Hand Prompt Batching in Pet Food. This is a semi-automatic batching system, a.k.a. batching station, batching controller. A semi-automatic Hand Prompt Batching Station is an affordable improvement over your typical manual batching processes, as well as the rigid manual batching stations available from others. It eliminates operator errors and waste of product, and is very configurable thereby minimizing/eliminating changes in your process that other manual weighing stations might require. This means it’s flexible and scalable and provides better long term ROI. While an operator remains involved in feeding material ingredients into the batch container, these actions are controlled by the Hand Prompt Batching Station software and weight measurements occur automatically and are verified by the system according to the weighment tolerance that you have set.  Lot tracking for ingredient material traceability and batch validation for product safety can be accomplished relatively easily. A demonstration video is shown below:

hand prompt screen
hand prompt batching system

The Hand Prompt Batching in Pet Food application example is at a treat manufacturing plant in the “small cold extrusion” process. The semi-automatic Hand Prompt Batching Station architecture is composed of one (1) hand prompt batching controller, a NEMA4X stainless steel bezel touchscreen monitor, and two (2) NEMA4X scale indicators.

These items are all enclosed in a stainless steel 30” x 30” control panel. The batching station control panel is mounted on a stainless-steel stand with castors. One (1) keyboard with a built-in touchpad is 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 the label printer and the platform scales. The system includes an Ethernet switch for connection to the customer’s internal plant network. The power required for the system operation is 120VAC with a minimum of 5A. The customer installs both power connections and the customer plant network Ethernet cable to the control panel.

weightment screen

How It Works

Chosen for its ability to fit the process, the hand prompt batching station software will direct the operator to weigh ingredients based on 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 & Controls, Inc. hand prompt batching station 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 station will allow the operator to 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.

The hand prompt batching station software in this specific application includes the validation software component. A validation screen shows the ingredients currently required by the mixer and allows the operator to scan or enter the batch container or containers containing 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.

The current formula and batch information is displayed in the top left corner of the validation screen. 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 standalone 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 allows the operator 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 the selected ingredients as 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.

validation screen

Conclusion

The Hand Prompt Batching Station in Pet Food is the most affordable system to help you avoid the costly errors and inaccuracies of a manual batching methodology. And you don’t have to substantially change your process to do it, like available manual weighing systems. The Sterling Systems & Controls hand prompt batching station is semi-automatic and very configurable and can be adapted easily to your specific process. Time to move on up and make accurate, efficient batches with ingredient traceability lot tracking and even batch validation at the mixer.

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