17 Jul

Scales for Recycling Applications

Regardless of whether you’re in a small operation with just a bench scale or a single floor scale, or in a huge, busy facility with multiple floor scales and a truck scale, weighing technology is the heart of any recycling facility. All of these different types of scales are used to weigh the cans, brass, aluminum, copper, steel, or other materials being recycled; these weights are used, in turn, to determine payments or credits. As the movement to stay “green” has swelled, the need for more – and more efficient – recycling technology has become greater. The following are some key tips for selecting the best weighing technology for recycling applications:

  1. Buy scales with heavy duty load cells. Thanks to the high traffic and spills common to recycling applications, stainless steel load cells are a must-have in recycling weighing. Load cells have to hold up over time, and in demanding applications like recycling, stainless is best – particularly in above ground, rather than pit, scales, due to frequent cleaning and maintenance needs.
  2. Just like load cells, get heavy-duty cables. Recycling facilities are dirty, with spills and the rodents those spills inevitably attract. Stainless steel sheathing on cables will prevent those cables from getting chewed through, as well as protecting them from weather, spilled materials, and cuts from forklifts or other hazards. Protecting cables protects plant uptime.
  3. Find software designed for the task. Regardless of scale type, the weighing software used for recycling plants should be capable of recording multiple customers, producing reports, and printing tickets with payout amounts included. When a truck pulls onto the scale, the computer can automatically tally totals and print the ticket. This advanced software significantly shortens transaction time, helping to avoid backups.
  4. Lightning protection is essential. All of the steel we just described makes these scales a prime lightning strike risk, and without proper protection, lightning can render a scale useless.
  5. Maintain scales carefully. A quarterly Preventive Maintenance Agreement is recommended to inspect and calibrate all recycling scales. Additionally, frequent maintenance to clean trash away and wash out scales, especially under the scales, is incredibly important, as recycling facilities are traditionally very messy.

A scale chosen correctly for recycling applications will result in less downtime and a lower cost of ownership over the lifetime of the scale. Interested in learning more? Check out information on our Intalogix™ Technology for lightning protection, FB2558 Digital Instrument with recycling-ready software, Aegis Floor Scales, and Talon Truck Scales.

07 May

Expert service protects you from the high cost of inaccuracy and unscheduled downtime

Your scale is your cash register if you buy or sell a product by weight. Whether the products you weigh are large or small are large, scale uptime and accuracy is key to remaining in business. If you lose even a few pennies per transaction due to an inaccurate scale you can end up losing thousands of dollars.

A scale breakdown can potentially shut down an entire production line, with revenue losses piling up until that line is up again. These costly breakdowns can be prevented with expert scale service. Many breakdowns can be avoided with proper preventative maintenance inspections that identify potential failures early – before they become a costly problem.

Protect your investment in a scale

A scale is a precision measuring device, built with delicate high precision components. It may represent a huge investment – and one that is often placed in a harsh environment. Over time, especially in heavy capacity applications, wear and tear of key components will degrade the accuracy of the scale. A scale service expert will work to understand the unique weighing applications and service requirements of their customers and help to determine a service program and frequency that will best service them to maintain accuracy and uptime.

And by expert service, I don’t just mean slapping a weight and a sticker on a scale when on site for a preventative maintenance service or an emergency repair. Expert service means taking the time to become familiar with a customer’s unique weighing application and service requirements and providing trained technicians who will take the time to inspect the critical components. It also involves taking the time to check for dirt and debris that will impede weighing accuracy as well as reviewing major component wear or damage to ensure the scale is in top operating condition.

Costs can add up quickly when an owner scrimps on scale service – in the end scrimping may cost more than paying for expert scale service! To illustrate this point, consider the example of an owner of a truck scale with a 300 pound (lb.) error. If that owner is selling product across the scale for $0.05 per pound and sells 20 truckloads per day, that would be 100 truckloads per week and 5200 truckloads per year. The error translates to a loss of $15 per truckload, $300 per day, and $1500 per week – that is $78,000 per year!

Let’s count the benefits of expert scale service

There are several benefits to expert scale service, and each results in cost saving. Expert service will:

  • Ensure accuracy, which will prevent loss caused by unknowingly giving away product.
  • Ensure that a scale is dependable and far less likely to suffer a crippling breakdown in the middle of a production run.
  • Extend the life of a scale. Expert scale service means not only checking for accuracy but also inspecting and addressing the potential problems before they become catastrophic failures. With expert scale service, some older scales can be overhauled and returned to their original condition.

