So what’s new with in-ground scales and the supporting software? In sum, the scales themselves are becoming more rugged and dependable, and the software is being programmed with a lot more features.
One company offering a wide range of scales is Mettler Toledo (MT). “We provide a number of different truck scales for multiple industries,” says Stuart Thomas, marketing manager, MMS and Vehicle SBU, for the company. “We sell a lot of different versions for the waste industry, depending on the applications.” Typically, for inbound and outbound scales at landfills, MT offers some standard models, which are appropriate for the over-the-road traffic.
The model that MT recommends depends on how much traffic a landfill sees each day. “If they are a small county landfill with low volume, such as 100 trucks a day or less, we offer either a steel or concrete driving surface scale,” he says.
The recommended model for this application is either the concrete deck model (VTC-101) or the steel deck model (VTS-101). “If they are getting to higher traffic, such as 100 trucks a day or more, we recommend a concrete deck VTC-221 or a steel deck VTS-231.”
As Thomas sees it, the main difference between MT scales and those of its competitors is the company’s load cell technology. “Most failures and downtime of scales these days are due to load cell problems and junction box failures,” he says.
A typical scale will have an average of 10 load cells underneath it that are measuring the force or weight. These cells tend to be wired together in one or two junction boxes. In many markets, according to Thomas, these load cells are a commodity, and a basic analog load cell can be quite inexpensive. However, it may fail every two or three years.
“Over the last couple of decades, we have developed a load cell technology that is designed not to fail,” says Thomas. “So, instead of being a replacement part for us, it is designed to be a permanent part.”
MT offers a digital load cell, called a POWERCELL PDX, which does not use a junction box. The cells are wired in a “daisy chain” fashion. Eliminating the junction box eliminates that source of failure.
“In addition, since we make the load cells impregnable to water, they are also extremely reliable,” he says. “We have had some customers using POWERCELL load cells for 15 or 20 years without having to replace any of them.”
One satisfied MT customer is the landfill of the McKenzie County Solid Waste Department (Arnegard, ND), which installed a VTC-221 80 x 11 scale in March 2013. “We could have selected a different vendor, but I had experience with MT scales from my time at the Ada County, Idaho, landfill,” says Richard W. Schreiber, director. “MT makes a rugged, heavy-duty product that stands up well to the abuse that waste trucks inflict. We needed an 80-foot scale to handle the long moving floor waste trailers that come here. This model is heavy duty and built very well. It’s ‘bulletproof.'”
According to Schreiber, the scale is basically a “set it/forget it” system, which is important for an operation like his. “I don’t have the time to spend, or the employees to task, with the maintenance of scales,” he says.
He reports “zero problems” with the scales. “We went from an unregulated, less than 20-ton-a-day facility to a fully regulated, Title 5, Subtitle D facility in the span of two years,” he says. “Now we are averaging 300 tons a day. The one thing I do not have to worry about are the scales, and that is huge for me. We have not had to switch back to cubic yards for measurement since the scales went operational.”
The scales allow the facility to quickly and efficiently get the trucks in and out. “We can run 15 trucks inbound per hour and get the same trucks out of the facility very efficiently. Time is money for the haulers, and we can keep the wheels rolling.”
However, with only one scale, it was not possible to get trucks into and out of the facility efficiently. “Most trucks need to weigh on their way out,” says Schreiber. “We do keep tare weights on some of the units, but we try to run everyone across the scale on the outbound.”
As a result, the facility decided to install a second scale—an outbound scale, when it realized that it had 12 trucks stacked up. “We already have the second 80-foot scale on the ground and ready to go,” he says. “Right now, we are waiting for the weather to warm up so we can run all of the electrical. Here in western North Dakota, the frost can go down seven feet, so trenching is not possible (this time of year).”
Another satisfied MT customer is Oconee County Solid Waste (Seneca, SC), which has one scale at the construction and demolition landfill, and one scale at the transfer station. The scales at both of these locations were manufactured by a company other than Mettler Toledo.
