According to a recent PMMI Business Intelligence Report, the meat, seafood, and poultry packing industries are experiencing “a global boom” due to several factors including import and export opportunities expanding into new markets, growth in foodservice, and growth in ready meals. Food producers are rapidly moving to automate processing and packaging to be prepared to meet increased demand and be flexible enough to adapt to changing product coding requirements.
For food producers and processors with small character coding requirements, Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printer family. The 8900 Series is designed for maximum uptime and provides the flexibility to meet the demands of complex food manufacturing plants.
Moving towards an automated continuous inkjet coding solution can solve the following problems commonly found in the meat, poultry, and seafood manufacturing industry:
High manual labor costs: Consumer demand dictates changes in the packaging materials used for meat and seafood products. Flexible and clear packaging for shoppers to verify freshness and quality in-store, smaller portion sizes and clean labeling to indicate product varieties – i.e. GMO-free, grass-fed, etc. – leads to more changeovers and a need to produce high-quality, durable codes on a range of substrates. The costs associated with managing a large manual workforce are cited by many manufacturers in this industry as one of the highest expenses. Manufacturers are looking for automated processes that can be run with little to no training required and an easy-to-understand HMI to make product changeovers as effortless and error-free as possible.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Food safety and sanitation issues: Threats of contamination are a constant worry in the meat, poultry and seafood industries. To integrate new automated machinery requires that the process reduces human handling and has clean-in-place and washdown capabilities.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Maintenance downtime: Manufacturers want to continue to increase their throughput to fulfill growing demand. To keep production going, predictive maintenance features are essential in preventing unexpected shut downs for repairs, printhead cleanings or fluid refills.
Are you facing these challenges in your business? If you’re in need of a date, lot or batch coding printer, the Linx 8900 Series might be the right option to help you efficiently automate your meat, poultry or seafood packing operation. For more information, visit our Linx 8900 Series product specification page or arrange to see it in action by contacting us for a demonstration.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence Report, 2017 Trends Shaping Meat, Poultry and Seafood Packaging and Processing
Analogue coding technology is still found throughout the meat processing industry, such as hot stamp or roller coders. As a relatively cheap printing solution, these could be used by meat processors to keep costs down on their fast production lines.
Of all the analogue coding technologies available, hot foil stamping is perhaps the most common in meat processing. Our best-of-industry Norwood hot stamp printers are still widely used today. With that being said, relying on analogue based technology can have its drawbacks, and that’s where digital coders come in.
The drawbacks of analogue coding technology
When it comes to analogue coding, the messages that are available for coding are restricted by the amount of information that can actually fit on the die wheel. Therefore, the coders are not as flexible as they could be when it comes to having to incorporate larger messages on the pack. Also, with hot stamp technology, there is a wait for the coder to ‘warm up’ – meaning that valuable coding time is lost through setup.
In an industry dealing with fresh produce where packers need to respond to changing legislation quickly and efficiently, having a technology that needs this amount of time to set up is not ideal in many meat processing lines. Also, errors in coding cannot easily be amended, as codes are manually changed on the die wheel which means stopping the printer, removing the die wheel and replacing individual characters which is a fiddly and time-consuming process. Worn code wheels can also potentially lead to perforation of the packaging, something that could potentially lead to scrappage.
Hot foil stamping is also a contact technology, something that could further constrain the speed of the production line, and even present packers with problems when it comes to maintaining the hygiene of their line.
Digital coding and marking technology in meat processing
SmithersPira has recently examined the benefits of digital coding for many industries including food manufacturing. Their analysis of other industries helps to highlight the advantages of digital coders within the meat processing sector.
For example, when looking at drug production lines, the requirement for frequent and error-free changeovers would appear to be a driver towards the implementation of digital technologies. This is no different in the meat processing industry, where errors in coding could lead to potentially costly downtime or scrappage.
The research also identifies how digital coders can help packers deliver consistent traceability. With late-stage customization for example, when codes need to be added or changed at the last moment, flexibility becomes a primary concern for packers – something that is not delivered as effectively with analogue coding technology. And with a reduction in errors as mentioned above comes more effective traceability.
Not only can all of this be delivered by digital coders, but the non-contact nature of the machinery can help to maintain hygiene and even deliver codes at faster speeds.
Therefore with fewer errors, flexibility, and faster, more consistent coding, digital technology represents a more cost effective solution for meat processors in the long term. And with uncontrollable variables such as adverse weather events, disease outbreaks and increased competition from seafood, meat processors need to deliver codes in an effective way that allows margins to be maintained.
To discover more about what digital coding technologies are suited for the meat industry, have a look at our meat processing industry white paper.
Want help analyzing the best use of analogue and digital coding technologies in your meat packing facility? We manufacture, sell and service both analogue and digital coding solutions. We work closely with customers like you to determine which coding solution is right for your manufacturing environment and application needs. Contact us today to get the conversation started.