I would like to add a few words about metrics that you can use to demonstrate the quality of service provided. For example, consider such customer satisfaction measures as first time fix rates, ability to provide national coverage, and response time to address customer issues.

One metric often used to illustrate the benefit of expert scale service is the preventative maintenance to contract emergency (PM to CE) ratio. This measure means that, in a defined period of time, there should be one planned preventative maintenance visit and no more than one emergency repair service call. The typical PM to CE Ratio would be 1:1 or better. With expert scale service in place the number of PM service visits would always exceed the emergency repair visits.

Do not pass on expert scale service in favor of a cheaper alternative

All too often, business owners pass on expert scale service and instead opt for a cheaper alternative. This can result in lost dollars and production due to inaccurate weights and unexpected breakdowns. Invest in the proper care of your weighing equipment by contracting with a service provider with the proper expertise, who will take the time to provide quality inspection and repair service as well as the proper documentation to ensure maximum accuracy and uptime.

02 Apr

Increasing Warehouse Productivity is Essential for Meeting New Consumer Trends

Warehouse productivity is critical to responding to recent consumer buying trends, like online shopping and consumer demand for rapid delivery. Optimizing routine processes is an important way to improve efficiencies in the warehouse.  Using mobile weighing technologies to reduce truck time at the dock can have one of the greatest effects on a company’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

Seven ways to increase warehouse productivity

Scale products play a huge role in increasing productivity. For example, mobile forklift scales increase the on-time delivery percentage and number of orders per hour, while counting scales improve order accuracy percentage and increase the lines picked. Pallet jack scales reduce the cost per order. All in all, the right scale products help operators achieve overall equipment efficiencies. The scale products can reduce overtime hours and cost-per-unit (CPU), and improve the units-per-hour (UPH). Labor utilization in general can be greatly improved.

Here are seven tips for increasing warehouse productivity:

  1. To reduce the cost of doing business, purchase equipment that can be utilized in multiple areas with a variety of processes.
  2. Reduce unnecessary motion and travel to reduce cycle times. Equipment that allows operators to collect information quickly without unnecessary motion or travel will improve the process.
  3. Look for methods and equipment that reduce human interpretation. Scanning of barcodes, sharing information over the network, and combining information from several processes are ways to improve.
  4. Improve staff training. Technology can improve any organization if the people are properly trained to the process and equipment operation. Train, train, and train again, to get the best return on one of your biggest investments — people.
  5. Ensure good communication. Communication is critical in human interaction. It is also vitally important in processing information within the warehouse environment. Equipment that shares mission critical data through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi quickly shares information with billing and tracking systems and will improve warehouse operations.
  6. Keep an eye on new procedures or technologies. Always look to implement new procedures and look to modern technologies – or different ways of applying old ones – to save both time and effort in daily warehouse operations.
  7. Measure performance. Make sure operations capture and manage critical KPIs. Understand and track critical productivity and costs on shipped orders — cost per box and cost per line shipped. It is essential to measure and understand baseline information to be able to assess and put in place cost reduction measures. Remember, you cannot improve if you do not measure!

There is a clear relationship between warehouse productivity and profit

Here’s a theoretical example of a medium size company with 40,000 pallet movements a year in which 12,400 pallet movements require weighing. By using the Fairbanks BlueLine WF Series fork scale on their forklifts they would be able to save 3 minutes per weighment compared to moving the load to a typical floor scale location. That small per weighment improvement could save about 37,200 minutes, or 620 man-hours in one year. Using an average warehouse rate of $35 per hour, the company would achieve a yearly cost savings of $21,700 ($1,808 per month). The profitability gain would be more than $13,000 per year, even after factoring in the cost of the mobile fork scale as well as maintenance costs.

If you are looking to complete tasks more quickly to improve efficiency and productivity in a warehouse, consider incorporating a mobile weighing device into forklifts.

 

01 Mar

Role of Weighing in Produce and Livestock Agricultural Settings

When it comes to crop production, scales are used in formulation of fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and hybrid seed production.  For livestock, scales are used in formulation of feed and check-weighing animals for rate of gain on different types of feed. In the packing plant, mono-rail scales are used for checking the yield (checking the carcass weight compared to the live weight), checking the shrink (loss of moisture weight in the cooler), and weighing the primal cuts of the final product. At the end of the cycle, scales are used in retail/wholesale buying/shipping of the final product.

