Weighing loads and costs

Mettle Toledo

Mettler Toledo tells MHD what sorts of weighbridge solutions it now offers its clients and how data and automation play pivotal roles in helping companies monitor their trucks’ loads and ensuring they abide by government regulations.

Mettler Toledo provides weighbridges and scales to many industries. In the supply chain and logistics space, this includes warehouses, bulk haulage, and distribution centres along with the weighing of bulk-freight moving over the railway network.

Many use a weighbridge as a large cash register and sell bulk products by weight. e.g., iron ore, aggregates, grain, etc. Hence, if the weighbridge is not working accurately, then considerable products may be given away. Such “product give-aways” can quickly add up to many thousands of dollars slipping out of the company’s bottom-line. 

As well as this “cash register” type application, the logistics industry is increasingly installing weighbridges at the exit of warehouses and distribution centres to assist in making sure vehicles leaving sites are optimally and legally loaded to their allowable gross and axle weight. 

Changes Mettler-Toledo has seen 

John Beard, Business Area Manager for Weighbridge Solutions at METTLER TOLEDO Australia/New Zealand has worked in the design, development, and manufacture of weighbridges during his tenure of almost 30 years. 

He has seen several thousand weighbridges being installed in many industrial segments throughout ANZ. He says it’s clear in the freight and logistics arena there’s no such thing as “one solution fits all” and over the years he’s noticed a growing interest in the weighbridge’s accuracy. 

He explains how weighbridge technologies vary, and as a manufacturer, Mettler Toledo has invested its research and development funds into developing technologies that increase accuracy and uptime over a much longer timeframe.

The collection of accuracy and reliability data over several thousand weighing installations has categorically proved this fact. Many clients make the observations themselves when looking at the frequency of faults and repairs on the older style technologies that are still promoted by many on the market, John says. 

He notes it’s common in the industry – over time – for a weighbridge to lose accuracy. This can result in product giveaway, or overloaded trucks leaving sites unknowingly. Having access to technology that greatly reduces this is providing the industry with more confidence in its long-term accuracy of its weighing equipment. 

The other major trend Mettler Toledo has observed in the last five years has been a pivot towards speed and automation. 

Effect on supply chain members 

Mettler Toledo has seen distribution centres getting larger resulting in a greater number of trucks leaving sites. “People are looking to increase the efficiency of their processes during manufacturing, production, and distribution. They want things to be done quickly, accurately, and safely,” John says. 

“There is an increasing percentage of the market that are very keen to weigh the trucks, not to sell by weight,” he explains. “But to make sure they are legally and safely loaded to go on the road.”

This is driven by what is called the Chain of Responsibility (CoR), guidelines the federal government has provided, which applies to the supply chain and logistics industry nationwide. It ensures organisations comply with loading rules and John says the guidelines are increasingly supported by industry.

The federal government is installing checking stations to ensure trucks are not overloaded on their axles or gross weight. The relevant government department will take drivers off the road to weigh their axles, and if it finds the driver’s load doesn’t correspond with its guidelines, they can prosecute and even remove their licence. 

“There are considerable fines to be issued if you are not complying, and the chances of being caught by the government are now increasing because they’re putting more focus into this important safety topic,” John explains. 

There are several reasons as to why the governments around the world have increased focus in compliance to legally loaded trucks. The first and main issue is the safety of both organisation’s employees and members of the public. 

When a truck is overloaded, several safety issues arise such as an inability to stop as quickly as necessary and being much more prone to rolling over. This obviously increases the likelihood of accidents that could cause serious injuries or even death for both the truck drivers and other drivers on the road, John says. 

Overloaded axles are also one of the main causes of damage to roads and highways, underground services, bridges, drains, and sewers, he adds. This damage creates further potential safety hazards for all road users. “There is clear evidence documented globally that an overloaded vehicle does considerable damage to infrastructure,” John says. 

“The government isn’t interested in just knowing what the truck weighs. They want to know where the weight is distributed on the truck, because that’s why a lot of the damage occurs.”

He notes companies want to optimise the load and carry as much on a truck as possible. An example he gives is related to long haul trips, such as one from Melbourne to Brisbane. 

