Trying to fill totes with product according to weight and specific project orders can be very labor intensive, time consuming and somewhat troublesome. This is especially true if there are product variables such as varied size and additional treatments affecting the volume and weight of the product.
We recently helped a customer increase productivity and decrease labor activities a great deal. Initially, he was using two independent 4’ x 4’ 5,000 lb floor scales, side-by-side to fill product totes. He would fill one tote to a desired target weight and then manually re-position a Y-valve over the neighboring empty tote.
The previously filled tote would then be subsequently removed after noting the weight and replaced with an empty tote. This activity continued until the desired computed weight accumulation for the project (customer) was complete.
The desire here was to automate the preferred process. To do this, we replaced the two basic indicators with a smart, programmable indicator. This allowed for our programming to use a specified formula incorporating user input of product and treatment variables to designate the necessary tote target, and project weights. Once the operator initiates the project, the smart indicator monitors the progression of weight accordingly. It subsequently provides an output signal to an actuator directing compressed air to re-position the Y valve as the tote target level is achieved. As the second tote fills, the first is removed and replaced and that scale is re-zeroed and ready for use.
The preceding process continues until the project run weight is achieved. An override feature was provided, should additional product filling be desired near the end of the run. As you can imagine, productivity and efficiency jumped dramatically from using the smart indicator and our associated program in this system development.
Both the customer and employees are happy with the reduced labor, greater efficiency, and accuracy.
Some of our most popular products, such as labeling systems, sortation systems, and in-motion weighing systems, need to gather information so that our customers can know production levels, yields, and the serial numbers associated with labeling performed over a particular span of time.
These systems must be able to interact with our customers’ databases. From our years of experience, we have found the following guidelines to be very helpful in integrating with our customers’ data and databases:
• Standalone Systems
• Host Program
• Custom Reports
We design and program our systems to perform their functions as standalone systems. That means the industrial controller that we supply will be equipped to perform certain functions, and it will have a SQL database for real-time information collecting. These industrial controllers can house our customers’ databases for any information that might be needed to properly perform their functions.
For example, the scale on a labeling system measures the weight of a product and sends that information to the system controller. The controller looks at the customer’s database and reads the tare weight associated with that product ID, calculates the net weight, and sends that information to the label printer.
If, on the other hand, the industrial controller on a labeling system does not have a copy of our customer’s database, but instead needs to access a remote database that might be controlled and updated on the fly, the entire process becomes slower and more complicated. If there are performance problems, troubleshooting becomes somewhat of a guessing game, and the responsibility for non-performance will be anything but clear.
With our standalone systems, you can make changes to your database directly on the industrial controller or with our optional host program, you can update your database remotely and then update the controller via your network.
Our systems collect data and store it in the SQL database. From there, it can be retrieved and processed into the number of reports that you want. Some of our customers are comfortable designing their own database queries, while others turn to our programming department to customize the reports they want.
With the vital role that information plays in today’s production environments, we can help you gather information and do so in a way that seamlessly integrates your data with our systems
This is a common question that we deal with. The washdown computers (HMIs) and industrial controllers that we sell are commonly used for all sorts of data entry and control functions, so we know how potentially dangerous it could be to have one stop working. Though it might seem like a complex question, there is often a simple answer to why your electronics aren’t working properly.
When people come asking why their washdown computer (HMI) isn’t working, one of the most common responses they get is to check their cables, connections, and network between the interface and inputs. We find that most often, the washdown computers (HMIs/controllers) are working just fine. Things like cords can be broken or worn far faster in most cases. Before you scrap your interface, check to see that any wireless networks you have are running smoothly and try replacing input cables.
It is no secret that water is easily capable of ruining expensive electronics. Washdown computers (HMIs) are no different. Their biggest enemy is water and washdown crews who wield it indiscriminately.