There are a few differences in how scales are used in produce versus livestock settings. Produce scales tend to be used more seasonally. When the river opens for navigation and during harvest, they have very heavy usage; the other 35 weeks of the year they face more moderate usage – say not more than 20-30 trucks per day. Produce sales are in a truck, so where the load is placed on the scale is controlled.

Livestock is a much higher priced product. For example, meat is over $1 per pound on the hoof, while corn is worth about 6 cents a pound. This results in smaller graduation sizes – 5 pounds for livestock versus 20 pounds for grain. Since livestock is “on the hoof,” the scale can be anywhere on the platform, with more motion from the animals moving around.

Changes in the wind

I foresee that weighing operations will soon be much more involved in tracking the product through the food chain. For crops, users will have to know if the product was genetically modified, treated with any herbicides or insecticides, and stored properly so as to prevent damage. Livestock applications will be involved in tracking the animal from birth to slaughter, and determining if the animal crossed any borders, or came from an area where disease was present.

Another new weighing application on the horizon that I am keeping my eye on is higher resolutions than allowed by NTEP. Instead of the 10,000 divisions allowed by NTEP, I have been seeing customers looking for 20 up to 50,000 divisions.  One common application for higher resolution is making feed. A large part of the batch might be inexpensive corn or beans, where a large grade size is fine. But then there are very potent and expensive vitamins and antibiotics that have to be more precise.  Now this requires a smaller prefix scale.

Factors to consider when choosing a scale for produce/livestock agriculture environments

Here are the top things I think you should look for in a scale: Accuracy, repeatability, sensitivity, reliability, and serviceability. Remember, most customers in this environment deal with a very small profit margin on huge quantities. They need reliable, accurate weights without having to give the scale a lot of tender loving care. It should be like a chunk of ground that weighs!

If you don’t select the right scale, you may be in for aggravation and inconvenience. If the scale is broken, or condemned by the state Weights and Measures Division, arrangements must be made to use someone else’s scale. This sometimes results in the users not trusting the scale – thinking they may be cheated by inaccurate weights.  If the weights generated by the scale are not reliable, they are useless. This usually results in replacing the inaccurate scale with one that is.

Economic or productivity losses due to using the wrong scale

Due to the cyclical nature of agricultural scale use, an inferior scale will almost always fail during heavy usage – just when it is needed the most. This often results is users repairing, rather than replacing, the scale due to time constraints. These repairs are often more costly because of overtime labor and “air freight rush” for parts needed to get the scale back up and running as soon as possible. Often the failing scale is then replaced in the off-season – which means all the money spent getting the scale repaired is wasted.

I have had customers that think of scales as a commodity like #2 field corn – all the same. This sometimes results in buying the scale based on the cheapest price. And that is a scale made as cheaply as possible, without taking long-term precautions to avoid getting a scale with a lot of deflection in the platform. The scale will work at first, but with every weighment, the platform weakens until it suffers from metal fatigue and has to be replaced. Or, to lower the cost, they select a pit scale built with very little rebar but then get a scale that fails because of low strength.

There are many examples of recent sales I made that I originally lost out on 20-25 years ago to a competitor with a cheaper price. One sale of a pit type truck scale went to a competitor selling a fabricated steel lever system that cost about $4500 less. The steel lever system rusted away and the pit the scale was in had multiple problems from frost pushing the walls in. The customer ended up paying to have the scale removed, the pit demolished, and the scale replaced at a cost of $115,000. There are not very many places you can invest $4500 and get a return of $115,000 in 25 years!

Scales play a major role in produce and livestock agricultural settings. Think of the scale as an investment in your business, not as a cost of doing business. With the very real cost of repair labor, inflation, downtime, a wise customer should buy the very best scale made — regardless of price. In the long term, a small price difference is negligible.

24 Jan

Tips for Choosing the Best Scales for Your Warehouse or Factory

Weighing is an integral process in warehouses and factories and it is essential that operators carefully consider scale selection to ensure the most efficient operations.

Weighing is used for a wide variety of warehouse/factory operations. Major weighing processes include general auditing; order, case, and pallet picking; evaluating rack loading limits; trailer loading; and dimensional (DIM) weighing, also known as volumetric weighing.

