“Today’s technology enables the reading of a variety of barcode formats, determines the product ID and price by weight without slowing down...
For most of its timeline, a PoS scale consisted of a balance with weights, so that the weight of the product could be determined. This was cumbersome and error-prone by today’s standards since it relied on every merchant having good weights, notes Bill Moutenot, president of CAS Corporation in East Rutherford, N.J.
“This process was improved with the development of the spring scale, which eliminated the need for weights, but was still relatively a primitive form of weighing from an accuracy standpoint,” he explains. “In either case, only the weight of the product was provided. Any price computation had to be done by hand or with a calculator.”
Technology has led to vast improvements in the accuracy of the scales, minimizing of errors, and the speed and efficiency of the PoS sale process. These technological improvements include the development of the strain gage and load cell, use of electronics and microprocessors, and in many cases electronic communication between the scale and the PoS device.
“The result is a much faster and more error-free process,” says Moutenot.
A wide spectrum of PoS applications
Faster and better technology has resulted in a range of PoS applications. The simplest PoS applications, according to Moutenot, are weighing of products to get a legal-for-trade weight, which is then computed into a sale price the old fashioned way—typically found in small, low-tech deli’s and farmer’s markets. A step up from this is the use of the price computing scale, which saves the operator from having to do the math.
“These scales are used in countless farm markets and roadside stands for selling vegetables, fruits, or any other product that can logically be sold by weight,” Moutenot says.
In recent years, many companies have purchased price computing scales to sell frozen yogurt, by the pound or by the ounce, and in most cases these are operators that were not using scales in their operations before.
“CAS offers PoS interface scales for use in cafeteria lines to sell salad by weight, checkstands at grocery stores to sell vegetables and meats, and even for computing weights for the purpose of shipping charges, such as at a UPS store,” Moutenot says.
“In keeping up with changing demands, a key advantage of a U.S. manufactured PoS scale over a ready-made imported scale is that we can customize the scale’s size and capacity to meet customer needs in a very timely manner,” he says.
In addition, Daly says with customers more tech-savvy than ever, many prefer to program the scales themselves to suit their needs. To solve this problem, Detecto offers a “customer ready” version of its label printing scales.
“The functionality of these versions are exactly the same as the standard, but they come with the software already configured. This satisfies the needs of customers who want a product ready-to-use instantly out of the box,” he says. “Introducing this option gives the reseller another tool to satisfy their customers while maximizing profits by reducing configuration, training, and support times.”
At Mettler-Toledo, LLC, Wiley says the company is primarily involved in two scale applications that are integrated into the retailer’s PoS systems—small footprint scales used at the checkout counter and providing weighing components to major scanner/scale manufacturers as well as manufacturing its own scanner scales for use in checkout lanes and self-service checkouts.
What to look for in a PoS scale
When purchasing a PoS scale, Moutenot advises customers to be sure that the scale being used in the PoS process is legal for trade. It needs to be NTEP certified and contains a COC number.
“Depending on where they are located, the scale may need to be calibrated and sealed by an authorized technician, and a wise customer will buy this scale from a local and certified company well versed in the requirements for their jurisdiction,” he says.
The customer should also be aware of the reputation of the manufacturer of the scale, and the availability of a local service company should a repair be required. PoS Interface scales must also be compatible with the customer’s PoS system.
Daly concurs. “Any PoS scale you purchase has to be NTEP certified otherwise you cannot use it in the retail environment.”
For those customers craving more technology in their scales, Daly says even the entry-level label printing scales offer features including:
• Ethernet (TCP/IP) and wireless for PC communication
• Flash memory for easy firmware updates
• USB memory stick to transfer and back up programs
• Free software for programming
• Programmable Barcodes like QR codes
• Ability to Customize labels with importable graphics/logos
• Networking between scales
Wiley adds that speed and accuracy, the footprint and durability of the scale, and the ability to seamlessly integrate into your PoS system should also be factors when making a purchase.
“Load sensors found in today’s scales are most importantly, extremely accurate, however advances in the settling time—the amount of time it takes for the scale to stop the motion/vibration from the item placed on it in order to get to get the accurate weight—allow the cashier to capture the weight and finish the transaction faster,” says Wiley. “The milliseconds saved add up very quickly over the millions of transactions performed over time.”
Buying online versus bricks-and-mortar
The Internet can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to online purchases—and it is no different with PoS scales. Be cautious when purchasing a PoS scale online. While you might be tempted by the promise of big savings, some online retailers do not have your best interest in mind. You can end up with a poorly designed, non-certified scale with no warranty. Purchasing from a reputable brick and mortar company remains your best option.
In fact, Wiley often encourages his buyers to work with their PoS company because these providers work with scale manufacturers to test and specify the scales that work best with their systems.
“Also, be sure to have a reputable and licensed scale technician calibrate your scale once installed, placing your scale into service in accordance with local weights and measures requirements,” he says.
Daly also recommends that his buyers purchase from licensed technicians at bricks and mortar companies.
“While the Internet is a great source of information to research PoS scales, the downside of purchasing a scale online is that there are products being sold that are not NTEP approved,” he says. “Technical and customer support of the product your purchase is also important. That is not the case online—you will not get that support. You’re buying a box and hoping to figure it out for yourself. At Detecto and other companies, we offer free programming software and support of that product your purchase.”
Moutenot adds that if a customer buys from a local brick and mortar company, he can assure them that the scale will be properly calibrated and placed in service, and that it meets the requirements of the state or local weights and measures entity, or that of the agriculture department.
“Also, I can assure them that if there is a problem of any kind, that we will be sure that it is fixed, and that the warranty will be honored,” he says. “Everything that I mentioned is questionable when buying from an Internet seller, and it is often not worth the cheaper price.”
If you have not upgraded your PoS scales in several years, now might be the time to consider it. Wiley rattles off some of the benefits: reduced and lower power consumption, ever-smaller footprints, higher resolution accuracy, and rugged platforms that can deliver over and over.
“The capabilities of the PoS scale will need to evolve to keep pace with the changes in PoS technology, formats and government regulations moving forward,” he says.
Other benefits of an upgrade, says Moutenot, includes touchscreen, increased memory capabilities, and changing label laws. “Five years from now, I expect to see more use of wireless communications interface, as more and more businesses are using tablet and iPad based PoS solutions.”
While most scales today operate via USB, wireless or Bluetooth technology, Daly says solar-powered PoS scales will soon become popular. The technology is so cost-effective that the actual consumer is the one who benefits, he says. For example, a Legal for Trade hanging Dial scale in a produce store which used to cost $1,400 can now be purchased as a solar, certified scale for $500.
“Times are changing and companies that stay on top of emerging technologies will be able to find ways to excel in the marketplace,” says Daly.
Daniel Casciato is a freelance writer and social media marketing consultant from Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, visit www.danielcasciato.com or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.