12 Nov

Roller Conveyor Scale Captures Weight as Products Move Down Conveyor Line

In many manual conveyor applications, operators still have to weigh products. They may do this with a standard bench scale that sits next to the conveyor. Or, they may cut out a section of the conveyor, place a cart in the opening and weigh products with a standard bench scale sitting on top. Either way, they have to remove the product from the conveyor, place it on the scale, and then move it back to the conveyor or to somewhere else – like a pallet or shelving. That really takes a bite out of efficiency.

Shipping companies — UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the like — along with airline freight companies and really any manufacturing, distribution, or warehousing plant with a high-volume package (box) movement are faced with this issue.

To save material handling time, and reduce the need to lift products on and off a conveyor, consider using the new Fairbanks Roller Conveyor Scale.  Easily configurable with a new or existing manual conveyor, the scale is a precision table with an extremely-accurate scale built into it. Four adjustable feet simply thread in (to decrease height) and thread out (to increase height) and can then be locked in place. The scale can be configured longer or shorter, wider or narrower, taller or shorter, to fit the customer’s exact needs.

The Roller Conveyor Scale is an ergonomically friendly choice for establishing product weights in many shipping departments; it allows a conveyor to move the product rather than someone having to lift and carry it.

It is also a good choice for missing parts inspection and over/under check-weighing, depending on the process a company uses for picking parts. If the company uses a rolling cart with a box on it, the Roller Conveyor Scale is not necessary. However, if an ergonomically friendly gravity conveyor is used for picking parts, the Roller Conveyor Scale can really reduce material handling times. For example, if a gravity conveyor runs north-to-south with the north end an inch higher than the south end, it can be up to 100 feet long. There is a gradual slope between the two ends. If you place a box on the north end, it will gradually reach the south end via gravity. This process can take from 5 to 10 minutes. If a Roller Conveyor Scale is used, the scale could read the box with no operator interaction!

While standard bench and floor scales are a less expensive alternative solution to the Roller Conveyor Scale, the decrease in material handling time would give an excellent return on investment over time. One other option is a scale with a roller or ball top that could be used in line with a conveyor. However, these scales are substantially smaller, dimensionally, than the Roller Conveyor Scale and users would still need to find a table or cart on which to place the scale.

The Roller Conveyor Scale is being used by a major airline for its air freight shipments and is also used by a major shipping company to check rejected, damaged, and any non-standard shipments with issues. Both these companies previously conducted those tasks manually, physically taking the product to the closest scale to weigh it. With this new scale, material handlers, manufacturers, and distribution centers can economically speed production and increase operational efficiencies.

06 Sep

Scale Service Cost Control – The benefits of a managed service agreement

Maintaining a reliable and accurate scale is essential to the operation of a business. Like any other critical piece of machinery, equipment, or electronics, budgeting for maintenance and repairs can be a challenge.

Most common scale service arrangements are based on an annual fixed cost for test and calibration combined with additional costs for labor and spare parts for any scale repairs or upgrades. Though this can be an effective method for fixing a problem it may, over the course of the scale’s life, not be the most efficient solution when it comes to cost budgeting, minimizing downtime, or even reducing administrative paperwork to process invoices.

Many scale owners are now opting for a new and popular alternative to the “open-end” service – the Managed Service Agreement (MSA). This option offers:

  • Scheduled preventative maintenance and test/calibration
  • Coverage for emergency service repairs and replacement parts
  • Coverage for dispatching and usage of test weights (light capacity and up to 30,000 pounds for heavy capacity test unit)
  • Travel and expenses
  • Miscellaneous supplies

With an MSA, scale owners can work closely with their scale vendor to come up with a plan to reduce unexpected downtime by completing proactive repairs and part replacements often preformed with scheduled service (tests/calibration) arranged around the customer’s set period of downtime. The MSA cost can be paid in one up-front payment or convenient installments.

Comparison of open ended service cost versus an MSA agreement

The accompanying graph shows the spikes and variables that are more typical of any open-ended service agreement. Compare this to the consistent monthly costs of an MSA program, for example, the Guardian MSA offered by Fairbanks. The company prides itself on developing vendor/customer relationships based on partnering with customers to understand their operations and guiding them on how to best manage their scale assets.