“In 2011, our dealer and scale software provider closed and left us without technical support, and service became hard to find,” says Swain Still, solid waste director. “In February 2012, we decided to go with new software, and selected Mettler Toledo. We wanted to go with a reputable company that had a long history of great customer service and not in danger of going out of business any time soon.”
Then, in August 2014, the existing scale at the landfill had several critical parts fail, and the cost was extremely high to replace. “At that time, we decided to convert to a Mettler Toledo Powercell PDX and corresponding scale indicator,” says Still. “We have been extremely happy with the conversion. The entire system has operated faster and more efficiently since the upgrade.” The county is also currently planning to replace the existing scale at the transfer station with an MT one.
Another scale manufacturer is Cardinal Scale Manufacturing, which manufactures several different types of NTEP legal-for-trade truck scales. “We can provide the correct type, depending on the specific application it will be used in,” says Jonathan Sabo, vice president of marketing.
For in-ground landfill scale purposes, the company manufactures primarily two different types of scales that can be utilized. If the installation is a new concrete foundation, the ARMOR brand model EPR series truck scales are generally used. These feature double-ended shear beam load cells. “If it is a pre-existing foundation replacement scale, our model PRC series truck scales with compression load cells are used for in-ground applications,” says Sabo.
According to Sabo, Cardinal truck scales are unique in that they come with a heavy, ⅜-inch-thick checkered steel deck plate that can hold the heaviest of loads at municipal solid waste stations. Cardinal Scale also offers a choice of either electronic or hydraulic load cells in its truck scales.
“If the pit location is prone to taking on heavy water or lightning strikes, we recommend the Guardian hydraulic load cell,” he says. “There are no electronics within this scale, so it is not susceptible to water damage, lightning, power surges, or even extreme temperature fluctuations that can affect standard electronic truck scales.”
In addition to manufacturing its own load cells, Cardinal also manufactures its own strain gauges within the load cells. The company’s load cell facility at its factory is VCAP-certified (Verified Conformity Assessment Program), which was developed by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. The facility is also ISO-compliant.
“Our factory produces multiple types of strain gauges and load cells,” says Sabo. The load cells are hermetically sealed for optimum quality.
In addition to the scales and load cells, Cardinal offers everything required for an entire truck scale installation, including remote display, weight indicator, unattended kiosks, and vehicle recording software. “We also program our own mobile apps for truck scale weighing operations, which helps to improve traffic flow,” says Sabo.
Software: Features Are the Name of the Game
One company offering specialized software for in-ground scales is Carolina Software. Its main offerings are WasteWORKS and WasteWIZARD.
WasteWORKS provides a turnkey solution for managing landfills, transfer stations, waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, MRFs, and recycling facilities. It can be set up in operations of any size, from a single PC installation and larger. “WasteWORKS is an off-the-shelf solution that acts like a custom package,” says Jon Leeds, vice president. “It provides point-of-sale ticketing interface for processing vehicles, as well as an integrated billing module and comprehensive reporting.” WasteWORKS is a Windows-based package that can be used for ticketing, billing and reporting. It is a point-of-sale module, with flexible and secure scale lane automation, container billing, and a fully integrated receivables package.
Information enters the system as weigh masters greet vehicles arriving at the site. WasteWORKS reads the vehicle’s weight automatically from the scale, and then computes the charge by ton, cubic yard, or quantity. It then prints a ticket for cash or charge on account transactions.
Hidden error-checking work occurs while the data is entered to ensure accuracy. In addition, pop-up choices allow the weigh master to focus on the customer, not on the computer. Meanwhile, the software computes pricing, including special contracts and discounts, as well as special taxes, all “behind the scenes.”
