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.

25 Oct

Tips for scale calibration – Follow these best practices to ensure scale accuracy

Scale accuracy depends on the way a scale is used and cared for. Weather, use, and wear can change the accuracy of a weighing device, which is why periodic calibration is so essential. Here are a few tips to help you minimize losses from a poorly calibrated scale.

Before listing my suggested tips, I want to make sure readers understand just how much seemingly minimal errors can cut into profits over time. Take the Acme Aggregate Company example shown below, in which two hundred pounds may appear miniscule, since a typical truckload of sand or gravel can exceed 80,000 pounds. However, when one does the math, the truth is revealed – an annual revenue variance of about $345,000.

#1 – Select the proper calibration frequency   

The proper calibration frequency is based on two factors: the requirements of law and the value of the commodity – In other words, how critical is the accuracy of the weighment? Yes, calibrate more often for copper than manure, or if the weight is critical to a process (like for batching, mixing or recipe work). Also calibrate more frequently if the scale is under a mixer or agitator with a lot of vibration, because that is more likely to drive the calibration out of bounds.

Most people typically calibrate their scale once a year, just before the state certifier rolls into town to verify the weights on a scale. I really recommend at least twice a year; and consider even more frequent calibration if you have high value commodities or high volume applications. If being off by 20, 40, or 60 pounds makes a big difference to the bottom line, consider monthly calibration, with spot checks in between.

# 2 – Conduct calibration using 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. Preparing the weights and delivering them to a metrology laboratory for testing requires an enormous amount of time and money, so it may be tempting for some service companies to skip this important step. All too often, weights may be condemned and un-certifiable. Start by verifying with your service provider that their weights have been certified.

# 3 – Service before calibrating

You will save yourself a lot of headaches by scheduling regular service with an authorized scale calibration firm just prior to state inspection by weights and measurements personnel. Avoid the real risk of red tagging, when the state inspector says the scale is so far out of bounds that it can’t be used for business until it’s remedied.

# 4 – Select a reputable calibration service company

Set up your periodic routine calibration plan with a reputable calibration service company. And make sure the company conducts the inspection in accordance with NIST Handbook 44 regulations for commercial weighing applications. A simple drive over and a sticker will not suffice and could be a total waste of money and time.

It is also important that your service provider uses a professional test report process that performs the NIST calculations without the service technician having to perform them. The best systems are application based and reduce test reporting errors ultimately supplying the scale calibration report without human errors.


# 5 – Make sure the calibration follows key steps

Using a truck scale as an example, the scale company should conduct the calibration this way:

  1. Drive over the vehicle scale with a specialized test vehicle looking for repeatability.
  2. Unload a specialized certified weight cart that will travel over each section to ensure all sections weigh exactly the same.
  3. Drop onto the scale up to 25,000 pounds of certified test weights for a final calibration test.

# 6 – Collect the proper documentation from each test

The scale owner should always ask their service provider to provide:

  1. Service provider’s Weights and Measures License number.
  2. Copy of certified test weight documentation for conformance and traceability.
  3. Information on licensed technicians performing test.
  4. A written test report that covers:
    1. Equipment specifications
    2. Section test readings
    3. Overall calibration with “As Found” and “As Left” readings
    4. Maintenance or Acceptance tolerances used
    5. Whether the scale passes or fails


16 Sep

New packing line equipment helps produce supplier improve revenue

We recently helped North Carolina produce supplier, Corey Produce, with weighing issues that “cropped up” after they established their own packing facility. The company had been sending sweet potatoes and watermelons to be packed elsewhere, but decided to cut out the middleman last year. The Robersonville, North Carolina farm was using a simple (but inaccurate) eyeballing method to fill boxes. To ensure it did not short its customers, Corey wound up overfilling the boxes and shorting itself instead!

The new facility ships in two box sizes: a 40 pound carton box 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.

For this application, Fairbanks recommended that Corey 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 to this popular scale, so workers never have to pick up the boxes.

Operators placed the Series III bench scale with roller balls at the end of their conveyor line. They fill the 40 pound carton box and slide it down the scale. The scale will weigh up to 150 pounds in increments of .05 pounds. If the box weighs more than 40 pounds, operators remove potatoes to get as close the target weight as possible. The scale is used with a large 1-inch backlit LCD display enabled with auto shutoff timer and an RS232 serial interface.

For the first six months, Corey packed the large 500 kilo boxes, visually estimating 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. Most of the sweet potatoes are being exported to the Netherlands, so they felt it was important there be no question of accuracy.

After six months of “guesstimation,” they began to be 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 FB 1100 Series instrument, which comes with a highly visible 2-inch backlit LCD. 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.

