Hand Prompt Batching in PetFood

Validation Screen Hand Prompt System

The Hand Prompt Batching in PetFood System is a semi-automatic batching system, a.k.a. Batching Station, Batching Controller. A semi-automatic hand prompt batching system is an affordable improvement over typical manual batching processes. It eliminates operator errors and waste of product. While an operator remains involved to feed material ingredients into the batch container, these actions are controlled by the hand prompt system software and weight measurements occur automatically and are verified by the system as well according to the weighment tolerance you set.  Lot tracking for ingredient material traceability and batch validation can be accomplished with relative ease as well for product safety.

Hand Prompt Batching System for PetFood App
Hand Prompt Batching System with Two Scales

The hand prompt batching in PetFood application example using the semi-automatic hand prompt batching system is at a pet food (treats) manufacturing plant in the “small cold extrusion” process. The semi-automatic hand prompt system architecture is composed of one (1) Hand Prompt controller, a NEMA 4X stainless steel bezel Touchscreen Monitor, and two (2) NEMA 4X scale indicators.

These items are all enclosed in a stainless steel 30” x 30” control panel.  The batching controller control panel is mounted on a stainless-steel stand with castors. One (1) keyboard with built-in touch pad mounted on a stainless-steel shelf, two (2) 50lb 12” x 12” stainless steel platform scales for dry and liquid ingredient weighments, one (1) Label Printer, and one (1) wireless barcode reader are also included.

Side mount connectors are provided on the enclosure for interconnection with label printer and the platform scales. The system includes an Ethernet switch for connection to the customer internal plant network. Power required for the system operation is 120VAC with a minimum of 5A. Both power connections and customer plant network cable to the enclosure requires installation by the customer.

HOW DOES IT WORK

The Hand Prompt controller software will direct the operator to weigh ingredients based upon the formula being run. Formulas can be setup using the New Formula Editing Panel in the software.  A virtually unlimited number of formulas can be setup.  The Sterling Systems Hand Prompt Controller will step the operator through a formula one ingredient at a time. The operator can weigh ingredients on one or two scales based on how the formula is designed. The primary advantages of the system are to ensure that each ingredient is added to the batch container, is within a programmed weight tolerance that you set, and that the correct ingredient material lot has been captured before the hand prompt batching controller will move to the next ingredient that is to be added. Multiple batches can be weighed at the same time by using the “Max Containers per Scale” field on the Schedule Screen to control how many containers are made at a time and setting the “Batch Count” field to the number of batches to run.

Weighment Screen
Weighment Screen

In this specific application the Hand Prompt controller software includes the validation software component.  There is a validation screen that shows the ingredients currently required by the mixer and allows the operator to scan or enter the batch container or containers that contain those ingredients. Batch containers can be added and removed until all ingredient quantities are satisfied, at which point the operator will press “Confirm” and the system will verify that all containers are valid before applying the containers to the current mixer batch.

Validation Screen
Validation Screen

In the top left corner of the validation screen, the current formula and batch information is displayed. In the top right corner, a message will prompt the operator when; 1) the operator needs to scan batch containers to satisfy the ingredient requirements, 2) when all ingredient quantities are satisfied, and 3) when the operator is to dump the containers into the mixer. If the hand prompt controller is running stand-alone rather than being integrated into a mixer batching process, it will prompt the operator for each set of ingredients immediately after the previous set is complete.

This validation screen also provides the operator with the ability to weigh additional ingredients “Just in Time”. To do so, the operator selects any unsatisfied ingredients, or uses the “Select Remaining” button to select all unsatisfied ingredients, and then presses “Weigh Selected”. The validation screen will then change to show the scales screen and will begin prompting for the selected ingredients just as they would be normally on the scales screen. Once prompting is complete, the validation screen will return to normal and the new ingredient quantities will automatically be added to the list. During this prompting, “skip” may be used to completely skip an ingredient and return to the validation screen, unlike the normal prompting process where it merely delays the ingredient, however the ingredient must still be satisfied before validation will continue.

CONCLUSION

The Semi-Automatic Hand Prompt Batching in PetFood System is the most affordable system to move away from the costly errors and inaccuracies of a manual batching methodology.  Time to move on up and make accurate, efficient batches with ingredient traceability lot tracking and even batch validation at the mixer.  For more information about this specific Hand Prompt System application or to obtain your custom engineered Hand Prompt System, please contact Sterling Systems at 815-625-0852, email us at sci@sterlingcontrols.com  or contact us through our website chat and contact forms at www.sterlingcontrols.com.