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How Does a Counting Scale Work?

How Does a Counting Scale Work?

Posted by Josh M on Dec 7th 2023

Counting scales are a vital tool for various industries, from retail to manufacturing, helping businesses keep track of inventory and reduce errors. Despite their widespread use, many people are unfamiliar with how these ingenious devices work. In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating world of counting scales and break down the process behind their accuracy and efficiency. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of how counting scales operate and their significance in different applications.

Counting Scale Basics

Counting scales are specialized weighing devices designed to count large quantities of small, uniform items quickly and accurately. These items can range from screws and bolts to electronic components and even pills in a pharmaceutical setting. The primary function of a counting scale is to determine the quantity of items in a sample by measuring the total weight and then dividing it by the weight of an individual item. 

Components of  a Counting Scale

Counting scales are nearly the same as other scales, with a few exceptions. The basics that make up a scale are consistent across the range of scale types. The main difference with counting scales is the software and how data is displayed to the operator. Let's explore the basic elements of a counting scale and how they work together:

  1. Load Cell

    At the core of any counting scale is the load cell. A load cell is a transducer that converts the force of the items placed on the scale into an electrical signal. When you place an item on the scale, the load cell measures the force exerted by the item, which is directly related to its weight. The load cell then converts this force into an electrical signal proportional to the weight of the item.

  Read More: What Are Load Cells and How Do They Work?

  1. Scale Display

    The scale display is the user interface of the counting scale. It shows the weight of the items being counted and provides a means to input information and commands. Most modern counting scales feature digital displays that make it easy to read and interact with the scale. The scale display plays a crucial role in setting up the scale and monitoring the counting process.

  2. Database

    To achieve accurate counting, counting scales rely on a database that stores information about the item being counted, including the weight of a single unit. This database is essential for the scale to calculate quantities correctly. You need to program the scale with this information before you start counting.

How to Use a Counting Scale

Taring the Scale

Before you can start counting, you need to "tare" the scale. Taring involves resetting the scale to zero, ensuring that any container or tray used to hold the items doesn't contribute to the final weight. To tare the scale, you place an empty container or tray on the scale, and then you press the tare button on the scale display. The display will now show zero, and the scale is ready to count the items placed in the container.

Sample Weighing

To count a quantity of items, you first need to weigh a sample of those items. The sample should be a representative subset of the items you want to count. The sample size can vary depending on the scale's capacity and your requirements. The more items you include in the sample, the more accurate the counting will be.

ohaus ranger 3000 counting scale with hardware

Entering Item Information

Now comes a crucial step in the counting process – entering information about the item being counted into the scale's database. This information includes the weight of a single item. Depending on the counting scale model, you can input this data manually or use a barcode scanner or RFID reader to capture item-specific information automatically.

Count Calculation

With the sample weight and item information in the scale's database, the counting scale is now ready to calculate the quantity of items. The scale uses a simple formula:

Number of items = Total weight / Weight of a single item

The scale divides the total weight of the sample by the weight of a single item to determine the quantity. For example, if the total weight of the sample is 500 grams, and the weight of a single item is 5 grams, the scale will calculate that there are 100 items in the sample.

Counting Remaining Items

Once the scale has determined the number of items in the sample, it's time to count the remaining items. You place the remaining items on the scale, and the scale uses the same formula mentioned above to calculate the quantity of items. The scale display will now show the count for the additional items placed on the scale.


It is good practice to manually verify counts from time to time from a quality standpoint. Be sure to check your counting scale for accuracy periodically as part of a quality check procedure. If there is a discrepancy, it might indicate an error in the sample weighing, item information input or that the scale needs to be calibrated. In such cases, you may need to reweigh the sample or re-enter the item information to ensure an accurate count.

Additional Features and Considerations

  • adam equipment counting scale displaysMemory Function: Some counting scales can store item information for multiple items, making it easier to switch between different items for counting. This is especially helpful in manufacturing and packaging when multiple item SKUs are being counted consistently.
  • Count Accumulation: This feature allows you to count items in multiple batches and accumulate the total count. Count accumulation is beneficial in packaging and shipping.
  • Connectivity: Modern counting scales can connect to computer systems, printers, and other devices for data logging and reporting. Depending on which data you rely on, and how you use that data, you'll want to consider how to best communicate that data from the scale.
  • Battery Operation: Some counting scales are portable and operate on batteries, which is useful for inventory counting in large warehouses or remote locations.
  • Multiple or Single Displays: Some counting scales have a single display, while others have multiple displays which show several pieces of information on each individual screen. Some users may want multiple screens to visually confirm sample weight, total weight and count. Decide which data is most crucial to you and if multiple displays will provide additional benefit for your operations.

Counting Scale Uses

  • Retail: In retail, counting scales help businesses manage inventory efficiently. From small items like jewelry to larger ones like clothing, counting scales ensure stock levels are accurate and enable quick restocking.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturers use counting scales to ensure that production lines have the right number of components, minimizing errors and reducing production delays.
  • Pharmaceuticals: In pharmaceutical companies and packaging, counting scales are used to count pills and capsules, ensuring that the right quantity is included in each bottle.
  • Logistics: Counting scales play a role in logistics by verifying the quantity of items being shipped and received, reducing errors in order fulfillment.
  • Laboratories: In research and quality control labs, counting scales are employed to measure and count small samples of items, such as laboratory supplies.                                                                                                                                                                            

Did you know Scales Plus has hundreds of counting scale models available? For more help choosing the best counting scale for your application, read our 4 Step Guide to Buying Counting Scales article.


Counting scales are versatile tools that simplify the process of counting large quantities of small, uniform items accurately. Understanding how they work, from taring the scale to entering item information, and calculating the count, is essential for businesses in various industries. By implementing counting scales, organizations can minimize errors, save time, and improve their inventory management processes. Whether you're in retail, manufacturing, logistics, or a laboratory, counting scales are an indispensable asset for maintaining precise inventory control and reducing operational inefficiencies.

Need help choosing the right counting scale or need technical support? Contact Scales Plus today!

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