Off the scale

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

The once rather bland world of vehicle weighing has become more interesting of late, spurred by legislative pressure and industry realities, with modern weighbridges being sophisticated driver-operated systems that do much more than their name might suggest. RWW reports

With the steady growth of energy from waste and biomass plants coupled with the increased worldwide governmental pressure to increase recycling, not to mention commodity prices at an all-time low, the pressure on material reprocessors to be more efficient is increasing, according to Emlyn Roberts, sales director at Weightron Bilanciai, specialists in the installation of weighbridges in the waste management and reprocessing industries.

Unsurprisingly, these pressures have prompted some huge changes in the weighing sector.

“Traditionally, weighbridges have acted as standalone industrial scales for weighing vehicles, requiring weighbridge operators and tedious data entry,” says Roberts. “Over the last decade, there has been a clear transition from this concept towards streamlined driver-operated weighbridge systems incorporating intuitive driver terminals and versatile software together with peripheral control and security technologies.”

Drivers for change in the weighing sector, says Ken Tierney at on-vehicle technology specialist AMCS, include “increased landfill costs and legislative requirements which have accelerated the uptake of weighing technology, and escalating landfill costs have meant it is vital for operators to understand the weight and type of material they are managing down to an individual container level”.

The importance of weighing in the waste management sector can’t be understated, according to Derek Hack at Axle Weight Technology (Axtec), who warns that “running overloaded vehicles is not only illegal, but highly dangerous and could lead to loss of an operator licence or invalid insurance”. He goes on to add: “There have been huge advances in weighing systems and what can be achieved. The processing power is now enormous; whereas we used to be capable of storing hundreds of transactions, we can now store many thousands. Extracting it is so much easier too; moving from long-winded,

hard-copy printing to computer links and SD card storage.”

Paul Hines, divisional director, industrial, at Avery Weigh-Tronix, agrees that the increase in reporting and the move towards zero waste has seen weight data play an increasingly important role in resource efficiency and waste management.

“The move towards seeing waste as a valuable commodity, rather than something to be disposed of, has seen the industry evolve massively. From traceability, reporting or billing for the waste collected, to monitoring inputs and outputs during materials transfer or recovery, weight information is key to legislative compliance and operational efficiency,” opines Hines.

This is a view echoed by Julian Glasspole, MD of Vehicle Weighing Solutions. “These days the terms by which operators’ licences are regulated are much more stringent, and vehicle operators need to make sure they comply with the regulations or they risk

losing their licence. Weighing equipment helps them do this by making sure the vehicles are totally safe and compliant, and it also helps them to maximise their load to maintain their cost-effectiveness.”

Pay as you throw

Some European countries are taking a lead in systems such as pay by weight.

“In Ireland we are seeing the mandatory introduction of pay-by-weight systems,” says Tierney at AMCS. “Municipal service providers in the deregulated Irish market are required to charge households by weight (in addition to a service charge) from 1 July 2016.”

Glasspole agrees that pay by weight is becoming widespread across industrial and commercial waste management companies.

“Those companies that now collect data are amazed at the potential missed revenue they have identified,” comments the MD of VWS.

It is the technology being developed around weighing systems that is helping waste management specialists improve the efficiency of their operations.

“Technologies such as GPS or radio frequency identification (RFID) enable operators to optimise their routes, making vehicles more efficient,” says Tierney.

Weighbridges have also seen a change in the role they play.

“Versatile weighbridge software can now integrate the weighing process with plant-wide management software to form cohesive material movement procedures and data management,” explains Roberts at Weightron Bilanciai. This can include radiation detection.

“As waste streams become more complex, the risk of contamination from ‘invisible’ radioactive material entering the recycling chain presents a real threat,” says the sales director. “Effective radiation detection systems, installed as part of a weighbridge management system, can identify contaminated loads entering sites and ensure these are quarantined. By preventing any contaminated material entering facilities, operators can protect themselves from these high costs, and ensure site health and safety requirements are met.”

