Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Forklift-mounted scales balance productivity with accuracy



Avery Weigh-Tronix (USA) - Forklift scales provide a continuous means of capturing shipment data for internal and regulatory requirements while minimizing production downtime. Don Halbert, Product Manager at Avery Weigh-Tronix, discusses how forklift scale data can contribute to operational efficiency.

Properly managing inventory and billing in material handling and logistics environments often depends upon documenting and weighing freight upon arrival and before shipping. Material handling charges are frequently determined by the weight of the transported load. That makes high-accuracy weighing processes key to optimizing revenue in these applications.

Precise weighing also ensures customers are invoiced for the exact amount of materials purchased or shipped, maintaining a satisfied customer base and improving inventory management. By enhancing productivity and billing accuracy, a reliable scale system can contribute to thousands of dollars in savings each year.

When businesses require weight data to maximize profit, increase efficiencies or meet legislation requirements, they need a continuous means of capturing that data. By providing real-time data, forklift scales can contribute to operational efficiency while minimizing production downtime.

Scale Expectations:
A forklift scale allows integration of weighing and data management—making it possible to lift, weigh, move and record a load in one operation. Specific types of forklift scales provide legal-for-trade weighing of loads up to 16,000 pounds, allowing end users to employ them in applications with large loads while ensuring they remain within specified weighing regulations. The forklift’s built-in system allows operators to accurately weigh materials while in transit, which increases productivity. Forklift scales consist of a scale unit bolted onto a forklift carriage, which utilizes electronic weight sensors to deliver reliable weighing—even if the forklift mast is tilted or the pallet load is off-center. The sensors can also compensate for inconsistent weighing conditions, such as operating the forklift on uneven ground.

The forklift driver generally uses an in-cab instrument to manage data collection and communicate weight data to the center’s computers. This allows supervisors to monitor and manage freight arrival and shipments in real-time, facilitating more efficient, accurate inventory and billing records.

A forklift scale’s one-piece construction can reduce the likelihood of failure due to the strain of frequent, heavy loads or harsh industrial environments. The forklift scale system may also incorporate large vision windows to ensure drivers can observe and monitor fork tips throughout material transport.

Examples from the Field:
Cougle’s Recycling:
This full-service recycling center for paper, corrugated paper, plastic, glass and non-ferrous metals serves thousands of customers, from small stores to complete communities. It weighs and grades materials as they arrive at the facility and after they are compacted into bales. When Cougle’s identified that its weighing operation was slowing down production and affecting data accuracy, it considered a system solution that could handle constant usage and integrate with new data management software.

Originally, drivers weighed the loads on one of two floor scales, which required the driver to leave the lift truck to record the weight. Operators then sent the handwritten paperwork to the office for processing of the transport and billing documents. This process was extremely inefficient as forklift drivers had to wait their turn at the floor scales, causing congestion and at times, making the area unsafe for employees working nearby. Cougle’s also determined that recording the data manually could lead to errors, ultimately affecting the material grade and its value.

To increase efficiency, Cougle’s retrofitted forklift scales to seven of their forklifts. The scales enabled Cougle’s to integrate weighing and data management seamlessly into their operation. The scale unit was installed onto each truck’s fork carriage so that drivers could lift, weigh, move and record the load in just one operation, without leaving the cab. Onboard wireless PCs were also installed to transmit the weight data to a central computer for analysis.

After two months, productivity increased significantly—and Cougle was already anticipating a total productivity increase of over thirty percent in the following months. In addition to increased productivity, the new system prevents operators from lifting overweight loads, reducing excessive wear and tear to the forklifts.

Quality Metalcraft:
Serving the automotive industry for nearly half a century, Quality Metalcraft, Inc. (QMC) is an automotive engineering, prototype and low volume production facility. The company combines state-of-the-art machinery with traditional finishing techniques to deliver quick turnarounds on high-quality components, ranging from small brackets and simple fabrications to large body-in-white components and assemblies.

To confirm material costs, each metallic component is weighed twice: once as it arrives and once after it has been processed. QMC used a central floor scale to determine and record these weights. All forklift operators used this single scale, and transactions were documented by hand, resulting in a time-consuming and, at times, inaccurate process.

QMC needed to streamline the weighing process to save forklift operator time, while providing high accuracy, so that QMC would only pay for the materials actually received. The company also wanted to employ an efficient way to track each job throughout manufacturing, which would improve plant communications and process visibility.

QMC installed a scale system directly on its forklift to enable legal-for-trade weighing of loads up to 16,000 lbs. The benefits of being able to weigh loads in-motion extend beyond time savings. The company also implemented a wireless scanner that allows the forklift operator to scan the flat laser blank when it arrives, instantly assigning an initial weight for each job number. This job can be tracked via the company’s computer system throughout processing, providing a running total of the materials used at all times.

This electronic documentation keeps employees up-to-date on each job—a significant advantage at QMC, where at any moment 250 production parts may be rolling out the door.

Lakeville Motor Express:
With a diverse customer base in ten states, Lakeville Motor Express is an LTL carrier that offers pool distribution, brokerage and logistics services. To optimize profits and protect shippers, Lakeville Motor Express uses forklift scales to weigh and bill freight picked up from various facilities and transferred to customers. The forklift scales verify that the customer pays for exactly the amount of freight transported, instead of estimating the weight of each load.

The forklift scales ensure Lakeville Motor Express obtains precise, legal-for-trade weights for loads, provides enhanced visibility for the company’s dock man and expedites operator training with an in-cab instrument.

Lakeville Motor Express also utilizes a bar code scanner connected to the in-cab instrument, which allows operators to quickly scan packages and input all necessary product and company information. With this arrangement, operators are not required to punch in each bill number individually—saving them a significant amount of time.

Conclusion:
Forklift scales allow operators to weigh materials en route while recording pertinent material and weight data, enhancing productivity and optimizing revenue.

For more information about the Avery Weigh-Tronix Forklift-mounted scales click here.

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