« August 2008 Table of Contents
Processing & Services: Processing scales
Processors capitalize on scale technology advancements
By Lauren Kramer
August 01, 2008
In 2002, when Gainco represented a line of scales and
indicators for the meat, poultry and seafood industries, the
Gainsville, Ga., company received continuous customer feedback
that there were no indicators on the market that held up well
to food processing conditions. Scale failure rates were high,
and maintenance expenses were problematic.
So in 2004, as part of an in-depth market study, Gainco
executives interviewed maintenance and plant managers and
collected data on the challenges of operating scales in those
"Processing plants are wet, damp and experience extreme
ambient temperature shifts from production to sanitation,
cleaning and sanitizing chemicals," says Jim Petersen, Gainco's
director of marketing and business development. "Water and
condensation were the two main issues we had to deal with,
primarily affecting the circuitry inside the scale, which
results in downtime and accuracy problems."
The company learned that some processing plants were
covering their scales with plastic bags, which caused a slew of
new hygiene and food-safety problems. Keypad failures were
high, with some display panels offering poor visibility. And
durability was an issue, with scales failing under
high-pressure wash downs and extensive handling and
"We learned that every time the processors were touching
their scales, it was costing them money," Petersen says. "So we
started product development to resolve these problems."
The company came up with a line of DuraWeigh scales, all of
which include Infiniti indicators, electronic instruments used
to receive or send information from a load cell when weight is
applied to them. One of the key features of the DuraWeigh
Scales is its IP69K rating, a European water and dust ingress
rating model, the highest standard protection in the
Gainco has a variety of scales in this line, one of which is
the Infiniti Bench Scale, which boasts a robust design offering
improved calibration accuracy, durability and operating
performance. The portable scale sports a built-in handle and
stainless-steel construction, protecting it against damage from
"Accurate scales are good business for everyone, and honest
weight is the best program," says Robert Nagle, VP of
operations at John Nagle Co. The 121-year-old, family-owned
Boston business has a selection of scales in its processing
plant, and when the time comes to replace them, Nagle goes
straight to his scale repairs person.
"We look closely at what's available on the market, but we
also rely heavily on recommendations from our scale repairman
on who makes the best scale and offers a good warranty and a
product with longevity," he says.
Nagle advises seafood processors on the market for a new
scale to look long and hard at the longevity of the scale
manufacturer and the warranty offered.
"There are people that make things but don't want to stand
behind them," Nagle explains. "I like to see at least a
five-year warranty on a scale, and I think people should give
business to those who stand behind their products. If the scale
is American made, all the better to support our own workers,
especially in this economy."
Just don't focus solely on price, he cautions.
"Price should be only one factor, but value is paramount.
You want a user-friendly scale that will be reliable for the
long term, and that comes with some sort of guarantee. And
think about the reassurances offered by the company," Nagle
says. "Can they deliver the product when you need it? Will they
replace it when it's broken? And if you have a breakdown, how
quick will their response be?"
Marel is well known for its work in marine scales with
motion compensation, designed for use onboard fishing vessels
and factory trawlers.
"We are traditionally spending over the industry standard of
7 percent in our product development to improve our equipment,"
says Stella Bjorg Kristindottir, marketing manager for
The Icelandic company's most recent model for seafood
processors is the M2200 general-purpose programmable indicator,
released five years ago. The watertight scale has advanced
programming possibilities and a large LED display, as well as
weight and measures approvals.
"The M2200 allows our customers to have one scale that can
be programmed on site to take on
different applications, such
as weighing, sampling, batching, data gathering and control of
conveyors and pneumatic valves," says Kristindottir. The scale
has a numerical keyboard and can be programmed to send data to
a host computer using Ethernet connections.
Depending upon the type and size of the weighing platform,
the M2200 costs between $3,289 and $7,000 for a land scale and
between $7,500 and $12,000 for marine scales.
"The marine type of M2200 is more costly because of its two
load cells that enable motion compensation," says
Marel offers equipment that is reliable and durable, says
Mike Breivik, VP of operations at Glacier Fish Co. The Seattle
company processes Alaska pollock, cod and Pacific whiting and
uses Marel's earlier model, the M2000, in conjunction with the
M2200, which Glacier purchased last year.
"The M2200 offers more functionality, and we'll be upgrading
to another of these scales soon so that we can enter average
fish weight and start and stop times for our different
processing lines," Breivik says. "This is money well spent, and
I'd recommend it to any fish processor considering equipment
Knowing what bucket size is needed for weighing product and
the speed at which product needs to be weighed is crucial
before buying a processing scale, says Anthony Del Viscio,
president of Combiscale. "What's important is the size and the
amount of buckets and the speed required to handle the
application," he says.
The Chicago company developed multi-head weighers, circular
scales ideal for weighing frozen shell-
fish, three years ago.
Available in 8-, 10- and 14-head models, they
packaging machines for full automation.
"Until quite recently the Japanese controlled this market
with patents, but since their patents ran out, we've been able
to manufacture these scales at a lower price," says Del Viscio.
The 14-head weigher retails for approximately $50,000. "In the
past, it cost three times that."
Combiscale recently introduced a Windows-based control touch
screen. "It has a camera for troubleshooting so you can
visually see product running and remotely tweak the machine if
necessary," he says. The optional extra costs $10,000 but will
soon become standard on all of the company's machines.
Analyzing your processing needs and environment in
conjuction with warrantees and services offered by the scale
manufacturer will save processors time in the long run.
Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British