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Future-proof your weighing functions

20 May 2018

Philip Grove outlines some of the main factors to take into account in order to find the best checkweigher for your requirements. 

As with any equipment purchase, an element of crystal-ball gazing is often required when selecting a checkweigher to ensure the machine is able to meet current and potential future requirements.

For a growing and expanding food business, one additional benefit of the checkweigher is its ability to provide valuable reporting functions which can make a significant contribution to delivering and driving improved production efficiencies. The latest advances in a checkweigher’s software will help to assess a line’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) by constantly monitoring it, in terms of availability, performance and quality. The combination of these three elements provides an OEE percentage that uniquely identifies how efficiently the line is running, and it can show this value for a factory, a production line, or a particular product at any time frame, to help identify potential areas of improvement.

Speed and accuracy are essential considerations. It will be important to ensure the model chosen can handle faster speeds without any drop in accuracy requirements. Similarly, with many food manufacturers now having to handle a wider variety of products, shorter runs and more frequent changeovers, the ease of set-up will be critical to keep downtime to a minimum.

Customer requirements will also govern the choice of machine, particularly for businesses supplying own-label products. Many retailers are introducing their own individual quality standards alongside international accreditations such as BRC. It is vital that a checkweigher is ‘audit ready’ from the equipment supplier, and compliant with the retailer’s code of practice. Correct validation and verification procedures need to be in place and carried out as required; relevant checks must be implemented after each batch or hourly production run; an adequate record of verification, calibration and testing has to be kept up-to-date.

Practical considerations will include the checkweigher’s ability to fit into a line, particularly if it is a replacement for an existing solution, or needs to be integrated with other equipment such as a metal detector or case packer. Make sure hygiene requirements are covered with the necessary Ingress Protection (IP) ratings to support a facility’s cleaning practices.

An application in the Czech Republic demonstrates the value of checkweigher data. For one food manufacturer, Hügli, the data from its checkweigher is being used to carry out detailed control and monitoring of its entire packing operation. The company procduces and distributes a range of soups, sauces, bouillon, seasonings, pasta and rice meals. Currently, it has 16 checkweighers which are providing weight checks across all of its retail packs of dehydrated products, including soups, seasonings and rice dishes from 10g to 250g, operating at up to speeds of 100 packs per minute.

Among the models in use at Hügli are three ‘twin’ checkweighers, with two separate lanes, which enable high speeds to be maintained on the company’s fastest packing lines.

Hügli was the first company in the Czech Republic to install Ishida’s data capture system – IDCS – which records and analyses data from every pack that goes across an Ishida checkweigher to provide customisable real-time information with a particular emphasis on OEE, comprising the three efficiency factors of availability, performance and quality.

For Hügli, this delivers production data directly to the main computer enabling it to easily monitor the efficiency of each line and to identify any problems so that immediate action can be taken. The data also provides detailed information for any company or customer audits. Specifications for each pack are held in the checkweighers’ system which particular advantage for the Zàsmuky factory which handles around 1,000 different products.

Philip Grove is a product manager at Ishida Europe.

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