“A feature-rich software package is only as useful as the efficiencies it creates,” says Leeds. “If a software package comes with a long list of ‘bells and whistles,’ but is complicated and slow, trucks will line up, and none of the ‘bells and whistles’ will matter much. WasteWORKS maintains simplicity, and we do our best to make sure that new features and functions don’t get in the way of producing tickets quickly.” In addition, because the software is configurable, customers have the option to toggle on and off. This means that a ticket can be created with the minimum number of steps necessary to collect the relevant information for a complete and reportable transaction at the site.
Generating a refuse ticket is only the beginning, though. WasteWORKS includes customer billing and financial reporting in the base product. As a result, there is no need to purchase and learn to use additional accounting software. Auditors in specific will appreciate the financial side of WasteWORKS, which was designed by a CPA in order to provide auditors with the information they need and to assist in maximizing collections. How so? Balance information is always available, and credit limits are enforced in real-time. In addition, standard reports provide customers with aging information, and the system comes with built-in billing.
Since WasteWORKS is designed specifically for the waste industry, it can generate a large number of management reports for the solid waste director. For example, graphs show quickly where things are the busiest or most productive. The full-feature report writer allows users to create their own reports, in addition to the dozens of reports that come with WasteWORKS already.
“In terms of reports, we have a wide range of tools for built-in stock reports, custom reports, and automated report delivery,” says Leeds. “For example, if you are a solid waste supervisor and want to get an e-mail every morning at 5 a.m. so you can review the previous days’ tonnages while you drink your coffee, WasteWORKS can provide that.”
An additional feature that can be added to WasteWORKS is WasteWIZARD. “WasteWIZARD is an automated version of WasteWORKS, allowing you to automate the processing of transactions,” says Leeds. “With WasteWIZARD, a vehicle is either automatically scanned with an RFID reader, or a driver is presented with an interface to identify the vehicle and enter additional information about the type of load, etc.”
The rest of the transaction, including weighing and printing, occurs automatically. “There are many different combinations of interface solutions and peripheral options available, and we work with customers to create the most appropriate setup for their operations,” he says.
“Some people think of automation as just a solution for unmanned facilities,” says Leeds. “However, automation can be used with manned sites, too.”
For example, if a customer has a facility with two inbound scales and one outbound scale, the customer can dedicate one of the inbound lanes to be an “express lane.” This minimizes the need for additional manpower (a second weigh master) and allows the existing weigh master to concentrate on the customers who need more attention. As such, WasteWIZARD helps to eliminate long and costly lines by allowing the drivers to do the work themselves.
“There are other uses for the automation,” says Leeds. “We have customers that have a single scale and use WasteWIZARD. During the day, they use WasteWORKS to process vehicles. At the end of the day, the weigh master shuts down the WasteWORKS and opens WasteWIZARD for automatic, unmanned processing.”
During the night, vehicles can come and go, and their transactions are processed automatically. That is, WasteWIZARD allows after-hours transactions, and can protect the facility’s security with optional password prompts and gate interface. It also provides a snapshot of the driver, to ensure ultimate automation and security.
“Another feature of WasteWIZARD is that it works seamlessly with WasteWORKS,” says Leeds. “That is, you can start a transaction with WasteWIZARD and finish it with WasteWORKS, or vice versa.” In addition, a long list of peripherals, such as lights, gates, cameras, intercoms, and printers are available to provide additional security and traffic control.
One satisfied Carolina Software customer is the City of Minot, ND. “We had a software program that we had been using since the early 1990s, so it was over 20 years old,” says John Reynolds, sanitation superintendent. “We wanted to replace it, but wanted to make sure it would be compatible with our current scale, which is a Fairbanks, that we installed in 1994.”
Carolina Software put together a good bid, according to Reynolds, and that bid was selected. “The software has been excellent ever since,” he says. “We have had zero problems with it. We had to upgrade our computers, and Carolina Software was very helpful in getting everything set up for us. Their folks worked with our IT folks, and we got what we needed.”
The transition was almost seamless, according to Reynolds. “I couldn’t be happier, and I know that the scale attendants are just thrilled with it, compared to the old system.”