General auditing includes weighing parcels for proper classification, storage, repacking or shipping.

Order picking may include either basic case picking or pallet picking. Basic case-picking operations usually use a hand pallet jack (or motorized pallet truck) with a scale and pick cases out of bulk floor locations. The scale is used to verify that an item has been picked for an order. Basic pallet picking is the most common method for full-pallet picking. Orders are picked one at a time. Forklifts are used to retrieve the pallet load and stage it in a shipping area for a specific order. Using a forklift scale improves efficiency, decreases pallet handling, improves safety, and allows a load to be placed directly into an outbound trailer or container providing a total weight as the trailer is being loaded.

Scales are also used for rack loading limits to ensure weight limits for racking are not overloaded, maintaining a safe work environment.

As with pallet picking, using a forklift scale for trailer loading improves efficiency, decreases pallet handling, eliminates traffic to and from a static scale, and allows a load to be placed directly into an outbound trailer – providing weight information as the trailer is being loaded.

Last up is DIM weighing, collecting the dimensions and weight of a parcel for determining proper loading or shipping charges. By using shipping rates focused on package size as well as weight, shippers will be able to operate more efficiently and ultimately benefit from using smaller package sizes or loading trailers more effectively.

While there is little difference in weighing technology between warehouse environments and other industries, these scales should be specifically designed for the equipment utilized. Scales can be designed into forklifts and pallet jacks or added as specific requirements. Other differences may include how the scales interact with existing systems, and how they process weight data along with parcel data.

 

Considerations for choosing a scale for a warehouse or factory

Process or application – What weight information is needed and at what accuracy is it needed? Where is the weight data used in the process? How can the data be utilized with the highest degree of certainty with the least amount of errors? How can it be accessed most easily?

Durability – Can the scale handle the environment process in which it operates?

Accuracy – Is it the right scale for the job, providing the degree of accuracy required to meet process requirements?

Certification – Does the scale have the proper National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) certification needed for use in a legal-for-trade process?

 

Benefits of selecting the right scale

Selecting the right scale has a big effect on achieving a good return on investment (ROI) for the equipment. The benefits of selecting the right scale include improved process speed, less traffic (to a static scale), improved order accuracy, the ability to capture data in real-time through use of Wi-Fi, a safer environment, and a properly executed process.

Selecting the wrong scale could result in reduced process speeds, bottlenecks, traffic congestion at a static scale, errors in order accuracy, and an improperly executed process.

 

Weighing operations must adapt to changes in the marketplace

Choosing a new logistics facility or distribution center (DC) site involves evaluating a number of factors and considering numerous details. The best way to start is by thoroughly examining the elements that combine to support business needs, including weighing and scale operations.

Manufacturing and raw materials sourcing play a major role in site selection. One reason is that bulk raw materials are typically expensive to transport relative to their value. Manufacturing consumes considerable resources, including raw materials, energy, and labor. As a result, companies locate manufacturing and fabrication operations near those resources.

The sourcing/production side of the supply chain usually starts anywhere low-cost materials, labor, and production are available. The options narrow, however, when inbound logistics and distribution functions enter the equation. The earlier in the process a company considers logistics, the more likely it can design supply chain costs and performance to withstand external or internal disruption.

The distribution side of the supply chain is nearly a mirror image of the sourcing/production decision, but it is driven by the location of high-value customers. Key factors, such as the number, type of customer, and condition of roadways, rail lines, inland waterways, and airports directly affect the ease, consistency, and cost of the flow of goods from the source.

Looking at these factors, especially given the disruption now being caused by e-commerce, weighing applications will need to become part of the warehouse and operational processes and provide levels of improvement going forward.

29 Nov

Investing in Packing Line Equipment Ensures Accurate Measurement and Improves Revenue

Most customers will tell us that their top priority is not shorting customers. They say they add more to a customer’s box to ensure it meets state and federal laws that require accurate statements of weights. Without an accurate scale, many end up shorting themselves!

Take the example of a 40-pound box of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes grow in many sizes, and they all go into one box, but if you don’t have a scale to know for sure that you are putting 40 pounds into the box, you may be better off giving the customer that one extra potato that puts them over the stated amount. You don’t want to, but if you short a customer one time, you will never get that business back. You don’t want the customer to say, “You gave me 39 pounds and 14 ounces in this box – You shorted me two ounces!”