Fairbanks Guardian Series of MSAs are flexible, designed to match the correct service plan with the usage, age, and operational criticality of the specific scale. For example, a chemical manufacturing facility with more than 100 scales can pick and choose the coverage type that best fits the unique dynamics of their operation. Contrast this to the agricultural industry where an agreement might be created with more attention to critical harvest periods.

All the Fairbanks Guardian Series of MSAs offer testing and calibration, plus a variety of parts and repair labor options. For example, the Platinum coverage offers “Smart Scale” remote diagnostics. The scale is electronically monitored at the Fairbanks Tech Support center 24/7, which proactively calls out any error codes to a field service dispatch center.

 

Superior scale service is about partnering with the customer to control costs, manage downtime and ensure accurate weighing. Utilizing a menu-driven MSA program, like Fairbank’s Guardian Service, is both innovative and practical in today’s weighing industry.

Purchasing a new scale is a significant investment and pairing the purchase with a Guardian Service agreement by building it into the initial investment is a good option. Consider it as both investing in a piece of equipment and investing in a partnership, in which Fairbanks takes on a critical role in keeping the equipment in optimal working order.

15 Aug

New truck scale for sites with little clearance – no need for foundation modifications

Today’s post takes on the thorny issue of scales needed for sites with little clearance underneath where foundations cannot be modified.

For example, many sites feature overhead loadout structures where a truck is filled while it’s on the scale. These sites have height restrictions because operators cannot easily raise the existing structures, so the only option is to install a scale that fits in their existing low profile foundation.

Other sites simply do not have enough real estate to place a regular-profile scale with approaches and full size ramps. Installing a low profile scale can significantly reduce the amount of real estate required for a legal scale.

This is a growing issue, because many scales installed in the 1990s and early 2000s came standard with a lower profile. These scales are now at the very end of their service lives and require replacement, but the expense of modifying the existing foundation to install a higher-profile scale is often too great to be viable. That makes the best option a scale that can be installed to meet the existing foundation and profile without any modifications.

The Fairbanks Talon Low Profile Truck Scale was designed to be a direct replacement for the most common low profile scales in the field. The design makes it easy to replace the scales – with no foundation modifications – as they end their service life. The low profile scale uses cover plates, but with a twist. To prevent many of the common problems of using full-width cover plates, these have been designed with corner pockets that house the load cells and other components. This is vital to ensure the ease of installation, maintenance, and reliability of the scale — and to keep everything protected inside the pockets. Keeping the cover plates in the outside corners of the scale platform helps eliminate the repeated traffic that traditionally will wear out cover plates faster than the rest of the scale by having them out of the tire path.

A new Talon Low Profile Truck Scale was used to replace an end-of-life low profile scale at a cement processing facility. The new scale was installed (with no foundation modifications) over a weekend during their off hours, and was back up and running by Monday morning. This would not have been possible if foundation changes had to be made.

Another example was a waste company that needed to replace an existing scale at a site with limited real estate and not enough room for ramps and approaches. The Talon Low Profile Truck Scale was installed into their shallow pit over a weekend, allowing them to continue normal operations.

17 Jul

Design and performance considerations to help choose between rocker column and double end shear beam load cells

Selecting the right load cell is crucial to ensure accuracy. Before selecting, carefully consider the manner by which the load is introduced to the load cell structure and installation issues. Also, pay attention to such design considerations as hysteresis performance, creep, temperature compensation, and mV/V/ohm and mV/V calibration.

First some definitions

The two main types of load cells are rocker column and double end shear beam load (DESB). A rocker column load cell is defined as one that uses a single compression column design with self-restoring alignment. DESB load cells are either secured at both ends and loaded in the middle or secured in the middle and loaded on each end.

Introducing the load

Rocker column load cells provide convex spherical upper and lower loading surfaces for load introduction. The load cells use a dual radius loading surface, with a large radius in the center where the load measurement is made and a smaller radius at the outer extremities where the rocking occurs. When choosing this style load cell, make sure the design provides accurate load measurement when the load cell has rocked to a non-vertical position.

