Metrology Rules: Key to Transparency & Productivity

The ritual of adding an extra loaf began several centuries before the popular phrase came into currency. In 13th century England, a law was enacted which prevented bakers from cheating customers and selling light loaves of bread.

Bakers who gave short measure could be fined, pilloried or flogged. To prevent themselves from getting in trouble with the law, bakers would give an extra loaf for every dozen purchased to make up for any potential short weights and measures. The addition was called the ‘vantage loaf’. This was a welcome treat for the customers, who were not yet exposed to low-carb craze.

Three decades ago, manufacturers did not have separate customer relations manager, and the customer protection laws were lax. If a customer was dissatisfied, only a few in his word-of-mouth circle would know.

With the turn of the century and with good purpose, many progressive companies established Customer complaint redressal cells. All customer complaints have to be addressed industriously with the aim to identify and plug the root-cause in process, material or machines.

Disregarding the above well-intentioned initiative, the customers today have no patience for the ‘support function’ to complete the internal investigations. They have easy access to abundant information regarding their rights on the internet. Social media has provided a ready platform for irate customers to vent out their agony, when they are (or merely feel) short-changed by unscrupulous traders/ manufacturers (alas, the generic sordid image of capitalists).

These online remarks may go viral, and can certainly dent the brand equity built over years.

Metrology laws (Weights and Measure Act) have matured, begetting delight to both customers and manufacturers. There is more transparency and objective interpretation of the obligations of the parties involved in transactions.

Legal Metrology Rules warrant lots of declarations and compliances. “Maximum permissible error” in relation the quantity contained in an individual package, means an error of deficiency or excess which, subject to the provisions of these rules should not exceed. For our baker’s benefit, I must share Biscuits and Bread (up to 400gm) the max allowed error is 7% and 8% respectively.

Current economic slump has left lesser disposable money in the hands of consumers of packaged foods. Propensity to purchase low- value packs is on a rise in Metro and large towns, while such packs were always popular in rural markets.

Manufacturers may want to review the size of ‘vantage loaf’ that is going in the packs. When multiplied by sheer volumes, a small correction in the extra-fill would bring sizeable savings. Packing experts may prioritize this reduction action with pride, as the customer would not lament for the extra quantity that she has not paid for.

Further, in the current time, metrology plays a key role in various commercial transactions for logistics companies, viz. meter at the gas station, truck scales (dharam kanta), courier freight scales, item pricing for volumetric parcels, time measurement devices for parking services at truck stop, et al.

It is important to establish transparently that buyer is charged for the same quantity as he is receiving.

Another important aspect is the quality of the product. Adulteration is an malicious practice, whereby, the customer is short-changed. Fuel stations alongside the highway are perceived with doubt and are assumed, by default, to be tampering with the dispenser and quality of fuel. I personally avoid filling along the highway for this lingering lack of trust. What each driver expects is that fuel received at the gas station should be of the same quantity and quality as he has paid for.

It is important that the measurement devices are maintained and calibrated at regular (prescribed) intervals. The regulatory body, W&M Department, plays an important role of proactive inspections and in responding quickly to customer complaints.

* Sections 264-267 in IPC deal with the offences related to deception under Standard Weights & Measures Act, 1956

Accurate dimension & weight measurement devices not only help ensure accurate costing/ pricing but also in driving warehouse efficiency. Correct information at the SKU level will strategically help:

  • Improved unitization in warehousing
  • Accurate slotting decision in WMS
  • Correct conveyor and automation planning for expansion
  • Planning truck fleet (optimized cube and weight utilization)

At regular operational level, the following warehouse scales can be of great help:

  • Counting scale: when precision and speed both are required for handling large number of orders.
  • Forklift scale: these help in weighing the palletized goods as they are being moved. Thus, helping in checking the contents integrity and alerts before stacking higher (than allowed) pallet-loads at height.
  • Truck scales: inbound and outbound trucks help ensure compliance with weight regulations and ensure safety of cargo and drivers.

This seemingly basic area of correct measurement can hugely benefit us with productivity enhancement as well as complying with the regulatory requirements.

This article by Shammi Dua, Lead – Supply Chain CSL, Distribution at Unilever originally appeared in the SCM Spotlight segment for the March 2022 issue of Logistics Insider magazine. All views expressed in the article are his own and do not represent those of any entity he was, is or will be associated with.

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