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 and there are stores like ForSaleplus online which offer affordable prices as well. 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.

01 Jun

Calculating and Eliminating Weighment Loss

Whenever weight is used to determine the revenue gained from sale of a product, inaccurate weight readings can pose a big problem. Weighment loss is the lost profit caused by inaccurate readings of weighment transactions. Though these losses may start small, they build up over time to cause big headaches. Thankfully, we have some helpful tips for identifying causes of weighing inaccuracy and remedying them before profit losses accumulate!


Weighment loss can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Continual wear on both the weighing platform and the electronic components of the weighing equipment can begin to reduce reading accuracy.
  • Using inaccurate stored tare weights affects the calculation of the product weight.
  • Environmental effects, including the buildup of mud, ice, or snow under or between the pit and scale platform are a concern if using outdoor scales.
  • Using division sizes or weighing increments that are too large reduces the accuracy of the readings.

Tools are available to estimate potential revenue loss caused by common scale issues. For example, Fairbanks offers a tool that can show potential revenue loss by even very minimal inaccuracies.

The good news is that weighing inaccuracies and resulting weighment loss can be identified and corrected before profit losses accumulate. In some cases, scale users notice an inaccuracy, especially if it is not in their favor. Having a known weight on a scale, such as a loader or yard tractor, provides some idea of potential weighment loss. In other cases, scale service technicians may be the first to identify weighing inaccuracies during routine or unplanned maintenance.

The best approach to discovering weighing inaccuracies, identifying specific causes, and preventing extensive weighment loss, is to call in an expert service technician to inspect the physical weighing platform and components, and to regularly compare current calibrated values with those previously certified. Some equipment will even alert the user when a scale is ready for a maintenance review. Finally, it is important to use the appropriate scale for the job to ensure accurate readings.

Contact Fairbanks today if you need help determining whether your current scale is right for your weighing needs, to schedule an appointment with an expert service technician, or if you suspect that weighing inaccuracies are cutting into your profits.

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.

26 Apr

Turkey Processor Gets A Holiday Present

Our LabelBank/DataBank Rapid Bar Code Labeling System has gone into many interesting spots, but for Whitewater Processing Company, a turkey processing company located in Harrison, OH, it can almost be considered a holiday miracle. It was installed quickly by Associated Scale, an Authorized Fairbanks Scales Distributor, which meant Whitewater Processing was able to use the new system for the very busy holiday season. Fairbanks also supplied ledger web reporting software, and will be providing annual software support and remote support.

Replacing Whitewater’s handwritten system with the new LabelBank/DataBank solution improved their recording efficiency and increased production output. As an added holiday bonus, it promoted better branding for their products.

Whitewater managers recently gave the system “two thumbs up” after using it to process their holiday production load. The system includes two stations, each with a platform, an Intermec PC43d label printer, and Fairbanks Scales’ FB4000 Solution Series Instruments running LabelBank.

Associated Scale installed DataBank in a network configuration on a networked PC, along with ledger web reporting. Associated Scale also provided customized scanning and reporting software for the PC that added features to the Fairbanks Scales web reporting software. Whitewater had extremely positive things to say about Associated Scale’s service, and also praised the reliability of the Fairbanks solution.

The LabelBank/DataBank Rapid Bar Code Labeling System is an Ethernet-ready turnkey system for industrial bar code labeling, which combines easy to navigate factory-installed bar coding software with a networkable touch screen instrument and a high-speed industrial thermal bar code printer. Optional software allows users to custom format labels. The system offers virtually unlimited product information storage, remarkable data storage and communication capabilities, and a configurable backup.

The graphically-enhanced LabelBank labeling software interface features easy controls and printer communications. LabelBank comes with four commonly used box label formats designed to meet most bar code labeling requirements for boxes or pallets.

15 Apr

The Counting Scale Solution

Counting scales are an essential piece of technology for any business selling a large amount of product at once. When counting large amounts of small items to sell (such as nails or screws) it’s important, to be able to count them quickly and accurately. This is where counting scales come in. To count each individual piece manually takes much too long and is a massive waste of resources. With a counting scale, all of this waste is erased. As their name implies, counting scales count by weight. By weighing a known number of parts and entering that known number into the scale, the scale can divide for the precise weight of each piece, which is used to determine the accurate count of subsequent weight measurements of like parts.

