Three reasons to consider optical counting machines versus weighing systems

Accuracy, quality assurance and customer satisfaction are of main interest in packing consumer products. When handled correctly, the product is distributed accurately and packaged correctly which avoid the possibility of costly and reputation-damaging errors.

However, a common practice for large quantities of products and packaging volumes is to pack by weight. Companies that use this longstanding technique can put pressure on their profit margins and brand reputation. An increasingly attractive alternative is optical precision counting. This guarantees 100% accuracy – an exacting portion control that lends itself to satisfied consumers and increasing ROI through significantly reduced product waste. Counting makes improving profit margins, point-of-purchase marketing and dividing assortment packs as easy as one, two, three.

Keeping track of your profits

For companies selling products in mass quantities, fast and accurate sorting, quantity apportionment and packing procedures are critical for production efficiency and quality control. One of the most important decisions a company must make from an end-of-line standpoint is whether to pack a product by weight or by product count. This decision – depending on what is most accurate for the product in question – can significantly impact customer satisfaction and sales.

Although some production lines use weighers to pack pieces by individual weight, there are many common problems that can arise using this method. Most commonly, products that do not weigh exactly the same, result in inaccurate quantities. Even products with very small weight differences can lead to surpluses, which in turn causes unnecessary product waste.

Depending on the nature of the miscount, this miscalculation causes a troublesome profitability issue. An undercount shortchanges the customer which leads to dissatisfaction with all its consequences (i.e. negative brand reputation and decrease of sales). Overcounting on the other hand simply gives a product away for free. This affects sales and marketability because you simply can’t sell, what you give away for free.

Even for products with slightly varying weights is packaging apportionment on a per-piece basis often the most efficient and cost-effective method. In these circumstances unit packaging is significantly more accurate than conventional weighing systems. Optical counting – as opposed to weight-based quality control – ensures that the net contents are 100% accurate in terms of count, for both wholesale and retail packages, preventing product loss and eliminating waste due to over-filling.

WD Series product counting machine
WD Series product counting machine


Let’s look at some real-world examples. An anonymous customer runs powdered dishwasher tablets on a pouch spiller with an average of 1.800 tablets per minute or 108.000 per hour. That’s 1.296.000 tablets per shift of 12 hours – which results in 25.920.000 per month.

Consider this: Before using a precision optical counting and packaging machine, the customer had an estimated overfill rate approaching 5%. That means that for every 20 products that were packed and sold, it gives one away. Unless the company held a “Buy 20, get 1 free” promotion, this is a far from satisfactory result.

The math is simple, but shocking. At an estimated overfill of 5% this means more than one million (1.296.000, to be exact) pouches are overfilled per month. At a cost per bag of 5 cent the product loss results to an astonishing $64,800 per month – and that’s if the production runs only one 12-hour shift. That costs doubles to $129.600 when producing 24/7, which is increasingly common in food and consumer goods sectors.

Let’s take another example: gummy vitamins. While the packaging of the vitamins clearly states how many vitamins are in the bottle, when the manufacturer divides its product by weight, the consumer probably gets an under of overcount. This means that 90 count of a children’s multi-vitamin a consumer just bought, could contain only 88 or as many as 92 gummies.

An overcount? The consumer gets an extra pair at the manufacturer’s expense. An undercount? That consumer will have a bad start one morning when he realizes there is a shortfall in the daily vitamin dose for one of his children.

Compare that to a product counting machine, which is guaranteed to be 100% accurate. This makes calculation the monthly product losses much simpler and acceptable: zero wasted products and zero dollars lost.

And for undercounts, the benefit of counting is also clear: No more complaints from customers who bought a 20-count package containing 19 items. The salvaged brand reputation and customer loyalty translates directly to increased profitability because each official complaint stands for exponential more disappointed customers.

HQ Series counting and packaging machine
HQ Series counting and packaging machine


Clarity at the Point-of-Purchase

Product counting not only contributes to a significant ROI by eliminating wasted product and protecting brand reputation after purchase, but it also helps customers to see what the package exactly contains before making a purchase decision. This information can be a deciding factor at the point of purchase.

For many products its easier for the customer to understand how many instead of how much. For example, when someone plans a party and search for meatballs at the frozen foods section. They know approximately how many guests will attend and also has an idea how many meatballs an average person eats. There are three brands he can choose from. Two of them are labeled “6 lbx,” the third one says “140 pieces”.

Unless the person knows the weight of an average meatball, which of the packages gives him the best idea of how many meatballs he is buying? In this and many other comparable scenario’s the point is that customers think in numbers, not in weight. Insight in the total weight of the content of the package is less valuable then knowing the exact number of products in the package. This becomes more relevant when a package is somewhat larger – the bigger the package, the fainter the total weight becomes.

Moreover, the number of products is also useful information about how often they must buy that product. It makes it easier to figure out when their stock is running low. For example it’s much more useful to know how many laundry tablets are in a package than their total weight. That way, customers can better calculate how long it takes before the package is empty and they’ll need to buy it again.

Ensuring accurate distribution of assortment packs

Product counting machines also offer clear benefits to manufacturers of food product assortments, who want to improve their inventory management and ensure the precision of their mixed packages.

For example, dividing and packing food assortments such as mixed chocolates, candy and coffee pods can be a complicated process. However, with a customizable counting and packaging system you are guaranteed of a 100% accurate mix composition in variety packs and consistent for necessary quality control – a guarantee that is simply not possible by weighers.

A special counter is used for every flavor/type of a manufacturer’s mix- or variety line. The wright amount of each is then distributed in a bucket conveyor below the counter. When the preset amount of each flavor is reached, the bucket conveyor distributes the total amount of products into an integrated packaging machine – usually a cartoner and/or bagger. For different product ranges the counter system is fully adjustable. For example, four flavors would make use of four counters and likewise for six, eight, or more.

Depending on the required line speed, more than one counter per flavor/type can be used. For example, if a chocolate assortment requires more dark chocolate than other flavors, the system can use two counters for dark chocolate, one for milk and one for caramel.

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