Manufacturing News

Improved scale weighs in

After a customer determines that a blend is correct, production at Fortitech moves into one of nine full production rooms, where ingredients are weighed, then measured into blenders, blended, then weighed again before final packaging. Photo: Courtesy of Mettler Toledo

Ed Webster carefully lifts a heavy container of bulk, blended nutrient powders onto a stainless steel weighing platform, eyes the blue-lit display of the scale and pronounces "Right on the money."

The scale, a Mettler Toledo ID7, is capable of weighing items to a thousandth of a kilogram. And at Fortitech, where Webster works as a production manager, exact weights aren't just desirable, they're critical. "Mixing and weighing are what we do," he says. "They're our entire business."

As a manufacturer of blended nutrient formulations for the food industry, the Schenectady, N.Y.-based Fortitech blends and weighs approximately 5,000 different customized formulations for a wide-ranging customer list, which includes sport-drink bottlers, infant formula makers, energy bar processors, diet product manufacturers and bakeries. Some of the formulations include up to 30 separate ingredients, each one measured to an exact weight before blending. In all, about 800,000 pounds of pre-mixes and blended formulations are shipped from Fortitech's Schenectady plant each month.

Although the company has always used Mettler Toledo Scales it is particularly pleased with the innovations of the ID7 scales, which are located in critical areas. In addition to its no-fail accuracy, the unit has more capabilities than earlier models, including six communications ports, preprogrammed code keys for operator name, tare, product type and order, and the capacity to handle three weighing platforms at once.

"They've got the precision we need," says Webster. "We blend in batches from 10 to 10,000 kilos. We try to be as flexible as possible."

In a pilot laboratory, where Fortitech mixes sample batches for new or reformulated food products, weights are measured down to the thousandth of a gram. After a customer determines that a blend is right, production moves into one of nine production rooms, where ingredients are weighed, then measured into blenders, blended, then weighed again before final packaging

The first improvement of the ID7 is display size: Numerical characters are more than an inch tall and displayed with VFD technology, making weight displays clear and simple to read. The unit's keypad was also redesigned with color-coded keys that make punching the right keys in the right order an easy task. In addition, the keypad features tactile response and audible confirmation so that operators receive auditory as well as tactile confirmation of inputs. The entire unit is housed in sealed stainless steel, and a polycarbonate cover protects the panel display. In addition to connection capability with three weighing platforms (including one analog), the ID7 accommodates up to five peripherals, including label printers. Data entry can be automated with connection to a barcode reader or PC. RS232 and RS422 connections enable weighing data to be transferred error-free to in-house data collection systems.

The ID7 comes standard with Mettler Toledo's "BasePac" software, which allows Fortitech to ensure consistent, accurate formulations, as well as save costs by preventing any product give-away. Additionally, six other "application pacs" of software are available to allow a user to tailor an ID7's function to a specific operation. Written specifically for food, chemical and pharmaceutical applications, FormPac can total weights from several containers; perform additive, multiplicative and provisional tare functions; and accept error-free, rapid data input via barcode, separate keyboard or an online computer.

Other application pacs include DataPac, which automates data entry and is the front end to plug-and-play statistical quality control systems. It speeds up weighing and eliminates data entry errors. SumPac simplifies acquiring and managing scale data by totaling weights and item data at the touch of a button, and will automatically transfer information to a host computer. ControlPac checkweighs and classifies data on a moving belt, helping prevent under and overfills. Countpac monitors minimum reference weights for accurate automatic parts counting, and includes automatic reference optimization and statistical functions. FE

Patty Johnson, Mettler-Toledo, 1900 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH 43240. Tel. 614-438-4511.

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