Maybe giving away one extra potato is fine, but you don’t want to give the customers several potatoes, because then you start losing profit.  Consider a 40,000-pound lot — 4000 boxes at 40 pounds each. Without a scale, you might pack 1.5 pounds over what should have been in the box. That would be 6000 pounds given away, and profit that should have been in your pocket!

Only an accurate piece of weighing equipment can eliminate that problem. While there is a cost involved, there is no question it will save you money in the end. Consistently giving customers extra product for their purchases will make customers happy, but it is not in the producer’s best interest.

The term “accurate scale” does not mean an inexpensive bathroom weighing scale. While it may be fine for low-end weights, low-end scales are not legal for trade. They are intended for occasional use.  A bathroom scale is simply not made to handle the kind of weight that results from weighing 40,000 boxes a week.  It is either going to break, or start weighing inaccurately.

To ensure that you get accurate weights, use a top-quality scale built for heavy weighing. In addition, to ensure accurate weights, have the scale inspected and calibrated regularly. This is critical. That way you are eliminating inaccurate weights.

For example, we recently worked with a North Carolina produce supplier that had established its own packing facility after previously sending out their sweet potatoes and watermelons to be packed elsewhere. They were using a basic “eyeballing” method to fill boxes. To make sure they didn’t short their customers, they wound up overfilling the boxes and shorting themselves!

The new facility ships using two box sizes: a 40-pound carton and a 500-kilogram (1100-pound) box. In a bulk line, the sweet potatoes are washed, graded, and sized. As they are sized, workers fill up the 40 pound carton boxes, “guesstimating” their weight and then putting on the lid. Fairbanks recommended they install a Fairbanks Series III general-purpose bench scale with built-in rechargeable battery and integral pillar-style instrument. A roller ball top was recently added, so workers never have to pick up the boxes.

Operators placed the Series III bench scale with roller ball top at the end of their conveyor line. They fill the 40-pound carton box and slide it down the scale. The scale weighs up to 150 pounds in increments of .05 pounds. If the box weighs more than 40 pounds, operators remove potatoes to get as close to the target weight as possible.

For the large 500-kilo boxes, they only visually estimated the contents, filling them up to the top to make sure each box held more than the required amount. They knew they would be giving away some product, but wanted to make sure there was at least a little extra. But after six months of “guesstimation,” they became concerned they were really shorting themselves. After all, each box could be off by as much as 20 kilos (44 pounds), so they were potentially giving away about 1000 pounds of sweet potatoes in each 25-box shipment!

For this application, Fairbanks recommended the use of an Aegis 4-foot by 4-foot, 5,000-pound industrial mild steel floor scale. The scale is equipped with an FB1100 Series instrument, which comes with a highly visible 2-inch backlit LCD screen. The instrument is mounted on the wall above the scale. It can sit on the forklift, so when the box is set, operators can see what it weighs from the forklift.

The customer says that instead of packing 520-540 kilos per box, they can now get it down to about 503-504 kilos, just enough overage to ensure they meet the required weight. They estimate that removing the excess paid for the cost of the floor scale in about one week.

 

15 Nov

Scale Maintenance Programs that Pay for Themselves

Across a range of industries, companies can lose thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars annually if scales are inaccurate. While scale calibration and maintenance costs can seem high, with an annual price tag of up to $1,000 to $3,000, the best scale calibration and maintenance programs more than pay for themselves by correcting costly inaccuracies. In fact, these programs can even help to ensure a complete ROI on the cost of the scale itself!

To be most effective, a scale maintenance program must have five key components: the use of a state-licensed service provider; conducting calibration using state-certified test weights with written calibration and test report for proof of accuracy; a thorough testing process; visual inspection services and minor repairs; and detailed reporting. By implementing scale maintenance programs with these five key components, scale owners can expect to keep costs down and profits up through scale accuracy and timely maintenance.

While some service providers require that any minor repairs and adjustments found to be necessary during the calibration be taken care of by a separate visit and charge, the most comprehensive programs by service providers enable technicians to make these repairs and adjustments as part of routine calibration visits. In addition, some providers offer on-line portals for 24/7/365 access to a repository of customer calibration reports.

Use a state-licensed service provider

It is important to understand that the state weights and measures organization is the only entity that can issue a scale certification. A commercial scale company cannot certify a scale – but it does have the authority to recalibrate and reinstate an inaccurate scale that has been “tagged-out” by the state – as long as the scale company is state-licensed and registered in good standing.

