Toptech Systems Releases Unified Automation Platform

A user-friendly, flexible fuel loading system that satisfies quality and reporting requirements
By Jim Xander | February 28, 2012

On April 2, Toptech will commercially release a new automation platform unlike any other offered today. Toptech is leveraging two industry leading platforms, MultiLoad II and Toptech Data Services, to provide a hosted automation platform designed to offer unprecedented flexibility, ease of use and simplicity. 

The MultiLoad II, Toptech’s flagship preset, has grown beyond the confines of the traditional preset model and now offers powerful features typically reserved for complex PC-based automation packages. Essentially, MultiLoad II serves as the control platform to manage all of a facility’s loading processes. Each MultiLoad connects over the Internet to TDS, which is hosted within Toptech’s IT environment. TDS serves as the user interface to visualize consolidated load data, manage business data, run reports and perform inventory management and balancing. UAP is designed to provide an ideal automation platform for bulk plants, airports, small terminals, transload facilities, alternative fuel production and distribution plants, and refueling operations.

“Toptech’s UAP combines cutting-edge technology with the power and reliability of our existing products,” says Steve Wert, director of software technologies at Toptech Systems. UAP allows users the flexibility and scalability of cloud computing in concert with the process control features of MultiLoad, Wert says, adding that the system provides best-in-class terminal automation features with unparalleled access to business information.

TDS, which has historically offered lifting controls and BOL data delivery, now serves as a full-featured hosted automation platform. The benefits of this approach are many. First, a hosted platform features a number of benefits not possible with a deployed automation system. Installation and configuration are greatly simplified. Because there is no software to install on site, end users need not worry about maintaining expensive PC hardware at their facility. In fact, certain loading applications do not lend themselves to deployed software solutions simply because there may not be an ideal location to locate and install the PC hardware; transloading applications, for example. In addition, the process of software maintenance is also simplified with UAP. The complexities of installing software updates at multiple facilities are eliminated. Toptech is able to manage all software updates within its hosted environment. Furthermore, UAP customers are able to get a full-featured automation system without the typical license fees associated with deployed systems. This greatly reduces the initial investment required and makes the platform extremely appealing for smaller facilities that have typically not been able to justify the expense of implementing automation.

For added flexibility, MultiLoad II has been successfully deployed with wireless connectivity options. This flexibility is required in a number of applications where MultiLoad is deployed on mobile loading platforms such as refueler trucks and transloaders. Both wireless Ethernet and cell modem options are easy to implement and allow customers to utilize MultiLoad in virtually any environment or application.

UAP’s features are designed to offer attractive alternatives to the traditional automation platform. As previously noted, MultiLoad performs all of the control functions for the loading process. This includes all preset functionality, driver validations, BOL printing and load data transmission to TDS. Further, MultiLoad will receive all database updates from TDS at configurable intervals. This means that if for any reason the Internet connection between MultiLoad and TDS is severed, MultiLoad will continue to function independent of TDS. Because MultiLoad II stores all of the database information required to perform driver validations, a severed Internet connection will not result in any impact to the loading process. When a severed connection is restored, MultiLoad will transmit all of the queued transaction data and resynch its database with TDS. 

TDS performs all of the data management, reporting, inventory management and balancing functions. In addition, a receipt reconciliation service is offered through TDS. This service provides the ability to compare metered transaction volumes as they relate to the custody transfer of product. Simply stated, this service is used to ensure the amount of product that is billed by a supplier is within tolerance when compared to the amount of product that is actually received.

It’s important to note the feature set of UAP is designed to be highly modular and scalable, which means the correct features can be applied to each customer’s requirements. The result is an automation platform that is truly tailored to the needs of a unique application.

“This is exactly what the next-generation of this robust system needs to fit the new alternative fuels markets,” says Kathy West of PFT Alexander. “As biodiesel moves into airports and marine applications, facility operators need a flexible system they can rely on to meet the ever-changing demanding state and federal requirements for quality and reporting. With the choices offered to size the solution to the immediate customer needs and the option for additional growth later, UAP is ideal for this market.”

While the commercial release is set for April, a number of customers are already using UAP functionality in their operations. For example, one customer is utilizing UAP to streamline processes related to its locomotive refueling operations. Most notably, this customer is utilizing the Receipt Reconciliation toolset as the primary justifier to automate its facilities. Essentially, an electronic BOL is provided to this customer for product it receives from suppliers. This electronic BOL is used to reconcile against the volume of product that is offloaded and consumed by its refueling operations. If the amount being billed is within tolerance of what it has consumed, the customer simply pays the invoice per the original BOL. If there is a shortage between what is being billed versus what is consumed, a process to reconcile this shortage with the suppler is initiated. The annual savings from this feature alone were enough to justify the ROI for the entire project.

Toptech’s release of UAP is not based on the premise that the end of the era for deployed software solutions looms close on the horizon. Rather, the offering is designed to provide flexibility and scalability that extend beyond the limitations that make a deployed system impractical for many applications. In addition, the UAP feature set is designed to augment and compliment existing automation systems by offering extended features.

Long-time industry innovators, Toptech’s researchers and system developers anticipate the release of UAP will usher in a new world of possibilities in improving customer operations.

Author: Jim Xander
Marketing Manager, Toptech Systems
(407) 332-1774 Ext. 235
[email protected]

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