Read a version of this article specific to European meat and poultry manufacturers.
Coding is a CRAFT
Top 3 Tips for Choosing a Coding Provider
It can be difficult to choose a marking, coding and labeling equipment provider with so many available. These tips will help you find the best provider for your business:
At Diagraph, we are dedicated in solving your coding and labeling challenges. Diagraph has been assisting customers for over 120 years improving production line efficiencies with simple, reliable, cost-effective coding and labeling solutions. Visit us at www.diagraph.com or contact us at 800.722.1125.
Automated Pallet Marking System
The American Lumber Standard Committee recently imposed a regulation on companies that produce heat-treated pallets. This regulation forces pallet manufacturers to mark each pallet with the IPPC HT logo. As you can imagine, many issues quickly surfaced with this addition including poor quality, a loss in productivity and an increase in labor costs for many companies.
Many facilities rely on manual stenciling to apply this logo, as well as other identification and tracking data. Not only is this time-consuming, but it also requires the use of manpower with inconsistent results. Here at Diagraph we came up with a better solution.
The IJ3000 Large Character Ink Jet Printing System addresses and corrects these issues.
Despite the best intentions, manual anything often leads to inconsistencies. For businesses with a brand image to protect, this poses a problem. The automated IJ3000 removes the need for manual marking and delivers uniform results.
Loss in Productivity
Relying on manual labor always runs the risk of human error. With pallets, this could mean incorrect stamping or lower than needed speeds. This system produces simultaneous online marking for both sides, as well as automatic printhead cleaning. These features lead to an increase in production as well as less downtime for maintenance.
With the necessary printing of lot codes, production dates and other relevant information, the need for labor increases. This adds extra costs that an automated system such as the IJ3000 eliminates.
To learn more about how the IJ3000 Pallet Marking System can increase productivity for you, learn more here.
System uptime is the average length of time a piece of equipment runs between interventions are required to keep it operating smoothly. When comparing system uptime when assessing coding equipment, it is important to look at several factors including:
To understand system uptime better, let’s take a closer look at each of these key areas:
Consumable replenishment is the most common and necessary interaction with any given piece of coding equipment. The amount of time a system can go between consumable replenishment, like adding more ink to an inkjet coder, replacing ribbon stock in a thermal transfer printer, or replacing labeling stock on a labeler largely depends on the capacity of the individual piece of coding equipment. There are additional factors to consider when assessing consumable replenishment.
For inkjet coders, it is important to understand how long a printer can run after the bottle or cartridge of ink has run out of fluids. Does the system provide an advanced notice warning giving a countdown to when the coder will be truly empty? Does it provide enough of a warning that allows for fluids to be replenished at ideal production times like before and after shift changes? Can the fluids be replaced while the system is actively coding?
For thermal transfer printers, ribbon capacity as well as total ribbon usage are important to maximizing the length of time between replacing ribbon stock. For ribbon capacity, look at the maximum size of the ribbon roll for your chosen ribbon type. To maximize ribbon usage, look for thermal transfer printers that offer ribbon saving features that utilize as much surface area of the ribbon before advancing it for ribbon waste collection.
Although replenish consumables is unavoidable for the most common types of coding equipment, the very act of replacing or replenishing a bottle of ink or solvent, a roll of ribbon, or a roll of label stock can be made easier and less time consuming for system operators.
Inkjet coders tend to be the easiest type of coding equipment when it comes to consumable replenishment since most inkjet coders can keep running while being refilled. Look for inkjet coders that offer mess free, mistake free refill options like needle and septum systems that prevent leakage and dripping when swapping fluid bottles. This is ideal compared to inkjet coders that require fluid bottles to be manually poured into the system. Another factor to consider is how many touches or actions are required to complete the fluid refill process. Look for systems that provide one-touch fluid refill options as well as variations in shapes and sizes between ink and solvent bottles to simplify the process as much as possible while preventing the wrong fluids from going in the wrong compartments.
Due to the nature of thermal transfer printing, the printer will become temporarily unavailable for coding while ribbon stock needs to be replaced. Look for thermal transfer printers that have an easy-to-web design as well as easy to remove and replace ribbon cassettes. Investing in an additional ribbon cassette that can be loaded and ready to go when ribbon is low minimizes downtime on thermal transfer printers as much as possible.
Like thermal transfer printers, automated labelers also become temporarily available for use when label stock needs to be replaced. Look for an automated labeling system that has an easy label webbing design to make it easy to unload spent stock and load a fresh roll. Manufacturers with high production commands benefit from having alternate labeling machines available. When one machine signals that its label stock is low, the other starts applying labels so that the low system can be replaced. This virtually eliminates downtime with automated labelers.