The Problem

Despite their obvious superiority over other counting methods, counting scales do have one small issue that can cause inefficiency: individual items of the same kind may have slightly different weights.  Even products that are mass produced, like nails or screws, can have subtle differences in composition and size, which, of course, results in tiny differences in weight. This can lead to inaccurate piece weights if the number of pieces used to determine the piece weight is too small. If the piece weight for a product is inaccurate, all subsequent weights recorded by the scale could be slightly off. This effect is negligible when counting small numbers of pieces, such as 10 nails. But when counting hundreds or thousands of pieces of one product, these slight differences in weight can make a significant difference.

The Solution

The problem described above can be solved by using a larger sample size. Basic statistics states that the difference between pieces contributes less to the overall average when more pieces are measured at once. A large sample size reduces the effect of non-uniform weights between pieces, which ensures a more accurate piece count and in turn reduces overall counting error.

Using a large sample size to find your piece weight for any product can take a long time, however, as manual counting is still needed initially. This is where Fairbanks Scales’ technology enters the picture.

Fairbanks Scales’ Omega Counting Scale

Products like Fairbanks Scales’ Omega Counting Scale (OCS) and Product Look Up (PLU) software make using large sample sizes feasible. Our scales can store information electronically; piece count weights can be measured once and stored, rather than weighed again each time a new count must be taken. This drastically reduces the time needed for each count. Our Omega Counting Scale can store hundreds of piece weights with the help of the PLU manager software, so every product and its associated information can easily be accounted for.

It all comes down to the larger sample size, which is only a practical solution when using modern counting scales such as one of Fairbanks Scales’. Once a company can consistently use these larger sample sizes in their measurements, their accuracy will be drastically improved, and overall efficiency will be increased. As long as the Fairbanks Scales Omega Counting Scale is in the picture, counting inefficiencies need no longer cause stress or worry.

03 Mar

A web interface for your truck scale will improve your invoicing efficiency—and eliminate those annoying trips out to the scale in the rain and snow.

I can’t say enough positive things about web interface technology for truck scale instruments. Remote access using your existing Ethernet infrastructure is a breeze, so it’s a mystery to me why relatively few companies have adopted it. What it costs in dollars will quickly be made up for by faster invoicing and getting a better handle on the resources you need to get a job done.

Yes, I know some people call it simply a “nice to have” convenience factor to have immediate access to scale data. And yes, it may be difficult to quantify the return on investment for a web interface. But if your invoicing is based on transactions and you need to know how much has been delivered, a web interface is essential.

Efficiency and convenience

Being able to remotely access your instrument to obtain transaction data is a real boon to efficient operations. You can reach into your instrument directly from your PC and get a report immediately. No more getting up from your desk, walking to the scale (which can be in another office in the same building or down the street next to the scale), manually printing out a report, and then inputting the information for analysis. No more taking a stack of tickets and sorting them by hand. And no more trudging through the snow and ice to get the information you need before trudging back.

Instead, with remote web interface you get information in a file that can be opened directly in your spreadsheet program and analyzed any way you want. With a few clicks, you can determine the total number of transactions and who the high volume customers are. You can get the information to answer any transaction-related questions without having to shut down the instrument and take away from your scale productivity.

There are other methods of course, but they all have limitations and inherent restrictions that hinder their usefulness. Serial communication methods are hampered by distance limitations.  For example, the RS-232 standard for serial communication transmission of data only works within a distance of 50 feet.  Plus, with RS-232, the speed at which data can be accessed is also limited. A web interface avoids both of these restrictions, allowing for remote access at network speeds.

What do you need to get the benefits of web access?

To fully realize the benefits of web access, you are going to need an operating Ethernet network infrastructure, including a local area network (LAN). If you want to communicate among different physical sites, you will need a wide area network (WAN). But, if neither exists, there are still inexpensive ways to provide a stand-alone private network between your PC and the scale instruments.

So, all in all, it is easier and faster to use a web interface to get your data from your desk on your PC instead of trooping out to someone else’s workspace to do part of your job.

The Fairbanks FB2550 instrument offers this type of web interface. In addition, customers can update their customer files, product files, and stored tare weight files remotely from their desk using the web interface, instead of pushing buttons on the instrument. Another side benefit is that Fairbanks technicians can log in to the scale instrument with a tablet or PC and perform diagnostic checks, troubleshooting and even calibrations and configuration tasks.

20 Jan

Celebrating 50 years with the World Ag Expo

One of the shows I love to be a part of is the World Ag Expo, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary February 14-16, 2017 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, California. World Ag is the largest annual agricultural exposition in the world, with more than 1,500 exhibitors and 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space.

