If you haven’t had a top-to-bottom review of your coding and labeling operations within the past 5 to 10 years, you are probably overdue for a comprehensive product identification site audit. Technological advancements have allowed for manufacturers to achieve greater efficiencies and accuracy with their product coding efforts for all levels of packaging – from primary products all the way to pallet level labeling.
Diagraph can take the guess work out of coding and labeling operational best practices by offering free comprehensive site audits. We make a series of recommendations that span anywhere from making modifications to current equipment or practices for enhanced productivity to the complete retooling of your product identification operation to help you achieve your production and packaging compliance goals.
Our site audits include a close review of the following key areas:
After reviewing these key areas and other aspects of your packaging compliance requirements, we provide a site audit report with simple recommendations that you can implement immediately as well as bigger picture recommendations that can be implemented overtime with planning and support. At Diagraph, our goal is to make it easy for our customers to achieve the perfect mark on their products. Regular site audits and account reviews are just one of the ways we work in partnership with our customers.
Call us today at 800.722.1125 to learn more about how Diagraph partners with manufacturers to achieve product identification and packaging compliance success.
Step one of a manufacturer’s game plan for packaging compliance is to understand your manufacturing code and print application requirements, in order to pick the product identification solution that is best for your needs.
What kind of information needs to be included in your print message? In many cases, especially in food and beverage, consumer-readable information must be included for buyers to determine freshness. In other instances, government and global regulatory agencies have set the requirements for manufacturers to adhere to. In order to meet packaging compliance, manufacturers may need specific product information, manufacturing codes, and barcode information, including:
Once specific print requirements and message placement are determined, manufacturers should also consider their application specifications. What type of packaging substrate does a manufacturer’s product or products use? What other processes in your material handling are occurring to take into consideration? And what kind of line speeds are they trying to achieve?
It will be important to understand which criteria your application falls under for a marking and coding partner to best match you with a solution that will deliver your desired results.
After determining the print requirements and application specifications, manufacturers can look at the available product identification solutions and select a technology that is right-sized for their material handling set-up.
A full portfolio range of product identification solutions are available to manufacturers including:
The tables below show how each type of product coding technology is suited to fill specific manufacturer print and application requirements.
In order to achieve packaging compliance, it’s necessary to pick the best marking and coding technology for the product in question. By taking the time to understand print message and application requirements, manufacturers can begin to compare compatible product identification methods and equipment.
Picking the best product identification solution is one step in a multi-step process to achieve packaging compliance. After the information has been applied to your product, message validation is the next step.
Ensuring manufacturing codes are printed on products is not enough by itself to achieve packaging compliance. The codes need to be validated to make sure they are present, accurate, and scannable.
There have been many advancements in product identification and machine visioning technology that have enabled manufacturers to automate the monitoring of real-time print quality. Scanners and vision systems are common components added to the production line postprint to inspect and report any illegible codes or incorrect stock.
Manufacturers know their requirements best, and working with a partner that offers a portfolio of all types of product coding technology will give you a fair assessment of the best solution for your needs. It’s also wise to choose someone who can provide support beyond installation for maintenance and servicing as age and wear and tear occur on your equipment. A reliable partner will also provide training for your maintenance staff should you choose to be as self-sufficient as possible.
However, there are still more steps to ensure manufacturers achieve packaging compliance.
Learn more about the other key considerations Diagraph recommends for guaranteeing packaging compliance:
Download the full whitepaper, “Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process”
The final step in your production process can often easily be overlooked. After rigorously completing all the upstream processing, packaging and coding processes, the final palletized product seems to be a small step before crossing the finish line. However, labeling at the pallet level is a crucial process for identifying palletized products being shipped to retailers.
Imagine this: You’re completing a custom job for products specific to one regional retail chain. To differentiate the pallets for the custom job from your standard products, you plan on printing the identifying batch information on the license plate label and applying it to the outside of the shrink-wrapped pallet. When the time comes, your shipment is sent to the retailer only to discover that the products sent are not the custom printed containers they ordered. Now not only is your relationship with this retailer tarnished, but you are on the hook for reprinting all of their products at your own cost.
This scenario might sound familiar if you’re still in the business of manually applying labels. Some level of human error is always a risk and it can be a costly one. Ensuring a consistent, accurate label on every pallet that leaves your facility doesn’t have to be a trying task. It is possible to guarantee proper label placement while also avoiding common safety issues often occurring from the entanglement of the labeler in the pallet shrink wrap.
Our pallet labeling experts at Diagraph have complied a helpful guide for assessing automated pallet labelers for your production line. This guide steps through the main questions you should ask when evaluating your pallet labeling automation process and reviews the top areas of consideration you should work through before you make any kind of investment.
Download the full whitepaper, “Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process”, here to learn more.
Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process
What does your company do when products are marked with the wrong product identification codes? Scrap? Rework? Mismarked and mislabeled products can create big hits to the bottom line. When encountering marking mistakes with regularity, companies can find it difficult to keep profit margins under control. What’s worse is if mismarked or mislabeled products make it out to market, manufacturers can face penalties from retailers and the risk of product recalls.
There are several factors to consider when trying to reduce marking mistakes:
The first step to reducing marking mistakes is picking the right coding technology for both your application and your manufacturing environment. When choosing a technology, some factors to consider include:
Available coding technologies include inkjet coders, labelers,thermal transfer printers, and laser coders. Each of these technologies have their merits and should be considered carefully with the help of experts familiar with the advantages and disadvantages. Success will be realized when the best technology is chosen for your unique situation.