Although consumable replenishment is required more frequently than maintenance, preventive maintenance procedures take more time to complete and often require the coding equipment to be completely unavailable for printing while being serviced. Not all coding systems are created equal. Service intervals are usually stated in the amount of system hours that can pass before preventive maintenance is required. Things like ink type, manufacturing environment, and overall wear and tear caused by the application can impact recommended system intervals.
For inkjet coders, look for systems that can run as long as a year or more before maintenance is required. Better yet, look for systems that provide advanced warnings about upcoming maintenance so that you can schedule interventions around your production schedule. Another factor to consider is how easy or complicated it is to perform maintenance. Look for systems that have self-contained service modules that can be easily swapped out without the need for a service engineer. Systems that have screen-guided instructions for service interventions tend to be the easiest to use.
For thermal transfer printers, take a look at preventive maintenance requirements that are recommended by the manufacturer. How many parts require replacement? How long does the manufacturer state it will take to perform maintenance? How easy is it to access parts that need to be replaced? These are all important questions to ask when evaluating thermal transfer printers.
When it comes to automated labeling systems, all-electric systems allow you to replace wear parts while relying on pre-programmed settings to get the labeler operating as quickly as possible. Pneumatically operated labeling systems require extensive adjustments after replacing wear parts, making maintenance interventions anything but fast. Also look for labeling systems that offer screen-guided instructions for quick and simple service interventions. Another advantage of all-electric labeling systems over pneumatic is that electric options allow for a gentler application of the label to the substrate. This cuts down on overall wear and tear, allowing the system to go for longer between maintenance intervals.
If you have any questions about how to calculate the uptime of your current coding equipment compared to new coding equipment technology, we are here to help. Contact a Diagraph product identification expert today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through our website.
It is estimated by the US Grocery Manufacturers Association that over half of recalls cost companies over $10M. In addition to the financial implications, recalls for defective products could be harmful to the health of your customers and ultimately damaging to your reputation. These two major factors support the necessity of product identification in the form of date codes, lot codes and batch codes to track and trace in the event of a recall.
Two common automated marking and coding solutions for food packaging are continuous inkjet and laser coding. Which solution best fits your application is dependent on a number of factors. To help you in this evaluation process, we have outlined a few consideration questions:
Continuous Inkjet Considerations
Continuous inkjet (CIJ) can mark onto virtually any substrate type, rounded or flat, ranging from plastic bags, glass jars, metal cans, paper cartons and more. Because of the variety of ink types and colors available, you can achieve a high-contrast mark on nearly any color packaging.
Laser Coding Considerations
Laser, by comparison, creates a permanent mark on most surfaces although not all packaging types will guarantee a high-contrast batch, lot or date code. The etched marks from laser will last, although on clear plastics and glass the coding may not be as easily visible as black ink from CIJ.
Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding Considerations
Accurate batch, date and expiration codes are essential for customers and retailers alike. If your production lines perform multiple changeovers for different products each shift, this leaves room for errors. Leading CIJ and laser solutions have features for storing unique, variable messages and icon-based interfaces that can be operated without extensive training for message creation and retrieval. Reliable, accurate coding methods will keep your line running in uptime and ensure speedy recall of products in that event.
If your products have high retail value, they may be susceptible to counterfeiting. There are internal tracking and security codes that can be made on a product discreetly, that are only visible under certain circumstances by the manufacturer to verify authenticity and product origin. For CIJ, one option is security UV inks that are nearly invisible until exposed to UV light.
The low-contrast, permanent marks created from laser etching are a benefit in the case of anti-counterfeiting codes. Codes can be applied to packaging in an inconspicuous location without compromising the appeal of the packaging design.
These are only a few considerations to keep in mind when selecting between continuous inkjet and laser coding for your food or beverage packaging line. For more information on how coding ties into food safety and traceability, download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding
By Chris Pangallo, Product Manager -- Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) & Laser
Meat packers face challenges in maintaining compliance with coding regulations not found in other production environments. As in many industries, traceability and expiration dates are required for their products, but successfully executing this coding is a challenge because many meat packing plants run 24/7 in an extremely cold, damp and humid environment. This combination of environmental factors is hard on all marking and coding equipment. One solution for meat packing plants is Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printing. CIJ is a non-contact, indelible, high speed coding solution, perfect for applying variable data onto packaged meats. What is not so perfect for CIJ is the environment found in refrigerated meat plants.
But we have good news. There are options available with Linx CIJ printers that address the specific challenges found in the harsh meat plant production environment. The following options are recommended to keep your printers and your production running with maximum uptime.
Want a full review of which coding technologies make the cut in meat processing environments? Download our latest whitepaper for details.
The Linx model 5900 and 7900 printers have clamshell design cold-drawn stainless steel enclosures. The printers are available with IP55 or IP65 ratings, and are suitable for wash-down environments that are part of overall hygiene standards required in meat packaging.