Corey 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.

This year Corey also began packing watermelon in a separate packing facility within the same building and purchased new scales for this operation. The watermelons are fed down a long belt, past brushes that clean off the sand from the field. After that they go down another long belt with seven scales that are used to weigh them and separate them into three different sizes, which makes it much easier to ship the sizes required by specific customers.

In addition to supplying the scales, Fairbanks also handles setup and calibration. This has proved to be a great benefit to Corey, especially given the rigorous scale calibration process required by the food safety audit they have to conduct for watermelon and sweet potato operations. Fairbanks also performs calibration once a year before the sweet potato and watermelon seasons start just to check the scales and make sure they are ready for the season.

02 Aug

LabelBank / DataBank software is not just for the food industry – read on to see how it helps with labeling and tracking bags of currency

Tracking boxes, crates, and bags of product is important to most businesses, but it’s especially important in the currency business! Recently, a leading armored car business asked us to help them develop a better process for labeling and tracking bags of money. They wanted to improve the accuracy and verification of bagged currency and aid in compliance with government regulations.

We suggested that they look at the LabelBank/DataBank Rapid Bar Code Labeling System. The industrial bar coding system for data acquisition, bar coding, and labeling combines user-friendly, factory-installed software with a networkable touch screen instrument and high-speed industrial thermal bar code printer. Optional software allows users to custom format labels. The system, widely used for food labeling applications, is crossing into virtually every industry.

Armored vehicles need to verify weight of loose coin bags

The armored car company provides armored transportation to the Federal Reserve Bank, commercial, and bank customers. When processing bags of loose coins, they verify bag weight by denomination, which allows them to catch any bags that are not the declared value and minimize the variance to the end user.

The company did not have a way to properly label processed bags with all of the information required. They were looking for an automated system that gets the right information on the label, so they could speed up the process and eliminate human error. The bags need to be verified for deposit by denomination to be within a specified weight tolerance. They also must be labeled with the bank name, ABA routing number, denomination, and dollar value. If the information on the bag is not complete or correct, the armored car company was liable for any variance from the declared value on the bag.

Fairbanks Scales immediately started investigating the process. We identified the key personnel and the required methods and processes. In addition to a system that could guarantee accurate weighment, record the data into a database, and label the product with an approved label, the company really wanted to reduce human error in counting the quantity of bags. They also needed immediate access to the information gathered.

After reviewing the requirements, we determined that the LabelBank/DataBank Rapid Bar Code Labeling System was the optimal solution. LabelBank allowed the armored car company to uniquely identify each bag of currency for their customers with an easy to understand label. It also helps them offer additional services, including customized labeling and immediate data reporting. DataBank provides a solid platform for storing and integrating the data collected with third-party applications.

The system also includes a secure override function, which can be used to authorize approval of an out-of-tolerance condition. The function immediately alerts the company to any errors, and records the error, along with the authorizing override account for traceability and measurement.

The system brought a new level of efficiency and compliance to the company’s operations. It streamlined their weighing process, and is helping them provide a level of service unmatched by anyone in their industry.

So, LabelBank/DataBank is not just for food, but it’s a tasty solution nonetheless.


05 Jul

Don’t give contaminants a place to hide! — My top 4 sanitary design tips for weighing equipment

Every day it seems there is another story in the news media about companies that have to recall their products due to some type of harmful contamination. A few recent notable examples that spring to mind include an E coli scare from ground beef, a 500 million egg recall due to a Salmonella scare, and of course the death of 23 people from Listeria in cantaloupes.

That’s why I am so passionate about the need to use weighing equipment designed using the sanitary design principles issued by the American Meat Institute’s Equipment Design Task Force. It’s the only way to make sure we reduce food product contamination risks throughout the complete process – from producer to consumer.

The Task force worked with equipment manufacturers, certifying organizations and government officials to develop guidelines to reduce the risk of contamination of food products by pathogens.

Identifying sanitary principles can be an enormous task with each industry having a different perspective.  I have listed The Ten Principles of Sanitary Design that have been identified by the AMI. They are:

  1. Cleanable to a Microbiological Level
  2. Made of Compatible Materials
  3. Accessible for Inspection, Maintenance, Cleaning, and Sanitation
  4. No Product or Liquid Collection
  5. Hollow Area Should be Hermetically Sealed
  6. No Niches
  7. Sanitary Operational Performance
  8. Hygienic Design of Maintenance Enclosures
  9. Hygienic Compatibility With Other Plant Systems
  10. Validated Cleaning and Sanitizing Protocols


While developed for the meat industry, the guidelines apply equally well to equipment for all food uses.