One thing Reynolds particularly likes is the versatility. “For example, in my job, I am responsible for garbage collection and the landfill,” he says. “Prior to our new software, I had to wait for end-of-the-month reports to find out any numbers. Now I can get this information immediately. This provides me with a better understanding of what is taking place each day, which is important, because a lot of the decisions I make are based on tonnages.”
Reynolds admits that changing software was one of the “scariest decisions” he ever had to make. “However, the transition actually ended up being one of the easiest things we have ever done,” he says.
Another software provider is Paradigm Software. “We have been providing data management software for in-ground scales for 23 years,” says Jackie W. Barlow II, vice president. “We have built a lot of features into the application over the years, based on feedback we have received from customers.”
In fact, the company recently took a fresh look at the industry, and, as a result, is currently in the process of rewriting the application to improve the software even more to benefit all of its customer base. “For example, we have recently added automated e-mailing of transactions to our customer’s customer,” he says.
“As a result, if someone has an account with one of our customers, when our customer processes a transaction at the facility, our system will automatically earmark that transaction and, after a specified time period, will batch up all of those transactions and e-mail them to their customer.” This saves time for Paradigm’s customers and their customers in terms of trying to gather all of the information in order to reconcile their data.
One satisfied Paradigm customer is Pinellas County, FL. “In 2008, we realized that our existing scalehouse software had many limitations,” says Deb Bush, operations manager.
Discussions with the software provider indicated that some of the limitations could be taken care of with an upgrade to the software. However, a total solution could not be provided with the existing software. An internal audit of the scalehouse operations and the performance of the software took place to identify areas of weakness in processes and systems. The inspector general recommended that the software system be replaced with a system that met certain security specifications to reduce the potential for theft and to provide adequate audit log detail.
“We began the process in late 2008,” says Bush. “Since this was a major investment and a blend of operational needs with technology, a team was created with a variety of subject matter experts.”
The team was comprised of staff from solid waste operations, the finance department, the clerk of the courts, the office of management and budget, business technology services, change management, and the county’s two primary site contractors. “We spent a year identifying wants and needs and then drafted an RFP to find a contractor and system to give us what we wanted,” says Bush. “We had presentations by the top three scoring companies before we awarded the bid. In 2010, we ‘went live’ with the Paradigm product.”
Initially, there were a few minor “bugs” in the system, but Paradigm worked with the county’s technology staff to resolve these issues promptly. “We received support from Paradigm, even if it was at six in the morning when we opened the gates, or at midnight,” she says.
According to Bush, the Paradigm system is more accurate than the previous software, which would lose transactions between two servers. Paradigm also provides faster transactions, invoicing and reporting, as well as better audit tracking.
“Customers have real-time, Web-based information, automated unattended scale operations, and up-to-date transaction technology—including credit cards and electronic check deposit,” she says. “Our onsite contractors are also able to move material around the site quickly and efficiently, without impacting our customers, as a result of the unattended scale system.”
Another company offering hardware and software for landfill applications is Creative Microsystems, which offers LoadMan On-Board Front Loader Weigh-in-Motion systems, LoadMan Rear Loader Weighing systems, and LoadMan Load Management Software. “We use a landfill’s platform scales to confirm our calibration every time a truck dumps,” says Alan Housley, vice president of marketing. “That is, when the operator gets his ticket and enters his vehicle weight into our hardware, which connects to our software, it allows us to determine if our on-board scales are calibrated properly, comparing the weight from our on-board scales with the weight on the platform scales.”
According to Carolina Software’s Leeds, regardless of which software package you use, most software vendors have probably been to a lot of landfills and worked with operations of all different types and sizes. “Take advantage of their expertise, and use the vendor as a resource when planning new expansions, or when troubleshooting things like traffic flow efficiencies or data tracking,” he says. “Customers who have been using a package for 15 or 20 years may not be aware of new tools that have become available since that time, as a result of upgrades or add-ons.”