It has something for everyone, from displays of the latest in farm equipment, communications, and technology, to free seminars on topics important to dairy producers, farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness professionals. Members and attendees are constantly looking for the best practices to keep the industry healthy, strong, and growing just like their products. And such a bargain – just $15 per attendee.

By the looks of it, this year’s World Ag Expo seminar program is focusing more and more on new technology to help farmers compete. The seminar called Mapping Drones in Precision Ag: How to Get Started, caught my eye. Experts from a major global commercial drone company will discuss agricultural-based drone use, especially how mapping fields can benefit farming operations.

Another seminar, Global Opportunities for U.S. Manufacturers in a Rapidly Changing World, is something I know agricultural businesses will benefit from. The experts will discuss how U.S. agribusiness must develop innovative export marketing strategies to help them survive in today’s world market.

Other seminars that caught my eye from an equipment point of view include those on irrigation tools and techniques, water issues, and the rise of mechanization.

Of course, Fairbanks Scales will be on hand to show off what we bring to the table — or should I say what we bring to the field — for the agricultural market, including products that improve sanitation audit scores and increase overall food safety. We will have our Talon line of heavy-duty Truck Scales, Aegis Floor Scales, sanitary design QuickSilver Stainless Steel Platforms, and the 1124 Series Portable Utility Scale. Drop by Booth #D2/E1 to take a look.

While they may not be as sexy as a drone, scale equipment for agricultural operations can have a major effect on the bottom line. For example, we recently helped one Tennessee hay farmer select the right scale for his business – a scale that can withstand the farm’s challenging weather conditions and maintain safety for his employees, while also allowing him to collect the data he needs to help him double his production in the near future.

We are excited about all the innovations in the agricultural industry and look forward to participating in the World Ag Expo as it celebrates a half-century of progress. We’ll see you there on February 14th!

13 Dec

Improve Efficiency and Accuracy in Counting Applications – Know How to Maximize Your Counting Scale

In any business venture that sells vast amounts of product at a time, fast and accurate counting methods are essential. The smaller the product and the more items processed at once, the harder it is to keep track of accurate counting. This can waste time in man-hours, and money in incorrect counts. In the past there wasn’t much to be done about these problems. But today’s new technology can handle what the old could not. Here are some ways to make sure you get the most accurate and efficient count from your counting scales.

When counting large amounts of small items (such as nails or screws) it is important to be able to count them quickly and accurately. Counting by hand is time consuming and subject to human error. Counting scales use the weight of a known number of parts to calculate the weight of each piece. This weight can then be used to determine the count of subsequent weight measurements.

When using counting scales, there are two common problems that cause inefficiency: inaccurate piece count weights and the fact that accuracy can be affected drastically if the parts counted are not exactly the same weight.

Often there are small differences in weight from piece to piece. This effect is negligible when counting small numbers of pieces, such as 10 nails. But when counting 100s or 1000s of one product, this effect is exacerbated and can cause significant miscalculation. Any miscounting causes problems for a company. Undercounting shortchanges the customer and causes customer dissatisfaction. Overcounting shorts the company, causing consistent loss of profit.

Inaccurate pieces count weights cause similar problems by not getting an accurate weight for the individual pieces in the first place. The initial mistake spreads to each subsequent count and can cause major miscalculations before it is caught and corrected.

Both of the problems described above can be solved by the same solution: larger sample size. The larger the sample size, the more accurate average weight can be measured. Basic statistics states that the difference between pieces contributes less to the overall average when more pieces are measured at once. This both ensures a more accurate piece count weight and reduces the effect of non-uniform weights between pieces.

At one time, counting scales were expensive, and if companies wanted this type of accuracy they would rent scales once or twice a year for periodic inventory. Fortunately today’s scales are affordable to own and are able to make taking large sample sizes worthwhile for companies that use counting scales and software.

Products like Fairbanks Scales’ Omega Counting Scale (OCS) and Product Look Up (PLU) software make using large sample sizes more feasible than in the past. Now that counting scales can store information electronically, piece count weights can be measured once and stored. Taking the time to carefully weigh a large sample size in the beginning will increase overall accuracy, and will eventually pay for itself in profits that were previously lost due to miscounting.

It all comes down to the larger sample size. Modern counting scales provide companies with a method of using larger sample sizes in measuring piece count weights without losing money to extra man-hours. Once companies can consistently use these larger sample sizes in their measurements, accuracy is drastically improved and overall efficiency increases. All of this saves companies time and money, and helps make their operation run smoothly and reliably.