The use of stainless steel construction is a critical part of sanitary design for scales – but I’ve observed that many scale manufacturers consider this to be the only important factor in the overall design. Here are my top four sanitary design tips for scaling equipment:

# 1 – Cleaning accessibility

All parts of the equipment must be readily accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning, and sanitation without the use of tools. Make sure you have quick and easy access to clean floor scales to prevent debris build-up and bacterial growth. This includes access to any tight spots that may harbor unwanted material or bacteria. Equipment should be free of niches and recesses to allow for proper cleaning procedures. Look for equipment that minimizes gaps and eliminates bacteria-harboring areas, like lap seams, protruding edges, inside threads, and bolt rivets.

For example, we designed the Aegis Lift Deck floor scale to give quick and easy access to clean in and around the scale. The QuickSilver platforms are also designed to be easily cleaned.

#2 – No product or liquid collection

Make sure your equipment is self-draining so liquid does not accumulate, pool, or condense on the equipment. Maintenance enclosures and all push buttons, valve handles, switches, and touch screens should prevent penetration or accumulation of food, water, or product liquid. Also, enclosures should be sloped or pitched to avoid their use as a storage area.

#3 – Hermetically seal all hollow areas

Be sure to eliminate or permanently seal hollow areas, like frames and rollers, whenever possible. For example, bolts, studs, mounting plates, brackets, junction boxes, nameplates, end caps, and sleeves should be continuously welded to the surface—not attached via drilled and tapped holes.

#4 – Select the right load cell for a food-grade environment

Selecting the right load cell is crucial to ensure accuracy and performance, especially in a food-grade environment. The internal components of the load cell contain electronic circuits that require protection in a wash-down environment. For example, Fairbanks Scales uses stainless steel construction and hermetically sealed components in load cells to prevent entry of moisture and other external contaminants into the body of the load cell.

01 Jun

A good scale maintenance program pays for itself – make sure your program includes these five components

An accurate scale is an essential tool for any company whose revenues are based on the weight of goods entering or exiting a facility. Without scale accuracy a company can lose thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. On the other side of the equation, annual maintenance costs for a truck scale run anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. If one compares that to the potential cost of weighing errors, most users find that a good scale maintenance program more than pays for itself; oftentimes it also pays for the actual cost of the scale.

To be most effective, a scale maintenance program must have five key components:  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 thorough reporting. Here’s my take on the key aspect of each component.

Use a state licensed service provider

A commercial scale company cannot certify a scale – only the state weights and measures organization can do that. But the commercial company has 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. So make sure the commercial scale company you are using shows you their valid license.

Use state-certified test weights for calibration

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.

Make sure testing process is thorough

The test should start by determining the length of the platform and the total number of sections along that length. (A scale section is where there is a load point, also called a load cell or strain gauge). Load points are where weight is transferred from the load to the scale and where scale accuracy is maintained. It is critical that the accuracy of each load points is maintained, so as weight is applied, it is transferred evenly. If a load point or section fails a strain test, then it must be calibrated to conform to requirements by making a mechanical or electronic adjustment.

Incorporate visual inspection and repairs

A thorough scale maintenance program must include regular visual inspection, followed by any necessary repairs of issues found. The visual inspection should include scale condition, regulatory conformance, signs of damage and debris buildup, safety, clearance, corrosion, and any electrical conditions. A good service company should conduct a free visual inspection be able to perform any minor repairs while on-site for the maintenance visit.

Thorough reporting

Every 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.

03 May

Best practices for truck scale owners in the recycling and solid waste industry – 7 tips to ensure your profits

In today’s recycling and solid waste industry, uptime is of utmost importance. Most facilities focus on getting trucks in and out quickly – but have you ever stopped to think how neglecting your scale can lead to inaccuracies that eat into your profits?

Here’s a real example: A simple error of one increment (20 lbs.) on a product with a value of $.05 per pound and a duty cycle of 100 weighments per day (assuming 300 working days per year) can lead to $30,000 in annual product loss. For a product valued at $3 per pound, the annual loss skyrockets to $1.8 million!

