While the utmost care is taken to ensure that meat for human consumption is processed in hygienic environments, the law requires that meat packs are coded for traceability purposes; partly with the aim of enabling the consumer to have greater confidence in the food on their plate.
Packers need to ensure that the codes they deliver onto meat products can give customers and those further along the supply chain all the information they need to trace where it has come from effectively. With the meat and poultry industry ranking as the largest segment in U.S. agriculture, total industry production accounted for more than 92.9 billion pounds of meat and poultry product in 2012. The need to track meat products all the way through the supply chain is crucial to the health of the industry as a whole.
Coding and marking for meat packaging
Coding machines have the ability to deliver traceability information such as the source of the meat, or where it was processed, on products and their packaging, helping to ensure that consumers have peace of mind when they purchase meat (or other food).
Meat processors have various ways in which they can deliver traceability and peace of mind through coding. Whether these are print and apply barcode labels, accomplished using high-resolution continuous inkjet technology or other measures, packers need to have confidence that their coding and marking printers can deliver the right information on products that will stay put – whatever the substrate.
Human error – for example selecting the wrong message to be printed, or entering a code incorrectly - can also potentially cause production delays and product scrappage. However coding technology can help to alleviate this through advances such as remote control or monitoring of printers, or easy-to-use image-based operating software. This means packers have less to worry about, such as costly downtime in an industry that can little afford it.
Why do we need traceability codes?
Traceability requirements are partly designed to help consumers have greater confidence in where their food has come from and improve the accountability of manufacturers; as such legislation has set out a number of laws to deliver just this.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 is the most robust regulatory act passed in the United States in nearly a century. The food and beverage industry anticipates the release of well-defined FSMA rules by the end of 2015 and the oncoming enforcement of those rules by the FDA by the end of 2016. The timeline outlined above is mandated by a court order. The industry can reliably expect legally mandated inspections of food facilities to begin in 2016.
This modern emphasis on traceability is not just helpful information for consumers, who can tell quickly the origin of their food, but also ensures that any product recalls are limited to the specific items affected – minimizing disruption to a meat processing business. Knowing which affected products were included in a particular lot over a period of time will help prevent manufacturers from having to recall everything – leading to a more accurate and controlled recall process when issues arise and significant cost savings.
Traceability can also help to support the integrity of different types of meat manufactured and processed, for example halal, kosher or organic meat; all of which should be processed under strict guidelines.
If you want to learn more about the best coding and marking solutions for the meat processing industry, download our white paper CHOOSING THE BEST MEAT PROCESSING CODING SOLUTION.
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.
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.
TO CELEBRATE 125th ANNIVERSARY, DIAGRAPH INTRODUCES NEW GLOBAL STRATEGY
DEDICATED TO MAKING MARKING, CODING & LABELING EASY
World´s Oldest Coding Company Stays Modern with Strategic Shift Across All Aspects of Its Business
Diagraph Marking & Coding (www.diagraph.com), an ITW Company, announces the rollout of a new global strategy tightly focused on making package marking, coding and labeling easy.
Diagraph´s new brand identity focuses every aspect of the company´s business on providing hassle-free marking, coding and labeling for customers. This is achieved through an unwavering commitment to three core brand values – reliability, partnership and simplicity.
Far from an isolated marketing exercise, the new brand values represent the culmination of years of careful listening to customer priorities and a comprehensive top to bottom overhaul of Diagraph´s entire business structure. Moving forward, all aspects of the company´s business (including new product development, customer service, billing, delivery and human resources) are being driven by a shared commitment to providing products that are easy to use and being a company that is easy to work with.
Top to Bottom Brand Reorganization
As part of this new strategy, sister companies within the ITW Marketing & Coding Group will be rolled into the Diagraph brand.
Trident, the inventor of the world´s only repairable and longest lasting piezoelectric print engine, and Norwood inventor of the world´s first hot stamp imprinter for the food industry will become part of Diagraph Marking & Coding. The Trident name, respected worldwide and synonymous with rugged industrial design will remain the product brand name for piezoelectric print engines. Norwood Marking Systems will be completely consolidated into Diagraph with all new thermal transfer technology being produced under the Diagraph name.
This strategic focus on making marking, coding, and labeling easy will be rolled out across Diagraph’s operations worldwide, including Diagraph Mexico, Diagraph Asia, and Diagraph’s European operations through Allen Coding. Additionally, the Diagraph Global Partner Network of certified distributors will benefit from forthcoming products, programs, and services– extending the benefits of this new strategy to all Diagraph technology users.
Strategy in Action
In the weeks and months ahead, customers will see the launch of a number of new products, services and logistical enhancements all designed to make product marking easy.
Printing systems have been designed for market-leading uptime. Interventions are minimal, tool-less where possible and simplified with the goal of minimal touches for routine items like message editing, consumable replenishment and filter changes. New product development is focused on machine level communications and connectivity, with an emphasis on simplifying diagnostics and increasing uptime through preventive and predictive maintenance.
A comprehensive service offering underscores Diagraph´s desire to partner with its customers in all aspects of their coding and labeling operations, allowing customers to remain focused on their business. Service programs have been designed to match the skill level of customer maintenance teams.Levels range from "DIY" to "never lift a finger". Pro-active need anticipation and one-call-resolutions are guiding goals behind all service programs.
Additionally, customers will notice Diagraph´s new modern logo, updated visual identity and newly updated website (www.diagraph.com).
Context: 125 Years of Thinking Ahead
Diagraph, the world´s oldest product marking company, is celebrating its 125th Anniversary in 2018. The company has stayed relevant for over 100 years by anticipating industry trends and strategically realigning the brand to meet evolving market needs.
This approach has allowed Diagraph to remain at the forefront of global product marking needs with an impressive array of breakthrough technologies including: the world´s first stencil cutting machine (1893), the world´s first circular stencil cutting machine – the Diagraph (1902), the world´s first roll coder – the DiCoder (1969), the world´s first integrated valve jet technology (1986), the world´s first high resolution piezoelectric barcode print engine – Trident technology (1990), the world´s first centralized ink delivery system design for high resolution inkjet (1996), the world´s first automated cleaning system for high resolution inkjet technology (2002) and the world´s first all-electric automated labeling system platform (2008).
Diagraph´s new global strategic commitment to making it easy for manufacturers to make the perfect mark on their product represents a new chapter in Diagraph´s forward-looking leadership.
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.
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
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.