Technology is changing much faster than it did 20 years ago. Our mobile devices, televisions, household appliances and automobiles are a testament to that. Industrial process equipment is no exception and weighing equipment and scales fall into that category. Cech Corporation has been in business over 85 years and has seen the scale industry change from mechanical weighing devices to fully electronic digital scales with unprecedented process control and integration. It can be a daunting task determining what path to take when it’s time to upgrade your weighing systems and controls. We’ve been asked to help facilitate these upgrades many times over the years and have a few steps to follow to help make the transition address the current needs of your organization and what may be needed in the future as your company grows and evolves.
We have broken this down into six steps to help put a method to this process.
1. Know what you have
As expected, there probably isn’t just one individual who knows all the weighing equipment your company has and what it does. This is because most businesses have different departments with different needs.
First gather department heads and determine who has the most knowledge of the weighing systems that department is using. These individuals should be on you 'Upgrade Team'.
Secondly, gather all the information you can regarding make, model, size, capacity, and approx. age of each scale in each department. If proper scale records are not maintained, you may have to walk each department to get this information. It is imperative that you have all scale accounted for.
The third and most difficult task is to identify the primary 'function' of each scale. Some examples of functions would include but are not limited to: - Counting - Check Weighing - Batching/Batch Addition - Level Monitoring - Shipping/Freight - Lab Weighing - SQC/Quality Inspection - Formulation - Truck Weighing/Railroad Car Weighing - Bagging - Kitting - Dosing
2. Identify future needs
Normally the reason to go through the above exercise is because some of your future needs have been identified already. It is typically a single department or process that identifies a new critical need.
The reason to add all departments to the mix when you start this process is to make sure that any cross-divisional requirements are addressed and that a shortsighted decision isn't being made that will interfere with any future plans.
Even if the future plans are not identified as an immediate need, they should be considered when making a selection for a specific department.
As we all have experienced, many of our personal everyday devices keep us connected with each other and with our families' shared resources. The same holds true for industry. "Connectivity" is one of the new buzz words in industry and private sector.
Taking into consideration how one department could help facilitate improvement in another and vice versa is the best way to make a well thought out decision.
3. Determine corporate/plant programming and IT personnel need
With all the available connectivity it would be an excellent idea to include your corporate IT and/or Programming department in these discussions. There are many improvements that can be made with something as simple as data collection if it’s not being done already. Some of the considerations that should be discussed are:
Data Transfer/Storage and Recall
Lean Manufacturing Improvements
Electrical Work (internal or subcontractor)
Having these individuals in the mix provides another level of existing resources that can be used to make the pending upgrade to your weighing systems a highly successful event.
As you integrate data collection and automation, you bring a wealth of features not previously available or cost-effective; things like digital load cells and systems that enable remote monitoring of weighing performance.
4. When will the equipment be installed?
Planning for upgrades also involves timing. Some processes simply cannot be shut down without major forethought and planning.
Leave yourself time to make good decisions before implementing anything.
Do not wait until the last minute and rush the process. Engage your team and treat is like and other large project.
Think big, not to simply just upgrade a broken component. If all the equipment is of the same vintage, you will be doing the same thing over and over with the same level of inconvenience.
5. Know your cost
You will not have success selling your upgrade efforts to corporate management if you don’t know your costs associated with the broken process or scale. Knowing how much a problem is costing you adds credibility to what you are trying to do.
Lost or wasted labor hours is one of the biggest problems when a scale operation fails. This falls right into one of the Lean Manufacturing wheelhouses and can go a long way in establishing that upgrades are worthwhile.
Process improvements also have a future ability to create more profit, eliminate errors, reduce manual labor/data entry, and streamline processes by eliminating non-value added steps and human error.
Our sales staff can help you identify some of these things by providing specific scale functionality designed to eliminate common time consuming tasks and the old ways scales were used to address them. In some instances the payback is covered by just a few improvements.
To really shine, the upgrade project needs to make your company money.
6. Coordinate schedule and implement
Planning is the last step. Once you have a handle on all your scales by department, have assembled your team, come up with a tentative timeline, and have excellent payback and profitability figures, you can get on with the task of scheduling shut-downs and upgrades.
This is normally accomplished by narrowing each upgrade step to a specific process in a specific department.
At Cech, we work with you in creating a cost effective schedule that utilizes our resources needed in the most efficient way possible.
Making upgrades to any plant hardware can be challenging. Following the steps above minimizes the stress associated with doing this and provides steps that can be followed to have a successful project.
If you would like an assessment of your scales, and what is obsolete and a potential liability to your business, give one of our experienced sales professionals a call.
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