OCS Checkweighers’ Dimensioning Weighing Scanning (DWS) solutions for large-scale mail and logistics operations lead the world in helping parcel shippers and other high-volume, just-in-time inventory performers to meet the demands of increased competition in the logistics marketplace.
Today’s high-throughput logistics environment necessitates ultra-efficient methods to reduce costs and avoid price increases, while striving to find new solutions to generate revenue. A member of the Wipotec Group, OCS Checkweighers is able to deliver multiple turnkey solutions based on the latest generation of reliable, rugged, in-motion scales, certified to exacting independent standards.
With recent projects carried out for Tier 1 parcels carriers including UPS and TNT, OCS’s solutions help clients meet their ‘legal for trade’ obligations and recover substantial revenue that could otherwise be lost. Dr Kurt Arnold, Head of OCS Checkweighers’ mail and logistics business unit at Wipotec, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – When was OCS Checkweighers founded, and who by? When did OCS become part of Wipotec?
OCS Checkweighers began life in 1996 as Optima Controls, a joint venture between Wipotec and Optima, a company who produced packaging machines, and in 1999 became a 100% subsidiary of Wipotec.
WLN – What else does Wipotec do?
Wipotec is a manufacturer of Weigh Cells, weighbridges and single point weighing systems. We carry out our own software development: we have all the technological resources we need in house, a very important sales point for our business, as it means we can be fast acting and responding.
WLN – What does your (Dr Arnold) day-to-day role involve? Are you involved in developing and implementing DWS solutions for individual clients?
I am in charge of sales, product and project management for OCS Checkweighers’ mail and logistics unit. I’m an electronic engineer by profession, and get personally involved with major client projects.
WLN – Where are you based? How much time do you spend in the UK?
I’m based at our head office at Kaiserslautern, an hour’s drive from Frankfurt. I spend on average two weeks a year in the UK.
WLN – How big now is OCS Checkweighers in turnover? What other applications do customers use DWS technology in, besides mail and logistics?
Wipotec, the mother company of OCS Checkweigher, has a turnover of 50m Euros. OCS’s other major business sector are the food and pharmaceutical industry.
WLN – What proportion of your mail and logistics DWS business is in Great Britain? What sales and technical infrastructure do you have in place to service the UK market?
The market in UK currently contributes around 12% of our Mail&Logistics business. OCS Checkweighers has a subsidiary here in Witney, Oxfordshire since 2001. At the moment we are following our 5 years strategy. One of our main goals is to build the distribution network around UK & Ireland. We have close working relationships with Accusort, Control Gear, Datalogic, ExPD, SICK, Stevens Group and Vitronic. The Mail&Logistics Dept. in the UK is supported by 4 Service Engineers. A well organized sales network with an experienced, local service department gives us a solid base to rapidly grow our business throughout the intralogistic sector in the UK.
WLN – How does the UK compare with other countries in its adoption and understanding of high volume DWS mail and logistics solutions? What DWS mail and logistics solutions have you carried out here so far?
Our UK customers have a good appreciation of the benefits of high volume dimensioning weighing and scanning in a number of industries, particularly food and pharmaceuticals, as well as mail and logistics. We have carried out many projects here, for companies including TNT Post, Norsk, Royal Mail, Geopost, Dematic and Crown Petfoods.
WLN – What is the possible level of demand for DWS solutions for mail and logistics in the UK?
Demand depends very much on the state of the UK economy. The recent financial crisis has had an adverse effect on orders, but we’re confident the market will come back before long. As an important factor in buying decisions, the amortisation period for DWS solutions can be very short – generally less than a year to see a return on investment.
WLN – What is the typical size and throughput of the mail and logistics operations that you produce DWS solutions for?
Our DWS solutions process anything from 1,000 to 10,000 parcels per hour.
WLN – What specific different check weighers and in-motion scales do you offer? Which different markets within the mail and logistics space are they designed for?
For the letters market we have applications that work at speeds of up to 4 m/s and 1g accuracy, with throughputs of 20-25,000 letters per hour per line. Customers and integrators typically use two lines or more, with total throughputs of up to 50,000 letters per hour.
We have parcel applications rated for speeds of 1m/s to 2.9m/s. In our weighing range we have check weighers which can handle items from 1g to 100kg with precision and accuracy even at high throughput levels. For solutions requiring scanners we work with Accusort, SICK and Vitronic, all well known companies with high quality, high spec equipment.
Unlike other vendors our accuracy remains high at all working rates. With our applications, our customers can be sure of excellent systems and a good return on their investment.
WLN – What types of products can they measure?
We offer checkweighers to weigh pills, cans, bags, parcels and letters, and in the food industry, unpacked food, including slices of cheese and meat. Our checkweighers are also used in locations with a high explosion risk, for weighing gas canisters and flammable sprays. We combine our scales with metal detectors in the food industry: one of our new products for the food industry incorporates an X-ray unit to find non-metallic impurities.
