Checkweighers improve accuracy by 75% on cases containing bagged frozen french fries for foodservice.
Each day J.R. Simplot's Caldwell ID plant produces more than two million lb of frozen french fries and hash browns for major nationwide foodservice accounts like McDonald's and Burger King. The fries are packed into bags that hold between 41/2 and 61/2 lb of product. Six bags are loaded into an outer corrugated shipper holding either 27 30 36 or 39 lb. Until last year cases containing as much as 2 oz more than these targeted weights were tolerated by Boise ID-based Simplot. even with the lightest case size 2 oz represents less than 1/2 of 1% of the total case weight. But small as that may be more accurate checkweighing was sought. It wasn't just overweights that were problematic either. The occasional underweight case also posed difficulties particularly because cases were checkweighed after they were sealed. "If a case fell below a customer's specification we'd have to tear it apart and repack it with bags that would meet the case-weight requirement. That would waste the finished case" says Martin Greenbank Simplot's packaging maintenance manager. Opening sealed cases and repacking the bags also upped labor costs. To improve the accuracy of its case weights Simplot added Model HW-15 checkweighing systems from All-Fill (Exton PA). These checkweighers provide ±1/2 oz per case accuracy a 75% improvement from the checkweighers used previously. Simplot now has two checkweighers on each of the three lines where inaccurate case weights had been a problem. Using two machines per line means that if one checkweigher goes down it won't stop the line. This is the kind of redundancy that Simplot values and has incorporated throughout the three lines (see sidebar page 24). Simplot made one other key change to its checkweighing process. Unlike its previous arrangement Simplot now weighs cases before they're sealed eliminating the previously costly step of opening and repacking cases whose weights fell outside acceptable tolerances. Heavy-duty operation Like all the equipment on the three lines Simplot needed the checkweighers to operate 24 hours/day seven days/week for 48 weeks/year. "We wanted not only to improve the accuracy of the weighing system but we needed a workhorse that would require little or no maintenance" says Greenbank. "We also needed a reliable support service and a system that was well represented in this part of the country." Simplot turned to R.L. Scott & Associates (Boise ID) for help. "We were already buying metal detection systems from them and we knew they were reliable and we could count on their service and support" Greenbank asserts. As an All-Fill distributor in the area R.L. Scott & Associates recommended the All-Fill checkweigher to Simplot. "We tested the first checkweigher for three or four months to get the feel of it and everybody was happy with it" says Greenbank. At Simplot the checkweighers can reject either under- or overweight cases. They can also accept cases of the proper weight and accept cases if they are either under- or overweight but within the tolerance that Simplot and its customers deem acceptable. The checkweighers also maintain statistical data such as counts for each of these weight zones total count average weight for a batch accumulated weight for the batch and heaviest and lightest bag weights per batch. "I particularly like that the checkweighers come with an infeed conveyor weigh-platform conveyor and exit conveyor. Those are all controlled by the system. We get better product flow down the line and more accurate checkweighing that way" says Greenbank. "We're pleased with our checkweighers" he summarizes. "They run night and day. We haven't had any need for service on them to this point. They're accurate durable and my local distributor and All-Fill respond quickly to any requests or questions that arise." Simplot wouldn't provide economic savings or payback figures for the new checkweighing equipment. But Greenbank does add that his firm isn't the only one to benefit from the new systems. Its customers also appreciate the consistent weights they now can count on. That's a win-win situation that's pleasing for all.