till-less shopping

NMi’s Guide to Certifying Label-less Scales

NMi’s Guide to Certifying Label-less Scales

22 June 2022

As more supermarkets pilot stores without checkout areas, the need for self-service scales to print physical labels for weighed produce diminishes. With mobile apps taking over, what are the consequences in terms of certification? What action do manufacturers need to take? NMi is here to explain.

Supermarkets continually look to enhance the shopper experience by upgrading existing processes or introducing innovative and transformative technology. One of the most radical changes currently being explored by several supermarkets is ‘till-less’ stores without checkout areas. This high-tech concept automatically records shoppers’ purchases, with the transaction made via a mobile app. This streamlined system extends to self-service scales in the store for weighing fresh produce. Given that most self-service weighing instruments are now PC-based, they have larger screens to display information, including QR codes, potentially removing the need to print a physical label. As a result, all processes can remain within an app on the shopper’s phone, thereby cutting costs and reducing paper usage.

Does existing legislation support this development?

Despite these advances, legislation is still playing catch-up, which can prove an obstacle to introducing label-free scales. Even understanding existing legislation – namely the 2014/31/EU directive – is difficult. Still, at its core, legislation states that if a direct sales app repeats the measurement result and the scale does not print a label, the app must be certified. However, if the app only displays the price and product name, then certification can be avoided. An alternative is to continue printing labels in conjunction with an app to cover all bases. This way, none of the upstream systems need to be certified.

Currently, NMi has to certify every system up to the point of printing. However, given the absence of printed receipts when using digital platforms, there is theoretically no defined end to the certification process. Added to this complexity is the lack of a consolidated interpretation of the current legislation. After multiple discussions within the WELMEC Working Group 2, the consensus remains that paper tickets are necessary, in strict accordance with the European Commission directive. Yet some member states are making their own laws stating the opposite. Thus, while opinions may be harmonized from a legislative point of view, they often differ in practice.

NMi seeks practical solutions

For many industrial applications, the issue does not present as much difficulty because the ‘durable proof’ of certification can come in the form of both a print-out or digital storage on a PC (so long as the information is protected against modification). The standards and technology to support such a move already exist. However, the slow pace of legislative change – not expected for another four-to-five years – continues to prove the most significant obstacle. Nevertheless, NMi is prepared for each scenario, whether the European Commission allows for digital durable proof or not.

The most practical workaround would be to transfer only the product name and price to the app, allowing manufacturers to limit the metrology aspect to exactly where it belongs: the weighing instrument. After all, displaying a product’s weight was introduced primarily to ensure consumers could make their own price calculations when scales historically had limited functionality and were prone to errors. Today’s rules and standards are designed to counteract such errors, which technological improvements have mostly eradicated.

Offering valuable support to customers

Despite the topic’s complexity, NMi remains true to its ‘can-do’ attitude, supporting customers in deciding on the approach that best suits them. It would be easy to adhere strictly to the EU directive and turn away all requests for paperless scales, but we prefer to look for solutions that accommodate current regulations while enabling new techniques when possible. Even for type approvals that push the limits of the legislation, NMi works to ensure our customers receive proper guidance throughout this process. Contact us to learn more.

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