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.
Upgrades to plant equipment often come in tandem with trends because of a meat market with fluctuating prices. Currently, pork seems to be the most profitable endeavor, as we see a lot of interest in various systems for weighing hogs and sorting various cuts of meat.
It makes sense that equipment would be improved in the market with the highest profit because it allows the companies to make the most out of that upswing. At the same time, it improves efficiency for processing meat when it isn’t making as much profit so they can add a little extra to the bottom line.
Because of these trends, the high throughput for pork requires new ways to handle products. In the case of ribs, a sortation system can make the perfect addition.
When you look at the rib market, there is a large amount of variety. There are multiple different types of ribs based on where they were cut from and how they were cut. For example, baby back ribs are cut from the loin while spare ribs are cut from the belly. The spare ribs generally have more meat, while the baby back ribs are more tender.
The distinctions between ribs get even more confusing after that. As another example, companies will sometimes cut spare ribs down to be more like baby back ribs, and these are called “St. Louis” ribs.
If the variety of rib type wasn’t enough, customers buying ribs often ask for a large number of different sizes and weights based on their needs. Smokehouses and restaurants will want sections of ribs at an ideal weight, while a co-packer might want entire sets of ribs or large sections which they can work into more specialized cuts.
An automatic sortation system is perfect for this type of environment. Rather than having a dozen employees responsible for all of these different criteria, you could use one machine. Compared to the employees, the sortation system doesn’t get tired or make errors in judgment.
A sortation system can easily be customized with as many drops as a customer would want, and it can sort those ribs by any information which you can put into a database, such as sorting by both weight and type. This allows you to accurately meet specific orders with speed and with minimal human interaction.
If you are trying to get complicated rib orders filled via hand sorting, an automatic sortation system should definitely be a consideration.
Some might be asking this question simply because hide sorting has traditionally been a very time consuming and old-fashioned process. Many places that were sending hides off to be processed would simply take the hide and throw it on a bench scale. They would take the weight and then inspect it for any sort of deficiencies or grading issues before throwing some salt on the hide, folding it, and sending it elsewhere to be worked on.
There has to be a more efficient way to sort hides than that, right?
This is the question we asked ourselves when we designed the best hide scale on the market and a sorting operation to go with it.
Normally, in a hide plant, the hides are suspended by two wheel trolleys that roll along the channels of an I-beam overhead. For weighing purposes, many places are currently cutting a section of that I-beam in order to separate it from the rest. It is then attached to a scale, so trolleys and hides can be weighed as they cross over that I-beam section. It makes sense when you think about it, but it is a fairly inaccurate method because that wasn’t the I-beams intended purpose and all sorts of outside factors can influence the weighment.
This led us to make our hide scale as an upgrade. The hide scale is a heavy duty scale that makes use of special trolleys which pivot upon entering the scale. The trolley pivots out of center with the carcass in order to isolate the carcass weight as it passes over the scale. This gives it incredibly accurate readings that surpass any other conventional methods for weighment.
With that accurate weight information, the hide is graded at a manual grading station by a user who is inspecting for defects, thickness, and type of hide. With all of that information together, the system can make a decision on where the hide should be sorted to. Once the hide reaches its intended location, whether that be a bin or some sort of brine chill, a mechanical lever pushes the trolley J-hook up until the hide simply slides off and falls into the correct spot.
The system drastically reduces any sorting issues due to poor weighments and automatically handles your hides with ease.
People sometimes confuse conveyor scales with in-motion checkweighers. They are very different instruments with different uses. Here are some comparisons and contrasts.
An in-motion checkweigher looks at singulated units of one product ID at a time, compares the weight of each unit to the acceptable weight range for that product ID, and diverts the units that are outside of the pre-determined acceptable weight parameters that are stored in its controller.
There are many methods available for diverting or rejecting items that are out of tolerance.
An in-motion checkweigher might also be asked to send a signal that would make an adjustment to a system that is feeding product to the checkweigher, based on whether products are trending heavy or light. A filling or portioning system could be told to increase or decrease the weight and/or size of products that it sends down the line.
An in-motion checkweigher can be equipped to accumulate data for statistical analysis of product variations and weight ranges.
In-motion checkweighers are often used for quality control purposes to ensure that customers are not getting less than they are paying for and that the company is not eating up profits by giving away product.
Another common use of in-motion checkweighers is as a counting scale to make sure the right number of certain items are contained in packages, boxes, or cases.
An in-motion checkweigher should have three distant conveyor sections. It should have an in-feed conveyor, a conveyor scale, and an exit conveyor. The exit conveyor will usually have some type of divert or reject mechanism.
A conveyor scale measures the weight of each separately spaced item that is conveyed across it. It can send each weighment to peripheral devices, such as label printers or a host computer system. It does not compare those weights to any stored parameters. A conveyor scale can handle chaotic flows of many different products at a time, as long as those products fall within the conveyor scale’s designed weight capacity.
A conveyor scale can be asked to accumulate information such as the number of items weighed during a period of time and the total weight of those items.
Uses for a conveyor scale can be net weight labeling and measuring production levels.
We make both types of scales and our ability to customize them will make sure that yours is optimized for your application.
Learn more about In-Motion Checkweighers.
A customer recently asked how much it costs to replace a load cell in our WeighMore® in-motion checkweigher. My answer: it costs a few hundred dollars. The precise figure can vary a little depending on a couple of specifications.
He was quite surprised because he has an in-motion checkweigher manufactured by another company that is on a tray pack production line. A replacement load cell for that checkweigher costs several thousand dollars. To make matters worse, he said it takes about six weeks to receive the replacement load cell after ordering it.
My customer said he replaces the load cell in that checkweigher once a year because it fails due to water damage despite being rated for wash down environments.
I gave my customer some numbers to consider. His tray pack line needed a load cell set to a capacity of 10 lbs. At 2,000 divisions he could checkweigh to a sensitivity of 0.005 lbs. The WeighMore® in motion checkweigher easily provides that performance level.
The next numbers he looked at were the prices on the quotes for a new WeighMore® in-motion checkweigher scale compared to the other manufacturer. The WeighMore® was nearly half the price.
Next, he compared the carrying cost of keeping a spare load cell on hand to prevent down time.
His conclusion was the same as an increasing number of people’s. The WeighMore® in-motion checkweigher costs less to purchase, less to maintain, and delivers the performance that today’s plants need.
Learn more about our Dynamic Checkweighers.