DESB beams use a variety of load introduction methods. Some are supported at the center with a convex pillar and the load is introduced by links at each end. Other methods include bolting the load cell at the ends, or introducing the load in the center with a link or mounting the load cell at the ends with horizontal rods or pins. When using these methods, take care to ensure that there are no hysteresis errors that could affect the scale’s accuracy and performance.

Hermetic sealing key to performance

Hermetic sealing is extremely important to prevent entry of moisture and other external contaminants into the body of the load cell. If selecting rocker column load cells, be sure they are hermetically sealed at both their main sealing element and at the cable entry.

Most DESB load cells are potted (also called encapsulated), which means they have been immersed in a liquid resin that is then cured. In some cases, the potted seal may not hold up as well as hermetical sealing in truck scale environments.

Design and installation factors can affect performance

Several design factors affect rocker column load cell performance. These include hysteresis performance, creep, temperature compensation, and mV/V/ohm and mV/V calibration. For example, Fairbanks load cells can be replaced without the need for readjusting the corners or sections, and secondly, load cells can be replaced without the need for system recalibration.

Regarding installation, rocker column load cells require only simple upper and lower loading cups in most applications. Simple alignment fixtures are used for installing the load cells in a vertical position. By contrast, large castings are usually required for DESBs.

Overall, experience shows that the totally hermetically sealed rocker column load cell offers major performance advances over double end shear beam load cells. In addition to being totally hermetically sealed, rocker column load cells have fewer load introduction problems, and are easier and less expensive to apply.

02 Apr

New truck scale instrument integrates weighing functions with daily production and business functions

Customer requirements and product performance expectations continue to increase in all business areas. One place we are really seeing this is in the demand to integrate weighing functions more closely with daily production and business functions. Companies are looking to increase profitability and efficiency by increasing the number of weighments they can make over a given time. New instruments are being developed that fit in with today’s culture and business environment, where everyone expects user interfaces to provide immediate feedback and be easier to use.

For example, Fairbanks’ new FB2560 instrument uses faster and more powerful processors to provide quick response time and a superior user experience. The processor went from 1.6GHz to 1.83GHz Quad Core. In addition, downtime is minimized with Intalogix® technology, which allows the instrument to help diagnose load cell issues. Also, installation and calibration are streamlined in the FB2560 through the web interface.

The new instrument now includes five USB ports. One is a USB 3.0 port, which can transfer data about 10 times faster than the older USB 2.0 standard. The operating system has been upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, which will allow for extended operating system support for this family of instruments. The RAM was doubled to 4 GB to increase the speed of the user interface. Along with the new hardware, software enhancements include additional features to improve service and support.

The FB2560 Series Driver Assist Terminal (DAT) is designed to speed the vehicle weighing process and reduce associated operating costs. By allowing drivers to remain inside their vehicles, the FB2560 DAT also eliminates safety concerns and liabilities that can occur when drivers walk across scale platforms and traffic lanes. Axlematic applications allow for axle-by-axle weighing of vehicles on both full-length platform and short platform scales.

Of course other weighing instrument options are also available, including the entry level FB1100, as well as the FB2250, FB2560, FB4000, and FB6000 series.  Each has a unique feature set that meets a range of customer requirements. In addition, Fairbanks has a dedicated team to address specific customized application needs.

21 Jan

Updated 2018 end of year farm outlook and predictions for 2019

As 2019 begins, and those lists of the top 10 movies or top 10 television shows have been tossed onto the recycling pile, it’s time to look at 2018 year-end farm outlook reviews – and what to expect in 2019.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), an independent, non-governmental, voluntary organization which bills itself as “local, county, state, national and international in its scope and influence and non-partisan, non-sectarian and non-secret in character,” recently released its “Updated End-of-Year Farm Economic Outlook,” by John Newton, Ph.D., the AFBF’s Chief Economist.

The news for 2018 is sobering, indicating that the farm economy continues to struggle. Net farm income in 2018 is down 12% from prior-year levels – about the third-lowest level in more than 20 years after adjusting for inflation.