To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, follow these 7 simple tips:

  1. Implement a calibration and inspection agreement – Depending on the requirements and type of weighing device, inspection costs can be as low as $500 annually – a small price to pay compared to the potential loss figures. Two inspections per year should be fine for most scales, but some recycling and solid waste facilities experience heavy traffic that may justify more frequent service.
  2. Keep the scale foundation clean – Recycling and solid waste operations generates a lot of debris, so be sure to regularly remove the build-up to avoid scale inaccuracies. A pressure sprayer is a fast and easy way to clear debris and eliminate build-up. Just be sure junction boxes, electronics, and load cells are properly rated to withstand pressure washing.
  3. Perform your own inspection of all scale components – Inspect the weighbridge, junction boxes (inside and out), and module connection hardware. Also check load cells, cables, connections, and wiring. Don’t forget to inspect the paint system – it’s a critical barrier against scale corrosion on your weighbridge steel. Also check cover plate connection hardware, and grease load cell cups at recommended intervals.
  4. Make adjustments to account for normal thermal expansion at different times of year – Readjust your scale checking system, which keeps the weighbridge in place as it naturally rocks and moves from traffic. Excessive movement adds unnecessary wear to other components, so be sure the checking is properly secure.
  5. Keep your scale grounded – Today’s truck scales use sophisticated electronics to communicate weighment data to the instrument. A securely grounded scale is a basic defense from lightning and power surges.
  6. Monitor your scale’s use – Abusive and aggressive entrance and exiting of traffic accelerates wear. Traffic signals, speed bumps, and guide post kits at the approach and exit can manage traffic flow and truck speed very effectively for a small investment.
  7. Install accessories where necessary – A few well-chosen accessories can prevent truck scale issues. Examples include riser plates, load cell boots, and steel or EPDM rubber belting.

How you implement these best practices is up to you. Whether you partner with a qualified service provider or go it alone, one thing is certain – neglecting your scale costs you profit.

If you want to know more about these best practices and learn more about keeping your scale running efficiently, come by and see us at Waste Expo. We will be at booth #3622. While you’re there, be sure to take a look at the innovations in weighing equipment, including the Talon HVX heavy-duty truck scale, equipped with the innovative Intalogix Lightning/Power Surge Protection system and our FBAS Unattended Remote Weighing Terminal.

23 Mar

How do you make the best use of your limited truck shipment preparation space?

I often hear complaints about how cramped shipping areas can sometimes make it hard to operate. In manufacturing and warehouse applications where floor space is at a premium, you have to make every inch count – and that may be as easy as changing your floor scale.

One great option is the Yellow Jacket U-Shaped floor scale, which allows material handlers to capture the weight of standard and non-standard pallets and skids without removing the pallet jack.

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.

The scale is only 2.4 inches tall and does not require a ramp or pit, so installation is fast, economical and easy. Accessories offered include a portable wheel kit and a quick-disconnect cable (between the scale and the readout), which make it very easy to move. The built-in handles, used to move the scale, were specifically designed for optimum comfort and to avoid stress and injury.

That ergonomic factor proved to be a plus for a major toy distribution center in the Midwest that ships using parcel, less than truckload (LTL), and full truckload modes. The company had reduced the area devoted to shipping as part of an overall facility space reorganization. Unfortunately, they found that the reductions had a major impact on the LTL department, leaving the area with limited space dedicated to the preparation of truck shipments.

The company had one older floor scale, and about 10 table scales for UPS-type parcel shipping. They decided to look into using the new Yellow Jacket U-Shaped Floor Scale to see how it could help them make the best use of their shipping area. What they found was that it really helped them manipulate their space better. Not only did it reduce square footage needed for the floor scale, they were able to move the scale around easily, so they did not have to find a permanent space for the scale.

They especially like the fact that the new scale does not require going through all the motions of going up the ramp, removing the pallet jack, replacing the pallet jack under the load, and then going down the ramp. It is far more ergonomically friendly to just roll in the jack, release the jack and weigh the skid. Employees no longer have to tug it uphill or up an incline.

So if you have a packaging application where pallet jacks are primarily used to move product, this scale option may save hundreds of man-hours by eliminating the time required to remove the pallet jacket from the scale to capture the weight.

16 Feb

What’s the best ways to get transactional data out of your instrument and into your accounting system?

The sooner you get scale data into your accounting or ERP system, the faster you can invoice customers or assess your costs and expenses. But what’s the best way to do so?

First, a word on just what data you will be collecting. I would say that the key transactional data needed are who the driver is, the account numbers (truck #, trailer#), the product being weighed, date and time the truck weighed in and out, and the weight.

As for methods, one common method is the low-tech way – by hand. With this method, scale operators take the pile of duplicate tickets printed that day and hand it over it to a clerk or accountant, who manually keys the transactional data into a database or accounting system to generate invoices for what they bought or sold.

Another method commonly used is use of several instruments that generate a transaction report by customer or commodity. A third method is downloading scale information from the scale onto a flash drive or USB and then taking the information inside for use by the accounting department. Then there are many software packages that connect directly to a personal computer – these may (or may not) export cleanly into accounting software.

