A cereal maker faced a challenge: They wanted to maintain the product weight for each box of cereal, while ensuring that each box was completely filled. We engineered a solution allowing them to regulate the size of their product without adding weight. They make their ‘Os’ bigger or smaller, based on our sensors. Instead of adding costly product to optimize fill levels, we helped them add air.
A plastics extrusion company was having trouble with a machine. We recognized the problem quickly, because we had seen it before – at a food manufacturer experiencing the same problem, using a similar extruder, only with dough instead of plastic. By using closed-loop pressure control at the die the customer was able to stabilize the dimensions of the profile they were extruding. Our multi-industry experience helped us employ the same fix to two similar machines in two different industries.
Thinking Inside the Box (Omni-Directionally)
One of the world’s largest outdoor equipment outfitters wanted to automate shipping. Before we came in, a worker would manually take a box, unfold, and tape it, check a computer, go find the item in the warehouse, place it in the box, add fill, print a manifest and mailing label, seal the box and place it on a conveyor to a truck.
We helped craft a shipping line that automatically folds and tapes boxes, into which workers along the conveyor place bar-coded products. Our omni-directional bar code readers (one of our unique specialties - bar code scanner systems that read omni-directionally from a wide range of angles and distances) scan down into the boxes to read the bar codes. The system queries an order database, finds a match, prints, and inserts a manifest, prints and applies a mailing label, seals the box and routes it to the right truck. The automated system reduces order fulfillment costs by almost half.
Thinking Outside the Silo
How do you measure the level of elbow macaroni in an 18-foot silo? The company had tried many forms of different level controls inside the silo, none of which worked. We came in and decided to try something outside the silo instead. We cut a 1” hole in the top of the silo and mounted an infra-red laser distance sensor looking into the silo to measure the pasta level. Since then, we’ve been able to apply this method in many other industries and have used infra-red laser leveling on all kinds of products to get the controls up and away from dust, moisture, and debris in the environment.
Envisioning the Problem to find a Solution
A customer had cereal bars that were jamming their packaging machine. They were unsure whether it was the cereal bars or the packaging machine that was causing the problem. To determine the cause, we designed a system using a laser scanner to create a digital 3D model of each cereal bar that went through the system. The bars went through the line at a rate of 14 per second and we captured 100% of the cereal bars for one month. The company was able to review the saved data offline and through analysis of measurements that included height, width, length, density, and the ability to capture and separate all non-conforming bars, they were able to fix their problem, change their process, and increase their up-time significantly.