Developments in mobile technology are also enabling companies to consolidate and integrate the number of systems running on any vehicle.

Tierney again: “Full consolidation of systems however can only really happen at the point of manufacture and it is unlikely to be long before we see systems and communications ‘infrastructure’ installed under licence as standard by manufacturers.”

Nor are smaller companies with constrained budgets being left out. “Cloud solutions now also provide a cost-effective platform for small and medium-sized businesses,” continues Tierney. “These avoid the need for them to install or support any software or updates on their own systems, but still provide them with the same functionality and commercial benefits.”

Going forward, effective integration is key, states Roberts at Weightron Bilanciai.

“There is no doubt that weighing data is becoming more important in all areas of the recycling sector and it is important to ensure data can be integrated with recognised plant-wide management software. There is a strong emphasis on speeding up the various weighing processes, making it easier for people to use equipment in a variety of different applications,” continues the sales director. “The key to success is to make the weighing process efficient and reliable, while being user-friendly. Efficient weighing in the waste and recycling sectors will continue to depend on a blend of sound mechanical design, user-friendly electronic interfaces and versatile software.”

Weighing innovations

AMCS

“Traditionally, front-end loader (FEL) weighing systems have relied on the installation and use of load cells which create an electrical signal, the magnitude of which is directly proportional to the force being measured. While capable of providing an accurate reading, there are a number of equipment, installation, calibration and cost issues with load cell technology that can make them commercially unattractive,” explains Ken Tierney at AMCS, who says the vehicle software specialist’s FEL Weigh solution is the first system to use the latest extensometer technology and can be installed for as little as 50% of the cost of a traditional load-cell-based system.

“Extensometers work by measuring the extension in the FEL arms during the lifter operation. Unlike load cell technology, which requires major modification to the vehicle forks, the extensometers are fitted on the FEL arms. As well as benefiting from a significantly lower hardware cost, this system is easy to install with minimum downtime for the operator,” continues Tierney.

Weightron’s DD2050

driver-operated weighbridge terminal includes a large colour touchscreen with pictograms and instructions that guide drivers through the weighing process. The power of this terminal is said to be maximised when used with the company’s Winweigh IV software. This controls the whole weighing process, including operation of traffic barriers, traffic lights and vehicle recognition systems.

The data base stores records of vehicles, hauliers, suppliers and products. Winweigh integrates directly with recognised plant-wide software including SAP, Sage and Microsoft Navision.

“This ensures seamless operation from the time vehicles enter site to the time they leave. Such a system is ideal for complex plants involving large numbers of suppliers and collection vehicles,” says Emlyn Roberts at Weightron Bilanciai.

Axtec says its axle weighbridge is the first and only one that achieves the required standard to be offered as a public weighbridge. In addition, its small platform is reported to take up far less yard space than a conventional plate weighbridge.

According to Axtec, the biggest single cause of a weighbridge having its approval revoked is debris under the platform. Axtec’s frame design means cleaning and maintenance can be done without removing the platform from the pit. However, if the platform does need removing, Axtec points out it can be done easily with a forklift.

Avery Weigh-Tronix’s advanced digital weight indicators are reported to have the capability to withstand the harsh waste environment without compromising on functionality. “We now offer completely configurable systems which combine industry-standard communications for applications such as process control and in-motion weighing, with features including remote operation and multi-scale input giving users the ability to transmit sophisticated business-critical weight data directly into back-office systems,” explains Hines.

VWS joined forces with a software design company in 2015 to create a bespoke software solution. VWS PurGo is based around streamlining processes from sales through to operations such as admin, billing and reporting. It works in harmony with bin weighing systems, as well as other onboard systems such as CCTV and telematics and CANbus, and enables waste companies to monitor precisely what they are collecting and from whom.

PurGo is a paperless system that uses in-cab PDAs to schedule work and capture data, and integrates with back-office systems and accounting packages. Customers pay a monthly subscription for the use of the software, which includes a support service, should they need it.


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