Tea pickers in Kenya are getting a fair day’s pay thanks to a weighing solution developed by Avery Weigh-Tronix for the Kenyan Tea Development Agency (KTDA). It will also help to reduce the tea losses of up to 10 percent that occur in transit between the fields and the processing factory.
Traditionally tea collection clerks would collect the tea in open sacks from the farmers, weigh it using a spring balance and issue a handwritten receipt. These sacks are then taken back to the factory on a truck. A lot of this tea is spilt on the truck.
The receiving bay at the factory then checkweighs the delivery and the factory pay the farmers based on this delivered weight. This can cause a problem since the farmers want paying for the tea that they picked. Also at a time when harvests are low, KTDA is keen to improve its own efficiency and minimise any losses of tea.
Twenty of the fifty-four factories are using an alternative solution proposed by Avery Weigh-Tronix. The equipment consists of an electronic scale, a personal digital assistant and a printer for the tea collections; a floor scale and indicator for the factory receiving bay; and a Microsoft server with back office software.
Using the system, the factory manager assigns the tea collection clerk a route in the morning. After collecting their equipment the clerk and the truck driver enter their passwords into the PDA before leaving for the first collection point.
When they arrive, the clerk hooks the scale onto the back of the truck and enters the farmer’s code into the PDA. Each sack of tea is then weighed and this data is transmitted to the PDA using Bluetooth technology. After weighing the entire batch, the clerk prints off a receipt and gives it to the farmer.
The PDA automatically synchronises and transmits the weight data from the collection points to the main server in the factory using GSM technology. The data is also stored on the PDA’s memory card.
At the end of the collections the truck returns to the factory. Someone then weighs the delivered tea in the receiving bay using the floor scale and indicator, which is connected to the back office software. The amount of tea collected from the farm can then be compared to that delivered.
Says John Machagua, product engineer for Avery Weigh-Tronix in Africa: “KTDA is keen to improve its process efficiency, particularly at a time when the tea harvests are lower than normal. To achieve this they need data on which to base decisions. One key area of waste has always been the amount of tea lost during transit.
“In addition, the farmers and pickers, who are shareholders in KTDA, were not happy that they were not being paid for the tea that they actually picked. This is an issue that has now been resolved.
“Using this system all of the weights are recorded and reported in real time directly onto a central server. It removes human error and provides real data that the factories can use to improve their operations.”
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