Food Engineering

Weighing in on accuracy

April 5, 2005
Scales provide precise weight and blend for nutrient manufacturer.

A Fortitech operator uses a Mettler Toledo ID7 scale to weigh and blend nutrient formulations. Source: Mettler Toledo.
Fortitech, a manufacturer of blended nutrient formulations mixes and weighs about 5,000 different customized blends for bottlers and producers of sports drinks, infant formula, energy bars, diet products and medical foods, which is no easy task. Some formulations include up to 30 ingredients, each of which must be measured to an exact weight before blending.



"Mixing and weighing are what we do," says Ed Webster, production manager at Fortitech's Schenectady, NY, manufacturing facility. "That's our entire business."

Making Webster's job more difficult is that accurate weighing and blending is complicated by differences in ingredients in terms of bulk, density, particle size and heat and moisture sensitivity. Add to the equation an extremely discerning human palate that can detect the slightest variation in taste and Fortitech's challenge becomes even greater.

To help, Fortitech uses 22 Mettler Toledo scales throughout the plant. Mettler Toledo's ID7 scales are used in the most critical areas because they deliver precise weights to the thousandth of a gram.

"The ID7 scales have the precision we need," says Webster. "We blend in batches from 10 to 10,000 kilos and we try to be as flexible as possible. We never say ‘no' to a customer, no matter what size the order or when they need it."

In addition to accuracy, the ID7 offers six communication ports, pre-programmed code keys for tare, product type and order and operator name. It can manage three weighing platforms (including one analog) simultaneously. The optional printer can handle different label formats, which helps Fortitech package product in many different sizes.

The standard ID7 unit comes with Mettler Toledo's BasePac software, which ensures Fortitech consistent, precise formulation and guards against financial loss due to product give-away. Six other software application packs are available for tailoring the ID7 to a specific operation. For example, FormPac, written specifically for food and other applications, can total weights from several containers, offers additive, multiplicative and provisional tare functions, and accepts error-free, rapid data input via bar code, a separate keyboard or online from a host computer.

Besides having the right software for the job, the ID7s are also built to handle the demands of Fortitech's production rooms. Here, a series of plastic hoses draws airborne particles out of the atmosphere, keeping blending rooms free of contaminants. Humidity is carefully controlled, and the rooms are kept at a constant temperature of 17