He says if a driver can legally fit an extra two pallets on every trip, this increase efficiency adds up over time.

Many trucks travel too light to make sure overloading doesn’t occur and without a weighing device aren’t able to properly judge the weight and are missing out on this opportunity to increase their efficiency, while also abiding by government regulations and guidelines.

More and more companies are now complying with the CoR. John says many organisations that previously weren’t interested in weighing their vehicles now do so to ensure their whole organisation is safe. 

Some companies still require education regarding CoR, as they aren’t always necessarily aware of the regulations.

John says companies began to install devices more than a decade ago in larger distribution centres where hundreds of trucks were leaving from 5:30am. 

“There was no way of knowing what was on the load, they were essentially just trying to tally what was going in the back of the truck, but there was no way to calculate where the weight was distributed,” John explains. 

Adapting and providing weighing solutions to industry 

Mettler Toledo has developed different solutions to cater for various-sized facilities.

John says it depends on the throughputs in warehouses and distribution centres, as well as the number of lanes, and what volumes go in and out of the facility. He says from there a company can select a level of accuracy and traceability, previously unavailable in the industry. 

There needed to be a way of speeding up the process and getting the trucks weighed and offsite quicker – this was a main criterion for improvement.

“So many of our clients are saying they don’t just want the weight, they want to validate if a truck is or isn’t overloaded before they go out,” John says. 

“And if they are overloaded, there needs to be a quick and safe process that turns them around, and the load can be adjusted or redistributed before they’re let onto the road,” he adds. 

These are the type of processes Mettler-Toledo says it has developed into its solutions. 

“We worked with several organisations to say, ‘how could we improve that? How can we fix that?’” John says. 

Mettler Toledo developed an automating process – allowing the driver to stay in the cab of the truck. The system options that can be implemented are many, from the ability to recognise the driver’s number plate, allowing the driver to interface with a touchscreen and have a printer or scanner that allows them to print necessary information. 

All this information can be collected through automation. Once this step is performed, a stop-and-go system can be implemented, which either grants the driver permission to leave if the truck is fine to do so or indicates a problem such as an axle being overloaded, in which case the truck would return to have the load reassessed. 

“This automated functionality cuts down the initial capital outlay of putting in a manned weighbridge office and speeds up the entire weighing process, because the drivers aren’t getting in and out of the cab on a busy site, which also reduces the safety risks that occurred previously,” John says. 

The information recorded is stored in a cloud-based data system, which Mettler-Toledo makes sure is secure, traceable, and can give management information that can be used to make good business decisions. 

“As we see more cyber-attacks around the world, it reminds us data is very powerful, and as a result, we do our utmost to protect our customers’ data,” John adds.  

In Australia, Mettler-Toledo has developed a device that warns drivers when their vehicle is overloaded, and it has been distributed globally. These solutions are now available in more than 44 countries. 

“We work often with our colleagues in the US, and New Zealand, and all through the Asia Pacific,” John says.

“We see trends that happened in Canada three years ago are now happening in Australia. This collaboration around the world allows us to prospectively identify trends before they happen. This is how a lot of our new products enter the marketplace and allows us to fix our customers’ problems.”

He explains if a company has a small site, it can opt for another two or three solutions at different prices to have installed instead of a regular weighbridge.

They can easily be installed in a greenfield site, which is a new distribution centre while brownfield sites – facilities that are already operating – can choose an alternative solution Mettler Toledo has developed. 

“If people have existing weighing devices, we can often turn it into a device that will allow them to get axle weights as well,” John says. “That’s unique to Mettler-Toledo and is a great relief to some customers that thought they were going to have to put all new equipment in and then spend a lot of money – that’s not always the case,” he adds. 

Sometimes it’s a very simple conversion of existing equipment, and for those who are looking into a large full-length weighbridge, it’s not always required. 

John says Mettler-Toledo has experienced consultants around Australia and New Zealand. 

“I’m very fortunate to head one of those teams up at Mettler-Toledo. And one of the main things we enjoy most is looking after our customers, so we’re always around to support if our customers need us.” 

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