At a busy port, downtime is the enemy. Shutting down a truck scale can create a bottleneck, costing time and money for the port and its customers. METTLER TOLEDO is helping the Port of Charleston keep traffic moving with fast-track installation and reliable truck scales that virtually eliminate unplanned downtime.
The Port of Charleston is one of the ten largest ports in the United States. Its five terminals are managed by the South Carolina State Ports Authority. The port currently handles 1.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo per year and demand continues to grow. To prepare for future growth, Charleston is investing heavily in both new and existing terminals with a 10-year, $1.3 billion capital plan. A new terminal, which is set to open in 2018, will boost the port’s total container capacity by 50 percent.
Charleston Harbor is home to the deepest channels in the southeastern United States. This deep water gives the port a significant advantage, enabling it to handle some of the largest ships in the world. While imports play a large role in the life of the port, export business is also growing. The southeastern United States has become a large manufacturing and agricultural exporter. Manufactured exports include 500-ton turbines and BMW automobiles produced in nearby Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Every load of export goods must be weighed as it enters the port terminal. All told, the port has more than 20 truck scales and 140 acres of storage space to hold goods before loading them onto ships. Inventory is tightly controlled by stocking location. Cranes use real-time data from a yard management system to determine where each container should be stored. The total time to bring an item into the facility and have it stored properly is about 25 minutes per container. On average, the port handles 4,000 to 5,000 containers per day.
Loading cargo involves more than putting the right container on the right ship. Capturing the accurate weight of each container is vital. A container’s weight determines where it is placed on the ship, with heavier containers being loaded on the lower levels. It is also important to balance the load around the ship to avoid accidents at sea.
In early 2011, the Port of Charleston began the Common Gate project to streamline its container operations. The port had been using multiple operating systems for managing container traffic. With the Common Gate project, the port switched to a single terminal operating system over a period of two months. The result is higher productivity with a smooth flow of truck traffic both into and out of the port.
The Common Gate project provided many benefits, including expanded hours and simplified processes for the port’s customers. By harmonizing all facets of its operations, the port has increased capacity by more than 10 percent. Boosting its productivity positions the port to handle future growth. According to Byron Miller, Marketing Director for the port, “Customers benefit from reduced processing times, improved accuracy, and increased gate productivity through our new standardized procedures.”
A key element in implementing the Common Gate project was the rapid installation of six new METTLER TOLEDO truck scales at the North Charleston Terminal. Because the port cannot afford downtime, the terminal had to continue operating during the construction project. This meant very small windows of opportunity to do the civil work for the new gate. To help make the project successful, the scale foundation was built quickly and accurately, and the scales were delivered with a short lead time.
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With the project completed, the port continues to strive to avoid downtime. This goal influenced the decision to purchase truck scales from METTLER TOLEDO. The truck scales use POWERCELL® PDX® load cell technology, the most reliable vehicle weighing solution on the market. With proper routine maintenance, the POWERCELL PDX predictive diagnostics system virtually eliminates unplanned downtime. The steady flow of thousands of trucks per day at the five port terminals is a demanding application for most scales. But METTLER TOLEDO offers truck scales specifically designed for the rigor of this type of application. The accuracy and reliability of METTLER TOLEDO truck scales with POWERCELL PDX load cells is unmatched in the weighing industry.
To keep the scales at all five terminals operating properly, Sisson Scale provides on-demand preventive maintenance and calibration services. An authorized METTLER TOLEDO distributor, Sisson Scale has been providing scales and service to the Port of Charleston for many years. Quality products from METTLER TOLEDO and excellent service from Sisson Scale ensure that trade keeps flowing at this busy port.