15 May

Moving from an indicator to an instrument — why you should make the switch

An indicator displays weight output and a printed ticket, along with one or two basic features.  With all of the information on an individual ticket or output, running reports requires additional equipment and software.

An instrument, by comparison, offers increased functionality to provide more options for data collection.

Data collection is growing rapidly in importance across the globe, and has become the strongest driver out there when evaluating an instrument.  Today’s instruments can capture transactional information, control scale traffic, and offers multiple options for data output.  For data capture alone, a scale instrument IS a good investment in the future.

An instrument is essentially a computer, containing all the information it collects. It allows users to export data, categorize it, report on what customers are pulling from the scale, and even gather load-specific vehicle information. Some models have diagnostic capabilities that keep track of the condition of load cells, and report any problems. Most have a keyboard that allows users to enter text during a transaction. Even if you are starting out small but plan on expanding in the future, it’s worth getting an instrument to take advantage of the data and reporting capabilities that have become so important to doing business.

In addition to data collection, scale instruments offer the ability to communicate from different ports. For example, you can print a ticket, then display an email, and even send the information to a programmable logic controller (PLC).
It’s important to point out that the return on investment (ROI) for purchasing an instrument can be very high. Note the annual costs of being off by even one division (20lbs for example) per truck. Annual product loss varies, depending upon the commodity value.

One example of the power of new scale instruments is the Fairbanks FB2550. With this “Cadillac” option, a single FB2550 can drive up to eight scales, network up to four other FB2550s, provide custom output through serial and TCP/IP configurations.  In addition, it can support a total of five networked FB2550s to support existing scale layouts for inbound / outbound weighing; sharing the transactional data between all five instruments. Other features include advanced diagnostics with a variety of email notifications that tell end users when it’s time for maintenance. If the scale is equipped with Intalogix™ technology it can report individual load cell failure.

The FB2550 has many special application modes and accessories that allow it to adapt to customer application needs. For example, it comes with several enclosure options to fit the environment and space needed. You can choose from rack-mount, desktop, NEMA 4X for wash-down models, or panel mount to install into a wall. In in outdoor areas with frequent exposure to the elements there’s the FB2550 Driver Assist Terminal (DAT).  This model allows for a pole mounted installation at the scale and is great for unattended operations, which is becoming more and more popular. Using the FB2550 (DAT), doesn’t require a scale house or weighmaster and transactions can be emailed anywhere. The fully unattended instrument forces navigation, so it does not allow for the screen to get caught up between customers. This option would be excellent for those who want to run remote scales. Going back to customer adaptation, unattended behavior is a mode that any of the enclosures can use, however it works well for driver-at-scale interaction.

For customers wanting their first instrument and looking for a single scale model, the FB6000 is a good alternate.  A little less powerful than “the Cadillac,” option, it allows only a single scale solution but still provides in/out weighing with traffic control, and supports Gross Tare Net weighments.  It provides a high intensity 16 segment display for easy readability of weight, and scrolling prompt entry.  This instrument is a well-tuned and economically placed alternate that supports both an analog and Intalogix™ scale package. It too can detect individual load cell failures when equipped with Intalogix™, however it doesn’t send email and there is no device-to-device networking like the FB2550.    Like its high-end cousin, the FB6000 also has a variety of other data reporting functions and allows real-time report viewing and export to the spreadsheet friendly CSV format.