But the clear gold standard is a networkable system that gets data directly from the scale into the accounting software with no need for manual intervention. I highly recommend this method because the more accurately and quickly you can get scale data into your accounting system, the easier it will be for you to make business decisions – the right decisions.

And I don’t think cost is nearly the drawback it may once have been. You can now get a high-level of automation and networking at a very affordable price that will help you transition from manual data entry into a back-end or ERP system. This kind of equipment can even interface with Internet protocol (IP) cameras and get video images to go along with your tickets.

In my experience I’ve found that what’s keeping more people from implementing such a system often comes down to fear of the unknown, and maybe a basic lack of understanding or even a lack of confidence in their ability to deal with a new technology. Another thing I hear is that the scale house is a long way from the office, and the scale owner does not want to incur the cost of getting connectivity from the office. Even that’s no excuse anymore – wireless, short haul modems, or even cellular technology, are all proven, readily available, and affordable technologies that can get you connected.

So to sum it up, I recommend the use of networked systems to get transactional data out of the instrument and into the accounting system. This will give you the ability to make more real time decisions about what’s happening in your business.

13 Jan

Encapsulating your scale circuit board electronics will increase your uptime

As an area sales manager for the (snowy) Denver region – plus years of experience installing truck and rail scales around the United States and the world – I have seen the effects of different climates on scale electronics. I have come to a firm belief in the necessity of encapsulating the main electronic components of truck and rail scales to make absolutely sure that the scale is impervious to moisture penetration. Fairbanks identified this need very early on as we shifted from the older mechanical truck scales to the full electronic lines of scales. We started about 15 years ago and continue in that belief to this day. Here’s why.

Why do scales need to be encapsulated?

The number one issue affecting electronics is the climate and weather in which the scale operates. Snow, ice, and water can have a major effect, as can temperature changes that produce condensation.

Besides these environmental factors, there are several human factors that play into the desirability of encapsulation. First is the potential for control boxes to get hit or damaged. Things like tightening and loosening of gland nuts, over-torqued cover bolts, vibration, and even physical damage to the enclosure can affect performance. Chipping away at that ice and debris can also damage components.

Secondly, the scales (both above and below ground) require regular cleaning. When operators clean scales they may use direct water pressure, and risk accidentally spraying directly on components. Encapsulating is a great safeguard for protecting the vital components of a truck scale.

I should mention that I recommend encapsulation for all truck and rail scale electronics and boards. For industrial scales, the need for encapsulation depends more on where the installation is taking place and especially if temperature changes are going to occur. For example, if the scale will be used with a tank weighing assembly, or with hoppers or bins located outside, one may really benefit by protection from the environment. Encapsulation can also benefit surge protection. The Fairbanks’ Intalogix™ system, part of scale instruments used with its scales, encapsulates its smart sectional controller (SSC) and pit power supply (PPS), protecting against dangerous power surges and lightning strikes. 

What will it cost you if you don’t encapsulate?

Now let’s talk about the costs of not encapsulating to protect the scale electronics. In a word, these costs are limitless – when the scale is down, the operation cannot use its cash register. The length of downtime has to include the response time for locating and scheduling a service technician. The total costs of this downtime can be considerable, depending on how many trucks are being run, the cost of the commodity, and the operation’s ability to use a secondary scale. In my experience, electronics is the main reason for truck scale downtime.

How are electronics encapsulated?

Encapsulation can be done with a variety of materials. At Fairbanks, we use a difunctional bisphenol A/Epichlorohynrin “epoxy” resin. The base is then cross-linked with an “amine” hardener blend. We chose this system because it has exceptional electrical insulating properties. It is also translucent, so you can see through the thick epoxy to spot any issues on the circuit board.

The epoxy formulation is a tried and true chemistry that has been used for decades. You can find it in tooling, casting and molding, electrical and aerospace applications, marine coatings for boat hulls, and chemical-resistant tank linings.

Depending on the operating environment, scale electronic encapsulation can last more than 20 years. When not encapsulated, the scale’s common structural steel may still be intact, but the electronics would likely fail long before they would on an encapsulated board.

The early encapsulation design Fairbanks pioneered in the early 2000s has been constantly improving through manufacturing innovations and real world experience. I regularly come across customers who have installed competitors’ equipment (or even Fairbanks pre-encapsulation equipment) and they recognize the long term benefit of providing encapsulation to their scales.

The scale is the cash register for businesses in many industries, so the ability to weigh things accurately day in and day out is vital. If the scale is not accurate or is out of service, costs can mount quickly. Encapsulating electronics will go a long way toward eliminating this costly downtime.