Loader scales Buyers Guide
Selection Strategies for On-board Scales and Weighing Systems
Onboard loader scales have long been a cornerstone of measuring equipment for quarry operators and other load-haul operations in construction, mining, waste management/recycling, logging and more. Recently, loader scales have evolved dramatically to not only to provide highly accurate payload weighing but also load location via GPS, WiFi connectivity, color touch-screen displays and more. Today’s modern onboard scales empower site managers and operators to be more productive with faster and more accurate loading workflows. This includes loading cycles for all operations, from, pit-loading, construction, truck load-out, crusher feeding and material handling.
Sophisticated onboard scales let operators and managers track production data, optimize truck loading and eliminate overloads that can lead to costly fines. Not only that, fleet and site managers have greater visibility into overall site operations with real-time access to reliable and consistent payload data.
Loader scale evaluation and adoption
Like most technology, wheel loader scales and weighing systems are evolving to become simpler, easier to use, and less costly. Part of that progression has been shaped by the proliferation of connected solutions and mobile applications used in all aspects of work and play, including smartphones, tablets, GPS devices and more. In essence, people and enterprises are getting more comfortable and confident in leveraging technology as it delivers on key promises of convenience, increased accuracy, reliability and automation.
Organizations looking to install or replace payload measurement systems for next-generation, onboard scales to maximize payload optimization should think through the following three considerations before moving forward:
1. Evaluate and prioritize requirements
Organizations looking to evaluate onboard scales and weighing systems should first prioritize the needs of key stakeholders. This might include looking at requirements for operators, site and fleet managers, or customer reporting or billing needs. Evaluate how each group will interact with the weighing and reporting system. For example, some scales for wheel loaders may give managers access to reports and data about tons moved per day, but operators receive these reports hours or days later. Other onboard weighing systems provide real-time visibility with payload data that is continuously displayed in-cab. This allows users to access reports instantly and track real-time product tonnage, customer information, and date and time stamps.
2. Focus on the biggest impact for ROI
When evaluating loader scales, be sure to assess areas that offer the biggest opportunity for Return on Investment (ROI) in operations. For instance, many operations might first focus on using onboard scales to accurately track the amount of material moved per hour or per day. This capability would allow site managers to collaborate with operators and set benchmarks to optimize productivity. Once users are comfortable with wheel loader scales, they might add scales to additional machines for a big-picture view. They may also opt to capture a wider range of metrics, such as looking at machine utilization or cycle times to identify possible inefficiencies or process bottlenecks that are handcuffing productivity. This iterative approach will help quarry operators to better understand the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and ROI of onboard scales based on actual predictions for increased productivity and material moved.
3. Consider the interoperability of equipment
It’s also important to consider the lifecycle of onboard scales in the organization as well as other equipment and technology components used. The organization’s technology infrastructure should be vendor-neutral and allow for easy data exchange between scales and machines, as well as the information flow between site managers and machine operators. When information can be shared freely across the jobsite in real time, project workflow is streamlined and productivity gains grow considerably. Another factor to consider is the long-term goals of the organization. Evaluate the technology ecosystem that can grow and adapt as the business expands, adds equipment, or requirements change. Incremental adoption of technology and equipment is smart when each component can build on each other, works well together and meets the immediate and future needs of the organization. For example, the loader scale should be an integral part of the ecosystem. With the ability to capture data from other loaders, excavators, conveyor belts and haul trucks, the ecosystem will become a powerful, yet essential management tool in the future.
Once an organization has determined its requirements, identified where the greatest ROI can be recognized, and evaluated its technology infrastructure, the next step is to find a technology solution that best meets the unique needs of the operation. Keep in mind the following considerations when evaluating the options available:
Accuracy is typically the most important consideration when it comes to evaluating wheel loader scales. Operators need accurate weight measurements to optimize payload operations. Today, most loader scales will achieve +/-1% margin of error accuracy or better, excavators at better than 3% margin of error, and conveyor scales better than 0.5%. With a quarry operation that moves 2,000 ton per day, a 1% change in accuracy quickly adds up to increased profitability. This could translate into tens of thousands of dollars of extra revenue for a busy quarry over the course of a year.
When evaluating accuracy, look for wheel loader scales that offer:
- Consistent weighing over a range of environmental conditions, such as temperatures changes through the day, rough terrain and weighing on the move.