WLN – How robust and how accurate are your scales?
The robustness depends on the particular application. Our HC-FL scales, for instance, are robust enough to stand 24 hour operation. Accuracy depends on the product: for food we achieve +0.5g; for letters, +1g, and for parcels, +20g.
WLN – What data is captured for each item? What happens to the data after that?
Our systems capture the dimensions and weight and the bar code. The bar code describes the package: we read the data streams and combine them into one stream, transmitted to the customer at a remote location or to a line controller as required.
WLN – Do you make High Level Control Systems as well?
Yes, we also produce controllers and industrial grade PCs for use with our systems. We guarantee to supply parts for up to 10 years after we stop production of these items, a long time compared to ‘normal’ PCs! Some of the scales we make also need additional controllers at the point of use, which run on special real time software.
WLN – How does the customer recover lost revenue using your technology?
Our technology gives the customer a system certified as legal for trade. It allows them to use the volume and weight measurements from the system to provide ‘live’ information, and build up an accurate price based on weight or dimension, or both: the customer has the resources to find the best method to charge the most money for their service, and can produce statistics about individual customers and tailor their pricing. It means they can offer a price spectrum based on the size and weight of the customer’s parcels, and be more flexible in their contract pricing.
WLN – How is the data captured and stored?
Data is captured and stored in alibi storage, necessary to be certified legal for trade.
WLN – How do you go about devising a large-scale turnkey DWS solution for a client? What are the steps involved?
We base our solutions on measurements and analysis, and calculate the scales needed for the application, and the throughput required before and after the check weighers etc in the flow. We don’t just sell check weighers: we believe it’s more important than anything to sell the customer the right solution! Our sales people are all qualified engineers, and have a deep understanding of our technology and what it can do.
WLN – Do you (OCS) integrate the whole solution, including mezzanine floors, control systems, conveyors and so on? Do you work with integrators that do this?
We can integrate major projects with our own company Schmid, who are specialists in luggage transportation for the airport industry; or we can work with integrators; or we can provide specific items of equipment to complete someone else’s solution. On large-scale projects, we often work with such companies as Beumer, Siemens or Vanderlande.
WLN – For customers with large-scale DWS solutions already in place, do you carry out audits to see if their solutions need upgrading? Do you sell scales for installation in existing DWS solutions as part of upgrades?
In many cases, customers have scanners in place and want to upgrade their systems and include scales, to give better contract pricing. To maximise the efficient use of lorries and aircraft in mail and logistics operations you need to calculate the weight of the load to the maximum accuracy, hence you require more accurate weighing systems. Our solutions can be retrofitted to most existing solutions, which is the way we most often work with customers.
WLN – What technical standards are your products made to?
Our products meet the MID standard, the new Europe-wide spec for certified scales. They also meet the CE Safety of Machinery Directive and comply with all the relevant EC standards. For the US we have full NTEP certification and UL-approval for our parts, and we meet other standards around the world.
WLN – We’re publishing case studies on the opposite page which explain your work with UPS and TNT. Do you have similar case studies for UK customers?
We’re currently working on two UK case studies, for Dematic and Norsk, which will be published this year.
WLN – How do your DWS catchweighers differ from other suppliers’ equipment? Why choose a DWS solution from OCS?
We offer unique solutions for different needs, based on feedback from the customer: HC-SL is our solution for letters, with a highly accurate scale and DWS system. The return on investment period is very short, around six months. In the letters business, our solutions potentially offer customers additional revenue of 1,500 Euros per day per line.
Our products are well-engineered, high quality, state of the art: we have all the available technology at our disposal and can react fast to customers’ needs. Our maxim is, “It will work and we are responsible for it” – we undertake to find the best solution for the customer. We have had many successful projects that started as stand-alone assignments and have led to the customers coming back for more. We work with partners who like us are masters in their fields.
WLN – How has the recession affected demand for your DWS scales?
The recession has had a definite effect on the market overall: in previous years OCS have enjoyed consistent double-digit growth, but in 2008/2009 our sales have held steady. Because we deliver technologies in several different sectors, we have been able to withstand the financial crisis.
WLN – In your view is the recession over – are major projects picking up again now?
The recession isn’t over yet, but from our point of view business is promising going forward. Some customers have postponed projects, but orders for the first half of 2010 is looking good and we have a strong level of enquiries for the second half.
WLN – Finally, where do you see OCS Checkweighers’ mail and logistics business going from here?
We’re in a healthy position with a wide range of products, an excellent portfolio of solutions and a strong selling point. We’re well placed in the postal market: now we plan to gain more ground in the warehouse sector.