The author starts with a review of cash receipts, which are flat. Gross agricultural cash receipts in 2018 are projected at $423 billion, up 1.5%, or $6.3 billion, from prior-year levels; but when adjusted for inflation, gross cash receipts are down 0.8%, $22 billion below the 10-year average and nearly $80 billion less than the record-setting 2014 total of $501 billion.

Then there’s the high total 2018 agricultural-related expenses, which are projected at $369.1 billion. If that plays out as expected, expenses would be up 4.2% from prior-year levels – the highest level since 2014.

One final factor to throw in is that net farm income in 2018, which is higher than originally projected by USDA, has been greatly affected by including ad hoc disaster and trade-related payments to farmers and ranchers. If we exclude these payments, net farm income in 2018 is projected at $64.7 billion, down $10 billion (or 13%) from prior-year levels. That makes it the third lowest level over the last decade, behind 2009 and 2016.

Fortunately, while the outlook for 2019 is still uncertain, there are some bright spots to look out for. First on this list are the positive effects of the farm bill, which should give farmers and ranchers more risk management certainty. Also, many are seeing that trade relationships are moving towards normalizing, based on the administration’s desire to restore and improve access in key export markets.

Combining these positives with much-needed regulatory relief and tax reform gives U.S. farmers and ranchers what they need to compete in the marketplace and move U.S. farms into increased profitability.

Fairbanks is kicking off the year by participating in three agricultural shows, and we would love to talk with you about how we can help with that move towards profitability. Find us at the Iowa Farming Power (January 29-31, 2019); Southern Farm Show (January 30-February 1, 2019); and the World Agricultural Expo (February 12-14, 2019).

13 Dec

Preventive maintenance servicing ends up saving in the long run – neglecting your scale costs you profit

The goal of any service program should be to ensure that equipment stays in working order, with minimal downtime between service visits or the life of the product. What is preventive maintenance servicing and how does it differ from general servicing? Here’s my overall philosophy: General servicing puts out fires. Preventative maintenance servicing prevents fires. Let’s look into this a bit more closely.

A general service visit might be more specific in nature while preventative maintenance servicing should, along with upkeep of equipment, take into account such factors as heavy use periods, the value of supplying bench stock on difficult to acquire parts (so as to limit downtime), as well as strategies for repair if a breakdown occurs. In other words, preventative maintenance is a more holistic approach to service. It should not just look at the customer’s equipment in isolation from the operation, but should see the wider picture, including how the proper and efficient operation of the equipment (as well as breakdowns) affects the customers’ business.

In effect, general service is more specific hands on (“tool in hand”) service. Preventative maintenance includes that too, but also requires more interaction with a customer to understand the business and the role the equipment plays in it.

Why are preventive maintenance programs so important?

One of the first phrases a new Fairbanks employee will hear when starting their employment is “a customer’s scale is their cash register.” This speaks to the basic (and critical) notion of customer dollars. Strong support for preventative maintenance is one way we show customers that when they own our equipment we becomes a critical partner in their business operation – and that includes their bottom line dollars.

What happens if customers do not follow a preventive maintenance program?

Neglecting to account for the longevity of equipment can result in significant future repairs. Problems generally don’t stay static or improve over time – they usually get worse. When a small issue morphs into a significant problem, wholesale repairs need to be performed. These are often not budgeted for, so they result in unanticipated downtime. Any downtime is usually unexpected and often comes at a critical time.

Downtime can be minimized or eliminated almost entirely by doing proper preventative service. Here’s a recent example. Just this week we are working on a $38,000 full rebuild of a scale that experienced significant structural damage due to rusting of critical components. This customer does not get his scale checked regularly; had maintenance visits been performed, the issue would have been caught and small repairs could have been completed.

What to look for in a service program

Open-end service is the most typical type of service provided in the industrial weighing service industry. It is service that is paid for as required, or “pay as you go.” There is no limit to the total cost of repairs and it is impossible to know what your costs will be. Although you may know what your scheduled calibration costs are, it is problematic to predict failure of a component. It is also difficult to diagnose problems unless the cause is apparent at the time of any periodic pre-scheduled inspections.

