Once fully implemented at Ridge Tool Company, Elyria, Ohio, the use of lift truck mounted scales will save eight hours per day and contribute to increased inventory turns. Ridge is working to validate the concept through the installation of such a scale on a single lift truck combined with training of its certified lift truck drivers in the use of the scale. Currently, manufactured components are weight-counted at a centralized station for pay and inventory reporting purposes. The new lift truck scale process would allow this data to be collected and reported at the point of manufacture, eliminating the side-trip to the central scale. Finished components could be transported directly to assembly, reducing by at least half the typical time.
The component manufacturing operations at Ridge Tool produces hundreds of container parts weekly. When a tub has been filled or an order completed, a lift truck operator is summoned by the operator to deliver the tub containing finished components to a central weigh station. The station attendant weighs the load, determines the piece count and reports the relevant data into a computer terminal. He requests a stock tag printout and informs the lift truck driver that the load is ready to move to assembly. Besides requiring extra handling, this process can also involve significant delays in delivery of parts to assembly. While machining is run almost continuously, the weigh station is staffed generally on first shift only.
Jeff Stump, the weigh station attendant and Team Leader of the Material Flow Improvement Team at Ridge Tool discussed an idea on material handling improvement with his team. Could a lift truck mounted scale similar to the one purchased at Ridge to weigh loaded wooden pallets in the Shipping Department be used to determine piece counts in the plant? Subsequent research of the idea revealed that such systems were available but the scales, at 18 inches by 18 inches, were too large to mount on the sideboards of the lift trucks in the Elyria plant. Upon contacting Brad Sonich of Sonich Industrial, Cleveland, Ohio, it was found he offers a lift truck mounted, piece-counting scale built by Allegany Technology, Inc., of Cumberland, Maryland that measures only 6 inches by 8 inches, which would easily fit the Ridge equipment. The scale is accurate to 0.1 percent and has a control panel and display that prompts the users so they can get a piece count simply by filling in the blanks. This system would allow piece counts to be determined at the machining location, eliminating the need for a trip to the weigh station and associated delays.
Mr. Stump and his team presented a proposal to the TQM Steering Committee which outlined how an Allegany Technology scale system could be used to streamline material flow in the plant. Understanding that full implementation of the proposal would probably eliminate his own position, Mr. Stump believes that this and other process improvements lead to growth opportunities for himself as well as others. At almost $7,000 per scale system, it is estimated that the elimination of one full-time position and inventory savings would provide less than a one-year payback on the five systems proposed by the team. Favorably impressed with the team's study, the Steering Committee gave its tentative approval of the project pending validation. In order to validate its projections, the team prepared an appropriation for one scale system, which was quickly approved and resulted in a purchase order.
Sonich delivered the Allegany scale system to Ridge in March and provided a technician to install and calibrate the unit. The readout prompts the user for all information required for piece counts. First, it asks the user to enter the tare weight (empty weight of the tub). Next, it asks for a small number of pieces to be placed on the 6 inch by 8 inch sample scale located on the lift truck sideboard next to the driver's seat. Upon calculation of the average piece weight, the scale system determines the total piece count based on the weight of the load of the forks. One of the first things Ridge operators did to verify the accuracy of the system was to actually count pieces in a tub, then do a weight count using the lift truck scale. Each time, the scale count matched the actual count.
Since its installation, the scale has demonstrated outstanding reliability. No repairs have been needed and the only maintenance has been occasional, simple re-zeroing. The 100 percent uptime provided by this first unit helped convince operators and shop supervisors that the scale could survive in a sometimes harsh shop environment.
Using lift truck mounted scales, the team envisions a much more efficient weighing process that runs as follows: The lift truck driver weighs the load of completed components at the production operation and produces a piece count. The operator reports this count to the payroll office. The lift truck driver completes the necessary stock transactions for inventory control and moves the load directly to the appropriate assembly area. The typical reduction in delivery time is 50 percent or more depending on the level of weigh station activity. Additional enhancements in electronic reporting of production and stock movement would further reduce delay time and provide the organization with improved real-time data.
Allegany was originally founded in 1954 and in its early years, the company produced rocket stands, force vectoring flexures, load cells and a space camera for the Department of Defense. In the late 1960s, the company moved to apply some special advanced technology in the area of force measurement for civilian applications. Besides lift truck scales, the company now produces light duty and heavy duty crane scales, pallet weighers and wireless radio transceivers for fork lift and crane scales. The company also integrates features such as bar code readers, tape and ticket printers, and computer and PLC interfaces to its scales.
Allegany manufactured the first all-electronic industrial crane scale and lift truck scale in 1972. One of the latest innovations the company has developed is an angle correction for their lift truck scales. With this, the lift truck can be out of level up to six degrees, either front to back or side to side, and still provide accurate readings. Although NTEP specifications only require three-degree compensation, Allegany scales provide accurate readings to a six-degree tip. If the tip angle is greater than six degrees, the weight will not be displayed until the angle is brought back within parameters.
The team, with Ridge support, is currently refining the new weighing process and training plant personnel in the use of this new scale system. It hopes to have all the necessary implementation steps completed within the next few months. Additional benefits would be improved efficiencies in annual inventory and cycle-counting operations. In total, this process would reinforce Ridge Tool's already strong competitive position in manufacturing operations and further demonstrate the self-improvement process Ridge Tool believes in to improve its processes, providing its customers with the absolute best value in professional tools and equipment.