We make our washdown computers (HMIs) very sturdy and water resistant to an extent, but they still need to be washed with certain things in mind. They are almost always stored inside some sort of enclosure to provide moisture protection. Washdown operators push the limits of the enclosures occasionally as they can’t necessarily handle a power washer being directed intentionally at the sealant for an extended period. Enclosures are waterproof but not foolproof, so this can be a cause for moisture ingress to your washdown computers (HMIs) and controllers.
We are occasionally asked, “Why isn’t my washdown computer ( HMI) working like the other guys?” This is often because they are comparing their older, outdated washdown computer to someone else’s new interface or indicator. Washdown computers, like any product, have a life expectancy, and at the very least, they need to be updated occasionally.
It makes sense that some of our more complex programs aren’t going to run as well on an washdown computer (HMI) or controller that hasn’t been upgraded recently. Some of these old washdown computers and controllers are still using old operating systems like MS-DOS.
Washdown computers need to be maintained just like any other machine in your plant. Make sure they are properly taken care of and updated, so you can avoid these issues.
Well, maybe. But, from the outside, we clearly do a lot of work with weighing and automation, but what people don’t always recognize is the sheer amount of data handling that we do behind the scenes. Depending on how you want to integrate your data, we should be able to accommodate.
Every system we make is intended to be standalone; meaning that everything it does is handled internally from the beginning of the process to the end. This applies to how we prefer to handle data as well. Ideally, we receive complete product data from your databases, use it to perform our operation and then send it out to a database where the plant can then access it and update their information. This makes things like labeling and product inventory simple and easy to update.
The biggest problem we have with data handling is when plant managers have outside software companies handling all of their programming needs, because they tend to throw wrenches into the process. This stems from the fact that these software companies like to control every process.
With companies like this, the process often becomes harder to work through because they insist that their system and ours communicate back and forth to receive and send data within the process. An example of this happens with systems that use pre-identification scanners.
As happens often with labeling, when a product passes by for a pre-identification scan, these plants often request that we send that product code back to their system so it can retrieve label information and then send it back to us. This amount of heavy communication back and forth between multiple systems can greatly slow the process and makes it less secure from connection and networking issues.
Having control over every aspect of plant programming makes software companies feel secure because they don’t want to worry about the plant managers thinking that someone else has valuable programming skills. We aren’t in this to compare skills; we just simply believe that our systems work best in the way that we designed them to work.
So, to get the most out of a system of ours, all you need to do is give it the correct information at the front end so that it can work quickly and give you the best data at the back end. It’s far more simple and efficient this way.
Manual case labeling systems are very widely used in the industry today. There is also the thought of “let’s buy what we need today and worry about the future when it comes.”
This is a common misconception.
When looking for a good manual case labeling system, take a moment to look into the future. Look at what your current needs are and what they could possibly be in a couple years.
- Do you plan on growing the business?
- How many boxes per minute could you need to do then?
These are some of the questions you should look at.
If your current case labeling needs are at a low volume, where you are splitting the duties of a person to do other jobs beside the case labeling, a manual unit should do just fine. We have systems available that can keep your cost down and still offer you a system that is user friendly and will meet your current needs.
The difference could be in the controller. You can use a smart indicator on the scale that will also hold your label formats and send all of the information to the printer for a hand applied label. We also have human machine interface (HMI) controllers that offer more options for your manual case labeling needs.
If you have many PLU’s and a bunch of different label formats you may need to go with the HMI. The HMI can offer you a touchscreen option with hot keys that speed up lines. The HMI’s can integrate scanners to speed up the labeling process. There is the ability to send raw data back to your server for inventory control purposes, and the list goes on.
Now let’s look into the future: your business grows and you have a person case labeling full time with your manual system. You look at the cost of that person and decide to expand your current system into an auto case labeling system. Here is where a little planning before you bought your manual system can pay off.
If you had decided to go with a HMI, you can continue to use the HMI and upgrade to an auto print and apply system. You have saved the cost of a controller and your label information is already in the unit. So when looking at buying a manual box labeling system, stop and look into the future!
What could your future needs be?
See how we can give you options that offer savings down the road, if and when you need to upgrade to a faster unit!