Conduct calibration using state-certified test weights

Calibration must be performed with state-certified test weights. An established scale service company typically has its entire inventory of test weights tested and certified annually, in accordance with state weights and measures standards.

Beware of service companies that test only a portion of their overall weight inventory each year. Though this may save costs for the service provider, it can cost you a lot in the long run if test weights are inaccurate during calibration. Here’s a tip: All certified test weights bear a stamp from the governing state weights and measures entity, and you can request a copy of the test weight certification from your scale service provider.

Make sure testing process is thorough

To test a weighing device properly, testers first have to determine the length of the platform and the total number of sections along that length. Each section contains a scale load point and therefore a load sensor. The accuracy of each of these load points is critical to overall accuracy, and so should be a focus of the testing process.

Incorporate visual inspection and repairs

A thorough scale maintenance program must include visual inspection, followed by any necessary repairs. A good service company should conduct a free visual inspection and have the ability to perform minor repairs while on-site for the maintenance visit. Most scale owners understand that it is better to repair and address issues when they are small, rather than wait until they are big and expensive.

Thorough reporting

A good scale maintenance program will provide thorough reporting. Each maintenance inspection should include a written report documenting test results, and including both before and after calibration, as well as a summary of finding and recommendations.

 

18 Sep

New technology can help you adapt to changing customer labeling and packaging demands

Customer labeling and packaging demands are changing every day. We see customers using labeling more and more – and in many different stages from pre-production through retail packaging of finished goods.

Why is this? The use of clear and concise labels with key information and barcoding allows customers to track their work in process. By monitoring all the production stages they can gather and use data to improve their processes. We are also seeing labeling used in conjunction with data collection to generate pallet manifests and bills of lading. It all adds up to using data to increase efficiencies and profitability.

While the trend is present in most industries, processes and requirements vary greatly from industry to industry, so how this trend presents itself varies too. For example, the food industry is seeing a push for “clean labels,” making certain that consumer data on the label is easy to understand, clear, and concise. Other industries are looking for labels to reflect a product’s technical data or dimensional specifications. Labeling is used in the recycling industry to track materials and weights.

One example of where this comes into play is for our customer Laubscher Cheese, which was facing extremely short lead times and the need to adapt to many different items and pack sizes. Laubscher really needed to be able to quickly update the information displayed on label templates. Using the Fairbanks LabelBank/DataBank system, they could modify the information appearing on the label template extremely fast and with minimal pauses in production. This let them reduce or even eliminate their need to carry inventory of costly pre-printed labels. With the ability to customize and print on demand only the labels they need, they realized a very quick return on investment.

Laubscher also needed accurate collection of data that could flow easily into reports, so they adopted Fairbanks Ledger Web Reporting to show process flow, production output, yields, and more. LabelBank/DataBank and Ledger Web Reporting are also well suited to other industries. We have active customers in meat processing, dairy products, recycling, industrial manufacturing, and even government coin press operations, to name a few.

Customer labeling, packaging, and data collection needs are constantly changing and evolving. As they do, Fairbanks will continue to develop better ways to meet those needs. Whether it’s additional features to Ledger Web Reporting that make it easier to access information, or new modules for the LabelBank/DataBank software, Fairbanks’ goal is to make a customer’s labeling and data collection needs an efficient part of their process.

12 Sep

You can decrease weigh times by up to 50 percent in pallet jack applications

The mobile weighing market has changed dramatically over the past few years. Much of the change is driven by huge shipping companies and distribution centers that manage their throughput with pallets or skids, although any operation moving in the neighborhood of 20,000 pallets per week is looking for better mobile weighing operations. The reason is simple: a traditional floor scale takes up valuable floor space and in many manufacturing and warehouse environments floor space is at a premium.

In response, Fairbanks Scales Inc. recently released an entire line of mobile weighing products. Examples include the pallet jack scales – a scale that is integrated into a pallet jack; forklift scales, and scales for a wide variety of warehouse trucks.

Another recently developed option is the portable U-shaped floor scale, for example the Fairbanks’ Yellow Jacket Yellow Jacket U-Shaped floor scale. Unlike traditional floor scales, the U-shaped floor scale eliminates the need for floor scale ramps or a pit frame to sit the pallet or skid on the weighing platform.