Choosing the right technology often comes down to identifying the best possible combination of cost-per-mark and mark adhesion quality. There are numerous inks, label stock types, and ribbon formulations that can help you achieve a durable, lasting code on your product.
If you are marking onto a particularly tricky surface or operating your equipment in a hotter or cooler than average environment, you will want to run code adhesion tests and even demo the full solution for a period of time to ensure that code adhesion is strong once a mark is applied to your product packaging. A quality supplier will be able to run print samples and set you up with trials of their equipment.
Although choosing the right equipment and matching it with the right ink, label or ribbon is important, an often-overlooked aspect of achieving code compliance is material handling. Heavy vibrations in your production line and skewed products that are not presenting well to the coding technology can impact the overall quality of your mark.
Reviewing your material handling practices and making recommendations for the best use of your equipment is vital to achieving high quality marks on your products.
You can take your coding and labeling operation a step closer to guaranteed compliance by adopting a product verification or validation step after the mark has been applied to your product. There are several levels of verification that ensure that a mark:
Verification and validation require the use of scanners or vision systems as well as connectivity to your coding equipment and product databases.
When incorporating a verification or validation step into your coding and labeling operation, you will need some form of reactive material handling after verification takes place if a printed mark is considered to be illegible. When manufacturers encounter poor code quality, a signal can be triggered to stop the production line altogether to correct what is causing the poor print or a reject and redirect action can take place to separate the questionable product from the rest of production. If too many poor quality codes are encountered, production can be stopped to allow for a remedy.
Having issues with achieving packaging compliance and encountering too many marking mistakes? At Diagraph, we can help you quantify the true cost hitting your bottom line and will work with you to develop a game plan to minimize errors and ensure proper code adhesion.
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
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is transforming manufacturing and a whole host of other industries. IIoT connects industrial devices that can monitor, collect, exchange, and analyze data, and leverage that data and connectivity to help you make smarter, faster and more effective business decisions.
Chances are, you’re already automating parts of your business -- but IIoT takes automation to a whole new level. Two major IIoT trends to watch for in 2020, according to Mobidev, are wireless connectivity and predictive analytics. If you aren’t leveraging IIoT as part of your marking and coding process, it’s a wasted opportunity.
Centralized printer management software connects wirelessly to your printing and coding equipment, creating a central database so that operators can review printing status and start jobs remotely using their mobile devices – among other capabilities. Centralized printer management software can also track prints and analyze operational history, to deliver valuable insights about your processes.
The robust interconnectedness of IIoT technology such as a centralized printer management system, can innovate the product identification process in a number of ways. For example, imagine being able to run your production processes without having to constantly keep an eye on your coding and labeling equipment.
Some other benefits of centralized printer management software include:
Here’s a checklist of common complexities and pains that manufacturers experience with production. If any of these experiences sound familiar, you could benefit from deploying printer management software in your facility:
Improving manufacturing processes is an ongoing challenge, and IIoT can help. For your marking and coding process, centralized printer management software offers many benefits and seamlessly automates a complex operation.
Take the next step to automating your coding and labeling operations. Try NEXTConnect™ printer management software for free for 90 days. Contact a Diagraph representative today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a trial license.
Fast-paced lifestyles of the working class and a growing number of Millennials demanding on-the-go options are two contributing factors to the rise in the ready-to-eat (RTE) prepared foods market with a projected CAGR of 7.2% between 2016-2026. (Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026)
What exactly classifies a product as RTE? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a ready-to-eat product is defined as “animal or plant derived food that is cooked, frozen, washed, cooked for hot holding, cooled, and processed to be consumed directly or after heating.”
Packaging for RTE food products can come in many forms or in a variety of materials including aluminum foils, extruded polyethylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and cellophane. These types of materials offer versatility for keeping food shelf-stable, while utilizing less shelf space and materials than traditional tin cans and many allow for cooking food directly within the package for eating or serving. A common RTE package used for microwaveable soups, sauces, rice and pasta dishes are stand-up pouches. This flexible packaging format is also commonly seen in prepared baby foods, juices, yogurts and wet pet foods.
These newly designed packages raise questions on how to properly make required expiration and identification marks. Consider the following factors:
Packaging substrate – Most common RTE meal packaging is made up of non-porous plastics or foils, meaning your mark either requires ink or ribbon that will adhere to non-porous surfaces for a permanent mark solution
Branding – Consumers value freshness, portion control, and perceived health benefits of these RTE products meaning new creative packaging innovations are necessary to stand out on the shelves. This requires finesse from the manufacturer or packager in strategically placing freshness dates in locations on the product that are easily visible by consumers and maintain permanency without compromising the integrity of the brand packaging
Integration – If your product is packaged via a vertical or horizontal form fill and seal machine, consider marking and coding printers that will most easily integrate into that process to still achieve demanding throughput goals
If you’re a food manufacturer focused on the ready-to-eat meal or snack market, it is critical to have the right partner in place to assist with marking and coding solutions that won’t disrupt your operation. According to the study Ready-to-Eat Food Market, the North American RTE market is forecasted to be valued at $78.73 billion. (Source: Ready-to-Eat Food Market: Meat/Poultry Segment Expected to Dominate Market from 2016 to 2026: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026)
Our experts are ready to speak with you about how our thermal transfer overprinters or continuous inkjet systems can meet your product identification needs.