With a closed-end service plan, when service is required, it can be ordered without purchase order, requisition, or approvals, so a technician can be on site quickly. This is the fastest, simplest way to initiate service. With a closed-end service plan, the extra costs are the responsibility of the service provider. Large service providers are better able to take this risk, so this type of service plan is less often an option with smaller scale companies.

The greatest benefit of a closed-end service agreement is reduced risk for the customer. Much like insurance, closed-end service agreements cover the cost of most failures. This allows the customer to spend less time making arrangements between purchasing and management when service is needed. It also builds a better relationship between the service provider and the end user of the scale because the service process is less cumbersome.

For example, the Fairbanks Scales Guardian Service Plan is a “no surprises” service program with multiple levels to fit specific customer needs. The highest level of Guardian Service can be all-encompassing to include parts, service visits and calibrations. Customers with little exposure to significant repairs might choose a more basic option just covering calibrations. The best agreement fits the customer like a glove!

The losses to revenue due to a scale failure can exceed the cost of maintenance. Preventive maintenance ends up saving in the long run.

30 Nov

Beware of Weighment Loss – How to safeguard your profits by eliminating inaccurate readings of weighment transactions

Weighment loss, the profit lost from inaccurate readings of weighment transactions, is a serious issue. Each loss may be small in and of itself, but they build up over time.

It can happen in any industry, but heavy capacity industries are the hardest hit. One great example is the waste management industry. Waste disposal is charged by the ton, so if scales that weigh those tractor trailer trucks transporting trash to a landfill are off even slightly, it can affect the bottom line revenue – a lot! Other affected industries include aggregates, raw materials, and large trees being sent to lumber mills for processing.

Here are two real life examples of how seemingly minimal errors substantially cut into profits over time. The first was an aggregate company that weighed 500 trucks per day, five days per week. The company had a weighing inaccuracy of only 200 pounds per load, which is really miniscule, since a typical truckload of sand or gravel can exceed 80,000 pounds. But at a product value of $26.50 per ton, the total lost annual revenue was – wait for it – $344,500!

Another example is based on a product with a value of $.05 per pound and 100 weighments per day (assuming 300 working days per year.) A simple error of only one increment (20 lbs.) led to $30,000 in annual product loss! The losses really mount as the estimated value or the increment error increases.

Tools are available to estimate potential revenue loss due to scale issues. For example, Fairbanks offers a Weighment Loss Calculator that can show potential revenue loss from even very minimal inaccuracies.

What causes weighment loss?

It can be a challenge to figure out just what is causing the weighment loss, but there are few usual suspects.

First up are equipment issues:

  • Continual wear on both the weighing platform and the electronic components of the weighing equipment can begin to reduce reading accuracy.
  • Using inaccurate or expired stored tare weights can affect the calculation of the net product weight.
  • Buildup of mud, ice, or snow under or between the pit and scale platform on outdoor scales.
  • Using a division size or weighing increment that is too large reduces the accuracy of the weighment.

Aside from equipment issues, the number one cause of weighment loss is not maintaining the scale properly. Generally speaking, the more the scale is used, the more frequently it should be inspected, maintained, and recalibrated. The maintenance program should include use of a state-licensed service provider; using state-certified test weights with written calibration and test report; a thorough testing process; visual inspection services and minor repairs; and thorough reporting.

Division sizes can affect weighment loss

Weights must be accurate only to within 20 pounds of the actual weight, so if you use a 20-pound division size, an item that actually weighs 190 pounds can be placed on the scale and may legally register as weighing anywhere from 180 to 200 pounds. To deal with this issue, Fairbanks recently began offering a 10-pound division size on some of its truck scale products.

Preventing weighment loss

To uncover specific causes and prevent weighment loss, the best approach is to use a factory trained service technician to inspect the physical weighing platform and components, and to regularly compare current calibrated values with those previously certified.

25 Oct

New Lower Cost-Of-Entry Scale Fills the Gap Where Full-Size Truck Scales Are Not Practical

Many operators want to better manage inventory and reduce their overload risks, but lack space or budget for a full-size truck scale. Farmers and co-ops want to manage crops, monitor inventory levels, and know that trucks are full — but not overweight — before leaving the farm. It’s important to prevent overweight trucks from hitting the highways and ensure trucks are safe and roadworthy.

