By Laura Wilks, Avery Weigh-Tronix
Whether producing, handling, packaging or shipping, it is vital that each step of any production process is accurately documented and accounted for. Laura Wilks from Avery Weigh-Tronix explains how an electronic scale system can efficiently weigh and document product information, allowing manufacturers to monitor, trace and control production—and all materials involved—from start to finish.
To optimise processes, weighing equipment can be used at every step, from tracking incoming raw materials and inventory, to measurement of ingredients, quality control and shipping finished goods. As well as efficiently gathering, documenting and storing weight information, high-accuracy scales can increase revenue in these applications by reducing giveaway and ensuring customer orders are accurately invoiced and managed.
Efficient management of incoming and outgoing goods
Properly managing inventory and billing in processing environments depends upon documenting and weighing both inbound and outbound freight. Whether verifying load weights for incoming ingredients or shipping finished goods for ongoing distribution, accurate weighing is essential. With the high cost of fuel, bulk carriers also have to balance the need for optimal loading with concerns about safety. Weighbridges and axle weighing systems can help to ensure that both incoming and outgoing vehicle loads are weighed quickly and accurately.
For increased efficiency, weighbridge controls may be integrated into a stand-alone console that facilitates unattended weighing operations. These terminals enable drivers to complete weighing transactions 24/7, without leaving their cab. The result is that your weighbridge can run smoothly without a dedicated operator, reducing operating costs, extending hours of availability and improving health and safety by allowing drivers to stay within their vehicles.
Integrate weighing into your processes
Once goods have arrived on-site, the ability to transport and weigh materials in one simple step can result in tremendous time savings and a speedy return on investment. A forklift scale can expedite operations by enabling forklift drivers to take raw ingredients directly to storage upon delivery or packaged goods to dispatch, while tracking the weight, origin and storage location during transport. This process results in real-time data acquisition, which can be used for billing and inventory management.
In-cab instruments such as bar code scanners allow forklift operators can be used to instantly capture all necessary freight data available and then transmit this information with weight data wirelessly via Bluetooth® or radio to supervisory computer systems.
Also used mainly when shipping or receiving, or when sorting inventory, bench and floor scales provide an alternative way of weighing goods with very high accuracy, reducing the likelihood for revenue loss. Often found within a warehouse or ingredient store, both bench and floor scales are available in stainless steel for environments where heavy washdown and strict sanitation is required. The scales also come in mild steel for warehousing or goods in/out applications where an operator might set palletised loads on to a floor scale using a forklift.
Reduce giveaway and maintain quality
When it comes to quality control and average weight legislation, employing a fast and accurate checkweigher can make a big difference to a company’s bottom line. Underweight packages can lead to unhappy customers, while overweight packages lead to costly giveaway and overweight shipments. Whether you need to spot check raw materials or finished goods, or to ensure adequate quality control, checkweighers can provide visibility of weighing data and statistics which can help to maximise performance and profitability.
When selecting a checkweigher, or indeed any weighing system, ensure that the construction is suitable for your environment. If working in the food or chemical environments, ensure that the equipment has been specifically designed to meet the stringent requirements of the industry. Products with an IP69K rating are proven for use in heavy washdown environments and can withstand even the most rigorous cleaning regime, while scales with an ATEX badge are deemed suitable for us in potentially explosive environments such as mixing and batching volatile chemicals, or bulk solids that produce explosive dust mixtures.
Inventory control and ingredient mixing
Retrofitting bins, tanks or hoppers with load cells can easily turn your into existing equipment into an accurate, dependable scale with minimal interruption to your operation. By adding a weight sensor to your existing storage bins, you can keep a close eye on inventory at a basic level, or pair with a sophisticated weight indicator and software to automate mixing of your raw ingredients. Stainless steel, watertight and explosion-proof (ATEX) models make these ideal for use in a variety of processing applications.
Intelligent data for process control and traceability
On a basic level, weight indicators collect, store and communicate data. By integrating more advanced digital indicators into your operations, you can use wireless communications to transmit data to back office systems, improving management information and control and producing instant, accurate invoices for all materials weighed.
Indicators can also be linked to printers, bar code scanners, computers and other peripherals for integration into existing networks, allowing effortless data transfer and management from anywhere in the operation.
Many scales can also be paired with sophisticated software and indicators to provide additional data collection, tracking and analysis, from integrated management systems which monitor operations and inventory in real-time, to solutions which can automate batch and recipe control. Software innovations help to facilitate efficient documentation and management of key weight, commodity and scale data, all of which can be absolutely vital for traceability.
A scale system capable of legal-for-trade weighing is an invaluable asset in the process industry as revenue is commonly based upon the weight of commodities purchased or shipped. Legal-for-trade accuracy is required for business transactions where goods are bought or sold by weight, but the benefits of a legal-for-trade system extend beyond legality. The legal-for-trade approval can also be seen as a badge of reliability – proof that your scale can provide repeatable weighing of goods, ensuring customer satisfaction, precise billing and accurate inventory records.
Selecting a supplier
Having acknowledged the importance of weight data, some organisations fail to see the importance of regular service and calibration from a reputable provider. Focusing on regular preventative maintenance keeps your equipment working at maximum efficiency and reduces the likelihood of costly emergency breakdowns which can halt production.
The cost of planned maintenance, particularly as part of a regular service regime is always more cost effective than an emergency repair. If, for example, a checkweigher breaks down, then you may need to close an entire production line. The cost of this downtime can run into several thousands of pounds a day in lost hours, causing production back logs and customer orders not fulfilled.
If you trade by weight then regular service and calibration of weighing equipment, with all of the appropriate documentation, is a legal requirement. If a piece of equipment is repaired and this involves replacing weighing parts, it will need to be re-verified for trade by a trained verification officer. Not verifying for trade can result in criminal proceedings by the NMO trading standards officers and could also mean that you’re breaking Weights and Measures legislation and the quality standards requirements of ISO 9001:2008 which demand that you have properly calibrated scales.
Without proper servicing, the advantages of incorporating weighing equipment into your production line are diluted.
The impact of weighing processes
With today’s fierce market competition, ensuring customer satisfaction without impacting productivity is crucial. Now, operators can implement weighing solutions with customisable features and functions in order to tailor their performance to exact specifications. This not only improves production with data acquisition and inventory management capabilities, but also improves a company’s bottom line and product quality.