Operators simply move the pallet into place over the scale, lower the pallet jack so the load is resting on the scale, capture the weight, and then raise the pallet jack to easily move the pallet or skid to its next location. This reduces weighing times by up to 50 percent by eliminating the time-consuming step of pulling the pallet jack out from underneath the pallet, which can be difficult with traditional ramped floor scales.

Another bonus is that the scale also eliminates the unsafe man-handling required to remove a pallet jack from underneath a pallet using a traditional floor scale with a ramp.

I can illustrate the point with a story about U.S. Toys, a Kansas City company that operates a 750,000 square foot distribution center. This might seem like an enormous amount of space. However, over time they started running out of room around their truck shipment preparation area. They had several traditional floor scales. Although the floor scales were effective, they weren’t efficient for their growing needs.

They liked the idea of the U-shaped floor scale design in Fairbanks’ Yellow Jacket scale. Within the first week after installation of the Yellow Jacket U-shaped floor scale, the U-shaped designed proved to be faster, easier to use, and safer in terms of ergonomics.

 

24 Jul

Rapid weight capturing methods for fast-moving, limited space environments

The online shopping experience is changing our lives. After purchasing online, we expect our purchases to be at our door the next day. Companies like Amazon have developed a model that satisfies this growing demand for convenience and fast delivery. So, what does this mean to those who manufacture, warehouse, or transport these goods? I can put it in one word – speed!

And to meet that need for speed, especially where space is limited, every logistical process now requires a higher degree of processing with more accurate information. Tracking shipments and orders and maintaining visibility is not just a convenience – it is a requirement.

Existing processes are being replaced with more efficient ones that take less time, improve safety, and deliver quickly. At the top of the pile of new technologies responding to this need are mobile weighing alternatives.

What are advantages of mobile weighing technologies?

Mobile weighing has a number of advantages in today’s fast-paced environment. The load is weighed on the pallet jack or forklift as soon as it is picked-up, reducing time required to weigh, improving safety by reducing traffic congestion to and from a stationary scale, and improving forklift operation times.

Also, with mobile weighing you can capture critical process data at the pallet jack or forklift and communicate it wirelessly to systems that track and measure the process. This reduces the time required for recording critical process data and reduces recording errors.

How are older technologies being replaced?

Common warehouse and manufacturing designs have been developed around stationary scales located in strategic areas within the facility. Under this scenario, forklifts and pallet jacks move product from the loading/unloading area to the scale, weigh the goods, and manually record information before returning back to the loading/unloading area.

This tried and true design is still the backbone of many companies and will always have an important place at the table. For example, where processes and product or material moving through the material handling is cumbersome or have awkward shapes, a centrally located static scale may be fine.

But those moving pallets, boxes, or other typical units may find that mobile weighing makes more sense. Especially for companies that are running in an ever-increasing race to satisfy customers’ requirements for speed, stationary scales may consume too much time and energy.  The traditional method of moving goods to and from the scale also produces traffic congestion in higher volume processes.

With mobile weighing, you can pick up the product while loading or unloading, then put it down again and all this information gets communicated through the work-in-process system. In fact, any time you find yourself wanting to know more about products in a faster time frame, you should start considering mobile weighing options.

What are my options?

There are a variety of mobile weighing options in the marketplace. Examples include Fairbanks’ Pallet Weigh and Pallet Weigh Plus Series pallet jacks for weighing pallets on the jack; the BlueLine Series weigh forks with a built-in weighing device; the CP Series carriage plate scale; and the FH and FHX Series hydraulic weighing devices.

One large grocery chain in the south is evaluating the Pallet Weigh Plus as an alternative to tying up a very high value fork lift on simple loading procedures. In addition, use of the new weighing technology will improve their drivers’ line of sight and thus improve safety.

Another example is a medium size manufacturing industry that does about 40,000 pallet movements per year, one-quarter of which has to be weighed. Using a BlueLine fork scale for 10-12,000 weighments, they saved about 3 minutes per weighment, amounting to about $21,000 per year.

If you decide to implement a mobile weighing strategy, I definitely recommend keeping your existing scales and proving out a new process in phases. Take small incremental steps, prove out each one, and then move to the next step. A good mobile weighing process centers on data collection, so think strategically about specifically what you need to collect. Also, even after you implement a mobile weighing process, keep the static scale as your permanent backup.

In most cases, you will find a combination of static and mobile weighing is the best strategy, based on a thorough understanding of how to move your goods through a process safely.