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Added value: the best way to deliver ROI

16 July 2018

With budgets under pressure, the initial purchase price of any new piece of equipment comes under close scrutiny, and there is a great temptation to go with the cheapest option. Torsten Giese believes that this is a mistake. Here he highlights the importance of really understanding what you are getting for your money. 

In the food processing industry today it is imperative to maximise efficiencies and throughput on production lines. This has created the need to reduce costs wherever possible and this is particularly true of checkweighers. Because multihead weighers can deliver pinpoint accuracy, the checkweigher’s role can be viewed as superfluous – it is required to meet legislative or retailer requirements so many cannot see the point in investing in higher specification models.

However, because it is required for legislative purposes, if it fails to operate then product is prevented from leaving the factory. This makes checkweigher reliability a critical factor in any purchase, so it is important to investigate the performance record of potential your checkweighing equipment.

The design and construction of the checkweigher makes an essential contribution to delivering long-term peace of mind. It is wise, therefore, to find a solution that can operate in challenging environments and which offer features such as a Dislocating Force Limiter, which automatically disconnects the weigh sensor from the weigh conveyor should sudden excessive force be applied, for example during clean down. Easy-to-use, intuitive controls will help to speed up set-up and changeover times and minimise the potential for operator error.

Because a checkweigher is a must-have piece of equipment it makes sense to maximise its use. While many factories operate fully integrated and automated lines, because these are made up of different pieces of equipment, it is unlikely they will operate consistently at their peak rate. There will always be slight variations or occasional hold-ups which may affect overall performance. The ability to spot potential problems, and to be able to react to these as quickly as possible, is crucial to deliver the highest level of efficiencies, particularly as there are now fewer opportunities for human intervention.

This is an area where the checkweigher is able to take on an increasingly important role. Many of today’s models have the software capability to deliver valuable information that can be used to improve the performance and efficiency of production lines.

This ability to analyse data is a significant benefit. For example, information on overweight products could highlight that a chocolate bar is consistently 2g over the required weight. This may suggest that the enrober is putting on too much chocolate. For a ready meal, the same overweight each time might identify a particular ingredient that is being added in too high numbers.

Significantly, this data is instantly available and accessible and can be delivered remotely so that information can quickly be compiled and compared between different lines, even at different locations. In this way, the software plays a valuable role in assessing a line’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

Just as important, this high level of remote monitoring can extend beyond just the checkweigher to include other machines on the line, and can combine data capture and in-depth analysis with a continual check on the actual performance of each piece of equipment.

Such IT solutions enable individual machines and also complete single and multiple packing lines to be monitored by both the equipment supplier and the food processor and packer. This provides preventative maintenance, where issues can be anticipated and action taken before machines and packing lines experience even one minute of downtime. These systems also help with the scheduling of regular service visits, allowing them to be pre-planned to suit production times. A high level of remote monitoring will help to increase efficiency and reduce downtime, and lead to a very fast return on investment. Such a long term gain is much more desirable than the ‘quick win’ of a lower initial purchase price.

Torsten Giese is marketing manager, PR and exhibitions at Ishida Europe.

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