Until recently, those looking for a cost-effective option for checkweighing loads had few choices. Now, there is a new slow speed axle scale system that arrives precast and ready to install. The AxleSurance In-Motion Weigh System, gives axle and gross truck weights that can be displayed, printed, and saved for easy record keeping. A simple backhoe is all that’s required to prepare the site and set the scale platform. The full system can be installed and calibrated in four hours or less.

The AxleSurance system calculates, displays, and captures each individual axle as it rolls over the scale. It sums the weights and prints individual axle and gross weights on the tickets. Tare weights can be stored in the database or recorded with an in/out operation.

The unattended AxleSurance console functions as a self-contained control unit that drivers can operate entirely independently. Transaction records can be saved and transmitted to the user’s management systems.

The standard AxleSurance scale is 11-feet wide and arrives in a precast base. The full system comes with an unattended instrument console, remote LED display, data and homerun cable, plus an information management software package that can be customized to the specific operation. The AxleSurance software is available in farm, aggregate, and base formats.

Full concrete approaches are not required, but will improve the accuracy of the system. Hard pack rock approaches provide accuracy of < 0.5 percent on average, while concrete approaches will improve accuracy up to < 0.2 percent on average.

AxleSurance scale system reduces install time, real estate, and operation time. While not a legal-for-trade scale, it can offer a quick return on investment for companies that want to maximize their truck loads while reducing their overload risks.

13 Sep

Keep up With Scale Technology Innovations to Stay Ahead of Your Competition

Working in the weighing industry without keeping closely abreast of the many recent innovations in scale technology is a sure way to fall behind competitors. Advanced scale technology expedites work and processing times, simplifies data storage and transfer, and ultimately saves end-users money.

One example of the type of innovative scale systems indispensable in modern weighing is Fairbanks Scales’ new and improved FB2550 scale instrument. Innovative in its simplicity, networking capabilities, and processing power, the FB2550 belongs in every weighing company’s arsenal.

The FB2550’s simpler operation makes it faster and more consistent, which in turn leads to a higher level of efficiency and cost savings. The full color, true graphic touchscreen display makes the instrument extremely easy to use. A powerful integrated web utility gives technicians complete access to all menu options, including calibration, with a user friendly, web accessible interface.

All configuration and calibration functions can be performed from a connected laptop or tablet with an Ethernet crossover cable or an existing network, using standard web browsers like Chrome or Firefox. When used with Fairbanks’ unique Remote Configuration Device (RCD), technicians can even calibrate the FB2550 right from the scale platform, eliminating the need to travel between the platform and instrument to test and calibrate the scale system. For weighing technicians, it all adds up to real savings in time and effort, and increased overall efficiency.

The FB2550 is also a highly connected piece of equipment, with a range of networking abilities that makes it perfect for today’s modern weighing systems. Up to five FB2550 instruments can be networked, sharing transactional data and traffic light controls from up to eight scale platforms. Users can also automatically email transactional data or trouble codes. This improves access to transaction data and provides faster response times if there is ever an issue. Transaction data can be automatically exported to a shared user-defined network folder at the end of the day, placing key corporate data at customers’ hands in a timely and reliable manner. Load cell diagnostics data can be viewed, printed, exported, or emailed.

With its high level of processing power, the FB2550 can handle the ever-increasing data processing and storage performance requirements for weighing operations. Equipped with standard short or long platform Axlematic software, the system lets customers secure axle weights along with total vehicle weight to ensure compliance with DOT requirements.

The increased processing power also enables integration with IP cameras. Powerful camera interfacing capabilities allow the FB2550 to capture and store images from up to two IP cameras as a transaction is processed – and email or print images with a transaction ticket. The robust processing power means weighing technicians complete their job faster and more accurately, and it helps enable a much higher level of communication between weighing companies and their customers.

Scale technology is evolving. Scales need the ability to store and process a large volume of data and the ability to network and interact freely with other scales and connected devices, all within an easy to use interface. The FB2550 from Fairbanks Scales delivers on all fronts, and is truly among the most innovative scales currently available.