Intelligent Networkers: More Efficient Production with Mettler Toledo Networked Checkweighers

Sept. 22, 2016
Industry 4.0–the latest mega trend–is bringing IT directly to production lines, promising a more intelligent and efficient future for manufacturing. The first step on the path towards these "smart factories" is already being taken today with new checkweighers that simplify manufacturing and quality management processes, making a lasting contribution to overall equipment effectiveness.

Checkweighers have long been an integral part of the production lines of manufacturing companies in the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, ensuring accurate weight values for wide range of product types. The latest systems, however, provide more than just quality control: They interact with up and downstream components on a line and proactively control production. Companies that take full advantage of their systems' networking options can therefore make targeted improvements to their overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

OEE is a reliable method for determining the productivity of a production facility. It takes into account three factors – availability, performance and quality. Each is considered individually at first, in order to quickly reveal which of the three areas contains defects or opportunities for improvement. In the next step, the overall OEE value is calculated using all three factors.

OEE is already a widely used selection criterion in the procurement of production systems, and it is also becoming more and more prevalent in downstream inspection systems. With their multitude of networking options, modern checkweighers, such as the Mettler Toledo Garvens C3000 System, offer the potential for simpler and quicker production and quality assurance processes, and therefore a higher OEE.

More Efficient–Thanks to Interfaces and Standards

For this kind of process optimization, scales must be able to interact with the up and downstream packaging processes, as well as with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. The C3000 System achieves this using open industry standards such as PackML and OPC, and can be connected with a wide range of checkweighers, metal detection and x-ray inspection systems via the ProdX data management software developed by Mettler Toledo.

More Efficient–Thanks to One-Click Item Switching

Using these interfaces, checkweighers are able to sustainably simplify production processes, such as when items need to be switched or new items created: The connection to the company's central ERP and MES databases allows line managers, for example, to carry out routine item switches in a matter of seconds, or distribute centrally stored product data for new items to all scales across all locations with just a few clicks.

What's more, modern high-end weighing systems also offer the option to readjust upstream components on the production line using feedback control: If the scale determines that yogurt pots, for example, are consistently being over or under-filled, they take control of the filling system and increase or decrease the fill quantity as appropriate. This reliably prevents additional costs as a result of overfilling and protects against compliance violations as a result of under-filling.

More Efficient–Thanks to Legally Compliant Documentation and Central Data Management

Keyword compliance: Networked weighing systems also provide a valuable service to companies in complying with industry guidelines and legal stipulations. Instead of the usual, error-prone documentation via USB stick or clipboard, all measurement data is automatically recorded in the scale and backed up to a central database via the network. This ensures those responsible have access to reliable production data at all times and avoid legal risks with minimal effort.

In order to meet both internal and external compliance standards, the central data can be automatically evaluated and compiled into individual reports. Plus, the software brings together all of the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the ongoing calculation of the OEE value, providing the basis for the further optimization of the production processes.

More Efficient Construction for Optimum Performance

Integration-based process optimization is, however, just one aspect of the OEE analysis. A second, often overlooked factor, which should be taken into consideration, is the architecture of each production facility and the integrated inspection systems. As a general rule: The more efficiently designed the individual components are, the better the whole facility will score in the evaluation. Therefore, a checkweigher's throughput and weighing accuracy can have a direct effect on the performance and quality of the entire production line. For this reason, the C3000 System is equipped with particularly quiet belts that reliably impede product vibration during belt transfers. The sensitive weighing cell is therefore always optimally protected from disruptive influences, and can handle a throughput of up to 600 products a minute.

The modular device design of the C3000 System also reflects the focus on maximum efficiency: The checkweigher can be seamlessly adapted to the production conditions and, where necessary, can also be integrated into extremely specialized processes. For example, a special granulate conveyor belt is available for weighing powdered foods, with drive components that are fully encapsulated and protected against the ingress of even the smallest particles. This prevents rapid wear, reduces maintenance requirements, and prevents inspection leading to a costly OEE bottleneck.

Doubly Effective Tools

On balance, networked checkweighers have proven themselves as exceptionally effective tools for controlling OEE: Integrated seamlessly into the production line and networked with other production and IT systems, they optimize day-to-day processes and make significant contributions to the availability, performance and quality of the system.

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