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.