their plants’ data,” Williams added. “But in RPM, in each of the available tabs there is a View-as-Report button. Whatever data a user is looking at on that particular screen can be exported into a print-friendly, easy-to-use, and easy-to-share report that can be printed or saved as a spreadsheet or a PDF file.”
The RPM Mix Design tab, with mix.
The Material tab as seen in RPM. In RPM, if a user makes a change to a material name, RPM can apply that change universally throughout the system so it stays consistent.
In RPM, each tab offers a View-as-Report option, with the ability to export data as a PDF or spreadsheet.
The RPM Calibration Data tab. One improvement RPM offers over other systems is its ability to access a historical log of calibration points.