Product Types Drive
Production Line Changes
A greater emphasis on delivering fresher
food items to consumers may mean that
production facilities that were formerly
running canned goods are now moving
toward other package types that might be
exposing the checkweigher to raw food
items. This means that existing equipment
needs to be substituted with machines that
Package handling is another important
aspect of this conversation. Cans are
typically easier and faster to handle due to
their rigid and predictable shape. However,
when you go from no structural variation
with a can, to a flexible stand-up pouch, new
handling challenges present themselves.
Other package types with less rigidity
include clamshells and cartons. Selecting the
right piece of equipment, conveyor length
and motor configuration will help ensure that
performance requirements are met.
Extra care needs to be taken for the
package transfer that takes place from the
infeed conveyor to the weigh table, and
then to the reject mechanism or to the
case packing operation. The key here is to
provide a smooth and seamless transition
in order to minimize package vibration.
Controlling this aspect translates into more
Another important consideration is
making sure that the food item that
is packaged and distributed is free of
contamination. In addition to the safety
aspect, the cost of a recall can have
significant financial impact. This is
another reason many food processors are
requesting equipment with sanitary design
washdown capability, such as IP69K rated.
Stripped Down Models
Conversely, stripped down models
without some of the bells and whistles,
such as washdown capability, are ideal for
smaller companies who have never used
checkweighers before. They may not need
washdown capability or some of the other
add-on features, but simply want basic
checkweigher functionality. These basic
models allow small or even start-up food
companies to automatically weigh their
How are these various needs
and requirements being addressed?
Checkweigher manufacturers are
implementing both software and
hardware upgrades, as well as
structural design modifications.
A checkweigher has to be easy
to use, accurate and convenient. It
needs to be intuitive for the user and
functional. Secure logins need to be
part of the operating protocol to make
sure the right person is doing the right
thing; this also gives you traceability if
a problem is found.
It’s important that equipment uses
software interfaces that are easily
understood. This goes hand-in-hand
with generational changes. For
example, younger workers are more
likely to be more comfortable with
the way a smart phone functions.
They may prefer equipment that is
interactive similar to other tools they
use in their daily life.
Another equipment evolution is to
move towards wireless interfaces.
The challenge, however, is that plants
tend to have a lot of metal (walls,
beams, equipment, etc.) that may
affect communication. Manufacturers
are working on creating wireless
interfaces that function well in a plant
environment to collect data without
anyone having to touch the equipment.
Production Line Speeds
Production lines are being pushed to
deliver higher speeds. A few years ago,
line rates were around 60 meters per
minute. Now, it is common to see lines
running upwards of 120 meters/380
feet per minute. This is attributed to
improvements in controllers and the overall
lower cost of electronics. Faster processors
being integrated into new generation
checkweighers are enabling equipment to
keep up with faster line speed demands.
Important for any plant worried about
traceability is the checkweigher’s ability
to archive weight data. What used to be
impractical from a cost standpoint has
become easier to implement due to the
digital storage media becoming very
affordable. Because the checkweigher
is one of the last pieces of equipment to
touch a product on the product line, storing
this data is a helpful tool should a problem
arise later on.
In addition to storing data,
checkweighers of today are expected to
provide real-time data. This information is
critical to identify production problems as
they are happening.
Today’s checkweigher manufacturers
have to design the equipment to meet
a variety of challenges. During the
product development processes, all of the
components are reviewed to see if they
can be easily manufactured and easily
serviced after the machine is built.
Lastly, one size does not fit all.
Checkweigher manufacturers are being
pushed to design equipment that can be
configured so that food processors can
purchase the components that best suit
their product and operation.