Are you giving away your valuable assets through overfill?

I was struck by the contents of a recent post on Linkedin, as it claimed that all of us on Linkedin are just being selfish as we are pushing our own viewpoint onto everyone else with one aim in mind…to get extra business or gain some commercial advantage ahead of our competition.

At first, I was mildly irritated but soon realised that there is a great deal of truth in the comment. After all, Linkedin is primarily a commercial platform, (though it has often been accused of getting more like Facebook) so we shouldn’t be surprised that most Linkedin entries have a commercial bias.

A Truly Free Offer with No Commitment cannot be selfish

We wouldn’t want to be accused of being selfish so, this month, we make a completely FREE offer to our readers, the offer of a free Average Quantity Law Compliance audit, normally valued at £1,800. This applies to all Harford clients and non-clients alike, and it costs you nothing, other than a bit of work to pull some documentation together and send it to us. In the past, we would have been happy to carry out on-site audits but Covid-19 makes that all but impossible at present, because few manufacturers want us on their production sites, potentially increasing their own risks. There is one limitation – in order to do the task justice, we can only take on 3 audits until the end of the year!

Background and Competence

Those who already know us will know that I was a founding member of Harford Control 55 years ago. This means that I have been involved in the application of Average Quantity Law from its inception in 1979. I have been a member of The Trading Standards Institute for more than 20 years, am an accredited Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and have maintained, amongst other lean initiatives, a consistent passionate interest in Weight and Volume Control ever since. I still believe that it is one of the best pieces of Government Legislation to be introduced, that has the potential to reduce costs legally, whilst protecting the consumer.

What surprises me is that even 40 years on, it is still a massively underused piece of legislation which means that the unit manufacturing cost for many companies is still higher than it needs to be. The true costs of overfill are often not fully appreciated until an audit of this type is carried out. All too often, companies trivialise overfill with the comment ‘as long as Trading Standards are happy and we have no complaints from supermarkets, the weights must be fine.’ Legal, yes, but at what cost?

Average Quantity Overfill, invisible wastage made visible

During the coming months, we will be giving away our expertise to help any interested manufacturers. Such manufacturers will need to be in food or drink, household chemicals, cosmetics and toiletries, pharmaceuticals, etc., in fact, any company that packs products into bottles, tins, vacuum packs, etc. to a fixed pre-pack weight or volume. It doesn’t matter if these manufacturers already pack to Average, Minimum Weight/Volume or catchweight, and it doesn’t matter whether or not they are already Harford Control clients or not; this service is completely free of charge to all relevant manufacturers.

All we need is some copies of your existing weight/volume checks from recent production runs and a note of the nominal quantity, quoted on the pack, to which the records refer. A couple of hundred weight check results from each product to be reviewed would be sufficient but, the more the better and, by all means, send data on more than one product. The results can be printed or handwritten (so long as we can read them). All information received and calculations made, will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, and only shared with the individual company site that shared them with us.

As a result of the analysis, we should be able to tell you the best achievable legal average, the standard deviation, the optimum control limits and the extent of savings which can be made. Many companies have already benefitted from our audits, even if only to confirm that they are already doing as well as possible. Many more have benefitted by reducing overfills and have consequently saved significant material costs.

A Couple of Examples

The easiest way to satisfy the legal requirements is to overfill and unfortunately, without our involvement, that is exactly what many companies do. We once had a preserves manufacturer say to us: If we can’t give away a bit of jam without worrying about it, then we really do have a problem. When we showed him the true cost of overfill on his volume throughput, his attitude immediately changed. On another occasion, with a potato chip manufacturer in Denmark, we showed the true cost of unnecessary overfill to the owner. His view was ‘In the grand plan of things it isn’t really worth bothering with’. ‘But, from our calculations, the value per annum equates to two operators being paid for doing nothing. If that was the case, how long would it take you before you did something about it?’ we persisted. He suddenly saw the loss through New Eyes, no pun intended.

Whilst these might seem small financial losses, compared to the bigger picture, they usually are, but much of continuous improvement, we find, falls in the ‘small beer’ category, but with enough small beer savings made, there is usually more than enough for a rather festive bash or Covid Social Distancing in mind, enough saving to radically improve the bottom line.

Continuous Improvement

This month we have run out of space to say much more but I intend to run a series of monthly offers where similar free audits will be made. Just before I sign off, there is another serious issue surrounding Average Quantity Control. Whether creating weight records manually or within a system, the greatest accuracy is often achieved through off-line statistical sampling. However, this does require control limits to be set. So frequently we see plus/minus limits set at say 2 grams either side of the nominal quantity. This is where ideology often collides with reality. These control settings are so frequently arbitrary and have nothing to do with the capability of the filling process.

This means that incorrectly set limits will cause more adjustments, more overfill, more legal violations and possibly more line stops (lost efficiency) but we will go into Process Capability and, and its adverse effects on Efficiency, in more detail next month. If you would like to take up our free offer, sign up here.


Roy Green, December 2020.

Share your thoughts to Info@harfordcontrol.com or give us a call on +44 (0) 1225 764461