- Premium sensor technology and multi-point weighing technology that provides a larger scale ‘sweet spot’ for weighing. Be careful of technology that measures outside this sweet spot during lift phases where material is dropping from the bucket.
- Slope compensation technology is essential because the stockpiles yard may not be on a perfectly flat surface. In addition, when feeding the hopper, the loader will likely go up a ramp.
It’s also important to keep in mind that highly accurate, quality scales systems can help operators at all experience levels maximize productivity. This can mean savings in hiring and staffing for example.
Look for smartscales that go beyond weighing
Modern smartscales go beyond accurate weighing to deliver simplified, machine-to-machine connectivity. This results in streamlined data collection and efficient data exchange. Better connectivity options and information sharing is significant because the key to making effective decisions is having the right data and information available at the right time. Smartscales with embedded connectivity solutions and robust reporting and data management capabilities make this possible by breaking down barriers to streamlined data flow and by providing a holistic view of operations. Smartscales also empower operators to be more self-sufficient, with the ability to set personal benchmarks and focus on loadout efficiency and pit productivity directly from inside the cab. They can track who, what, where, and how much material is moved at any given time. Specific options to look for include:
- Reports that give real-time access to data by customer, product, machine or productivity. Does the weighing system let site managers total performance across multiple machines or identify the high performing operators each day? Look for reports that can show multiple scales, across quarry operations, on one report.
- Dynamic visualization capabilities - real-time data is good, but only if the team can leverage it to quickly see key performance indicators, analyse trends and highlight any bottlenecks or issues. Look for color-coded graph tools, table options, and heatmap capabilities.
- Electronic tickets is the new industry trend towards paperless workflows. In-cab mounted printer options are also useful. Operators can immediately print a load ticket to track individual trucks, daily or weekly load-out, and more.
GPS and connectivity options
As mentioned earlier, connectivity options are a critical component of modern smartscales. Bringing loader operations from the field back to the office is much more streamlined − not to mention less costly − when Wi-Fi and other connectivity options are pre-built into the onboard scale. This allows managers and operators to have a shared view of the production status. Operators can also receive orders directly in the cab and capture electronic Ticket IDs that include time stamped and dated payload information, and send directly to customers. Look for scales that include:
- Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity options, which allow for faster and cheaper communications networks. This will allow operators to cache and sync data via Wi-Fi or they can use existing radio communications networks when needed.
- Embedded-GPS systems, which allow managers to precisely track inventory, monitor machine stress and schedule maintenance, or identify equipment with unused capacity. All of this is used to build reports and metrics that drive operations and optimize production throughout the operation.
Convenience and usability
With increased exposure to technology also comes increased expectations around technology convenience and usability. When it comes to loader scales, operators need onboard scale systems and displays an uncluttered and easy to use so they can focus on the job at hand. A dedicated display for payload data means that this information is always available, rather than sharing the screen with other information that may be a distraction. This can include:
- Touch-screen and larger displays - Loader scales that offer simple ‘smartphone quality’ touch-screens means the learning curve for the scale systems is next to zero. Also, look for larger displays that that allow for larger text, which provides for easy reading and a better operator experience.
Installation and support
When shopping for an onboard scale or weighing system, look for partners that that specialize in product knowledge and onsite support to prevent any slowdowns in operations. The right partner will ensure installation, calibration, training, regular scale maintenance and on-going support are a top priority. When choosing a partner, look for one that provides:
- Local, trusted support
- Global coverage to support enterprise wide rollouts.
- Simple installation with no welding or no cutting required - this helps maintain machine integrity and machine resale.
- Support your future growth, by offering technology beyond your current needs and across your operations (e.g. excavator, conveyor, loader, etc)
Preparing for what’s next
Today’s hauling, mining and aggregate operators require advancements in onboard scales and weighing systems that offer simplified scale installation, touch-screen displays, Wi-Fi connectivity and embedded GPS positioning. These smart scales are supporting improved productivity and communication across the jobsite and enabling simplified data collection and data exchange. Looking ahead, advancements in smart scales and weighing systems will continue to help maximize payload optimization and empower operators to be self-reliant with information and confidence to identify bottlenecks and make smarter decisions about productivity and customer service. By focusing on the adoption strategies and evaluation criteria covered in this guide, organizations will be more informed, and therefore more competitive.