Friday, 29 August 2014

Axle weighing is easy, right?

Installing an axle weighbridge is easy isn’t it? Just fit four load cells under a piece of steel, sink it into a hole in the ground, mount a weight display somewhere and start parking axles on it. Easy right?

If only it was that simple.

If it was that simple, we wouldn’t go to the trouble of doing levels surveys at every site, making a complex frame design to an extremely high tolerance, invest in expensive on site testing equipment or using some of the most expensive construction materials on the market.

Getting it right takes a lot more effort and knowledge than it seems.

And getting it wrong can sometimes prove costly to correct.

A major high street retailer installed an axle weighbridge at a large distribution centre. Unfortunately for them, the contractor who built the warehouse chose the cheapest system he could find and then installed it himself.
The client was only weighing 2-axle rigid vehicles, normally the simplest vehicles to weigh but despite the best efforts of the axle weighbridge supplier, they came and replaced all the electronics and load cells not once but twice, it still wouldn’t weigh these simple vehicles accurately.

So we were call in to give a second opinion. And we spotted the problem within about 15 minutes of arriving on site, ten of which consisted of signing in and waiting for our contact to arrive!

The client was using shunting vehicles to weigh drop-bodies before parking them up ready for the distribution fleet to take them away in the morning. These off-road shunters had a very soft suspension which meant it reacted to every bump and hollow in the yard.

The axle weighbridge had been installed about 5mm proud of the approach concrete which, combined with the soft suspension caused the axles to bounce as they crossed the platform. Any weighing machine will only record the weight applied to it and if the axle is bouncing as it crossed the platform, the wrong weight will be applied and the wrong weight recorded.
A correctly installed axle weighbridge - unlike some we see!

There was nothing wrong with the load cells or weight indicator at all just a lack of knowledge of what is needed to weigh axles accurately.

Having to dig the system up and install it correctly is never a cheap option but there was no alternative.
This is a common issue and a trap that many companies have fallen into over the years.

It’s not the only one example. We’ve seen many installations using perfectly good load cells and mountings which simply do not weigh axles correctly. The only trouble is these load cells are perfectly good for many applications but are simply not designed for the job they’re being asked to do.

All we have to do is fit four load cells under a piece of steel, sink it into a hole in the ground and start parking axles on it isn’t it? Not true and demonstrably so in many of the sub-standard installations we see.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

If you think hiring an expert is expensive....

Just wait until you hire an amateur.

We’ve just priced up a job for a major national company who need to check raw materials arriving at their factory. They’re not claiming that their suppliers are defrauding them but they just want to make sure that what is on the invoice s what actually arrives.

The site presents some challenges, slopes, a two way road, remote printing location amongst others, so to do it correctly means the investment in the project overall will be substantial.

But at the end of it, the system will be highly accurate and provide the customer with the information he needs for many years. We maintain some systems which are nearly 40 years old and still going strong for instance.

There are though, plenty out there who will do the job on the cheap. Poorly designed, badly installed and not really up to the job and, in just about every case, considerably cheaper.
A recent enquiry came from a customer who had just been quoted £4,500.00 to replace all the load cells and mountings on his axle weighbridge only four years after he had previously had them all replaced at a similar cost.
Bluntly he’d been persuaded to buy a cheap system which wasn’t really up to the job and unless he invested in a more hard wearing installation he was going to be spending that £4,500.00 every few years for ever.
So that initial investment turned out not to be as cheap as he thought.
Shouldn't that weighbridge cable be in a duct underground??

Not only that, we’ve seen some very sub-standard and in some cases downright dangerous installations as per the photograph.

Unsurprisingly, this is an issue that some of our customers find as well. One provides specialist excavating services and designs and builds a lot of his own equipment. He has similar tales to tell of companies  who make all manner of claims as to what they can achieve at a fraction of the price of the experts.

We all want to pay as little as possible for the equipment and services we buy and driving a hard bargain is something we all do. It’s something we expect our customers to do. But there’s a difference between negotiating a fair price for all and being blinkered to what the experts are saying because someone else has offered a considerably cheaper price.

Some people are blinded by the price and never question why a complex installation is so much cheaper from someone else. There is always a reason for it.

Many of our staff have been involved in axle weighing for over 30 years and in that time we’ve learnt an awful lot about the subject. We look at each application closely and work closely with our clients to make sure we fully understand what information the require and where and how it is going to be used.

Only by doing that and specifying the right system for the job including all the items that are essential for it to work will it do what the client wants and have a long life.

There are though, much cheaper ways of doing it if that’s what you want!