Stretching The Boundaries For Weighbridge Systems
The development of fully integrated weighbridge systems
Weighbridges continue to play an increasingly vital role in quarrying and recycling operations, acting as critical control points for vehicles arriving and leaving sites. The traditional concept of a standalone weighbridge with adjacent office, weighbridge clerk and ticket printer is being transformed; shifting the emphasis to encompass and enhance key areas such as data acquisition, vehicle management and site security, together with improved overall system integration – site-wide, nationwide and internationally.
Weightron Bilanciai have taken a leading role in the development of fully integrated weighbridge systems, and their sales director, Emlyn Roberts, is clear on how the company’s proactive approach is bringing important benefits for operators: ‘We have seen a quantum shift in customer requirements and expectations over the past two years. Customers’ system requirements are becoming more demanding in terms of data management, vehicle management and integration with software systems such as SAP and Sage,’ he explained.
‘Customers have now come to expect almost unlimited flexibility, and weighbridge suppliers who are unable or unwilling to embrace these changes must be finding it more and more difficult to meet these expectations. Disjointed system design restrains operational flexibility and there are clear benefits of single-source system integration, with one company taking overall responsibility for the functional design of the weighbridges, instrumentation, software, and peripheral equipment. Our experience shows that weighbridge suppliers who use third party software sources may not have the versatility to ensure smooth system integration, especially when customers change functional requirements part way through a project.’
It is quite common for quarry operators to operate an eclectic range of different weighbridge types and sizes from several manufacturers. If these have bespoke weighbridge software packages, this can be very limiting for the user, and the stubbornness of some suppliers to allow greater freedom to bring about harmonization only adds to the frustration. However, open-architecture modular software packages, such as Weightron’s Winweigh, solve this dilemma and allow expedient, cost-effective ‘upgradability’ to be achieved. The latest version of Winweigh has been developed against an international background of extensive weighbridge experience.
In addition to managing weight data collection, weighbridge software must be capable of controlling an increasing range of peripheral equipment, such as card readers, traffic lights, barriers, electronic signature pads and automatic number plate recognition systems. At recycling sites the use of radiation detection systems, linked to weighbridge systems, prevents radioactive contaminated material entering the recycling chain.
As mentioned earlier, customers are increasingly recognizing that weighbridges are far more than just pieces of equipment for weighing vehicles, that they can actually be highly effective vehicle-management systems. Remote access to weight and vehicle data has a number of operational advantages and now operators can manage their weighbridge systems from anywhere in the world via a range of modern communication technologies, such as the worldwide web and GPRS, as well as local area networks. This is especially effective for national and international companies with multiple site operations.
This remote access allows on-screen form layouts to be changed remotely and operators can issue new or modified cards for driver-operated weighbridges without the need to visit sites to manually upgrade instrumentation. Stored vehicle data can also be easily modified and updated.
New industrial PC-based touch-screen weighing terminals significantly enhance flexibility and reduce on-site computer requirements and wiring. Such instruments, in conjunction with versatile weighbridge software, offer almost unlimited customization and functionality. They can form the basis of driver-operated terminals where the robust touch-screen technology makes operation simple and effective for drivers.
Robust wireless systems are effective at sites where weighbridges are installed remotely, allowing weight-related data to be securely transmitted to the main part of the site. Solar-powered instrumentation further improves remote capabilities.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems
ANPR systems are being used in conjunction with weighbridges at an increasing number of sites, providing important logistical and security-related benefits. Camera technology has advanced significantly over the past five years and cameras are now capable of reading dirty and muddy plates, even in poor light conditions. They can also detect illegal plates. The ability to link cameras directly into weighbridge instrumentation removes the need for additional PC interfaces.
Improved site logistics bring a number of important fiscal and operational advantages; reducing costly waiting time, preventing bottlenecks, improving site security and reducing overheads. Vehicle-management systems can manage all aspects of vehicle movements from the time vehicles arrive on site to the time they leave. This holistic approach brings significant benefits including the streamlining of vehicular movements within the site, expedited order execution and improved site security.
Loading and unloading procedures typically involve weighing procedures and, therefore, weight data from equipment such as weighbridges and bulk weighers at critical control points around the site plays a central role in such systems.
In a typical system, vehicles arriving on site are identified at the entrance weighbridge. Driver-operated terminals, in conjunction with ANPR systems, traffic lights and barrier systems, authorize site entry for pre-registered vehicles. Depending on factors such as the time of day and size of the site, vehicles may be prompted to proceed to a holding area or directly to a specific site location. Integrated large overhead displays and tannoy systems can be used to call and direct vehicles around the site. Such systems ensure only vehicles pre-booked into the system are allowed to enter the site. As vehicles progress through the site, display prompts at driver-operated terminals guide drivers through specific weighing procedures at designated areas. Failure to follow instructions results in drivers being prevented from proceeding. By the time vehicles leave the site, order processing and invoicing will have been completed. Disjointed paperwork is eliminated and electronic traceability is a standard part of the system.
Despite the advent of new technologies embracing weighbridge system design, it is still vitally important that the weighbridges themselves are designed and built to the highest standards so that they work reliably in the harshest of environments. Weighing performance is a direct function of weighbridge design. Digital load-cells offer a number of advantages including easier calibration and remote fault-finding. Pit weighbridges fitted with digital load-cells and specific software modules can operate with dual functionality – acting as static weighing devices or, at the flick of a switch, as in-motion axle weighers. This arrangement can have important benefits at busy sites. The software records individual axle weights and then sums the total. Automatic built-in controls alert operators to problems if drivers allow one or more wheels to move off the side of the weighbridge deck.
Stainless steel compression load-cells have an exemplary reliability record in weighbridge installations and their compact size and self-restoring mounting hardware ensure optimum load introduction. Significantly larger single-ended beam designs are more difficult to fit and require very large and cumbersome mounting assemblies to accommodate the large cantilever forces generated.
Weighbridge systems will continue to evolve, driven jointly by suppliers’ innovative developments and increasing customer requirements. As new relevant technologies evolve, their integration will further enhance overall design and functionality. At the core, sound weighbridge design and mechanical principles will continue to play a vital role in overall performance. Modern weighbridge systems can be equally effective for single-site operators as well as larger operations, and well designed systems offer future-proof expandability.
For further information contact Weightron Bilanciai on tel: (01246) 260062; or visit: www.weightron.com