WECO Electronic Fruit & Vegetable Sorter Case Study

The Problem

Woodside Electronics Corporation (WECO) manufactures and services electronic fruit and vegetable sorters used by food processors to improve worker productivity. Thousands of WECO machines are deployed throughout the world, many of which are leased. Software upgrades for each harvest season are included with each lease, which means updates occur frequently. And as most machines are not connected to the Internet, the updates must be done manually.

In order to update equipment software, WECO technicians attached their laptops to each machine and uploaded the new software. The manual updates often took a significant amount of time and led to problems as a result of improper data entry.

The laptops were also not ideal for the rugged environments in which WECO’s products operate. In one year, WECO lost and/or damaged 15 laptops while conducting software updates. Additionally, many WECO machines are located in countries where language and PC computer knowledge issues with local service personnel existed.

A Solution

WECO turned to ATEK Access Technologies for its Datakey Serial Memory tokens and panel-mount receptacles. The rugged, portable memory system provides WECO with an easier and more efficient way to administer software updates.

“We decided to use removable storage to easily administer software updates in the field,” said Don Cadwell, Director of Engineering for WECO. “We looked at using USB flash drives and CompactFlash cards, but the environment conditions proved challenging. Some locations face near freezing conditions, while others in the central valley of California deal with dust, dirt and temperatures topping 100 degrees. The Datakey solution was the only product available that we felt could survive the challenging environments in which our equipment is located.”

Additionally, the Datakey memory tokens are fully integrated into the WECO operator interface. This makes it easier to use in countries with language barriers and varying levels of service personnel computer knowledge.

“The service technician simply plugs in the Datakey memory token which contains the software updates and presses a button on the touch screen,” Cadwell said. “The rest is automatic.”

WECO customers also use the memory tokens for storing software settings. Since a lot of WECO’s machines are leased, customers aren’t guaranteed to get the same machine back each year for the harvest.

“This is especially useful for our customers with several machines because they can use the same memory token on multiple machines,” said Cadwell.

The Datakey memory token also provides a way to reliably store days of crop yield data gathered by harvester mounted sorters. WECO customers who use a cellular or radio data link use the memory token for backup storage when the link is not operational. They can store more than 80 hours of harvest data.

Case Study Results

WECO says it has realized labor savings and improved customer service since implementing the Datakey memory tokens.

“The ability to store machine configuration data on the Datakey memory token provides our production personnel a simple way to initialize new machines without having to manually enter configuration and settings data,” said Cadwell. “This not only saves time, but also removes the possibility of mistakes being made during data entry.”

WECO has also improved its offering to customers by allowing them to save their preferred settings and access them on multiple machines. Some customers have as many as 20 parallel processing lines utilizing the WECO sorting systems. Once one line is set up, the memory token enables them to quickly and easily transfer those settings to multiple machines without the possibility of data entry mistakes.

“We’ve been using the memory tokens for four harvesting seasons, and I haven’t heard of a single socket or memory token failure in the field,” said Cadwell.

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