“Easy to use” is a designation that many quality equipment manufacturers strive for. When comparing products side by side for their ease of use, nothing is simpler than distilling a process down to a single step. At Diagraph, we like to focus on delivering “one touch solutions”. When evaluating product coding solutions, look for the following:
With consumable replenishment being the most frequent type of product coding equipment intervention, finding a solution that offers a one touch process helps save time, money, and keeps work simple for the operators.
We like the simple one touch design on Linx 8900 Series inkjet coders that allows you to open the ink compartment with a simple press of the door. No tools, twisting or turning is required to access the compartment. Fluid cartridges easily slide in and slide out, with no need to spend time pouring fluids into the printer.
The Diagraph IJ4000 high resolution inkjet printer features a centralized ink delivery system that provides a single point for fluid monitoring and replenishing. Because the Diagraph IJ4000 can drive up to 4 individual printheads, this centralized ink delivery system approach eliminates the need to monitor ink levels on individual printheads, guaranteeing that ink won’t run out at different times. Refilling the ink delivery system is also a one step process that can be performed while the printer is still running.
Coding equipment that allows for the configuration of operator screens allows manufacturers to put the printer functions most important for day to day operations right at their workers’ fingertips. This simplifies print message selection and allows operators to easily access saved printer configurations when preparing for production changeovers.
Interested in learning more about how upgrading to product coding equipment that is easier to use can save you time and money? Speak with a Diagraph product identification expert today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through the website.
By Chris Pangallo, Product Manager – Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) and Laser
Production uptime and low cost of ownership are hot topics among Chemical production and Chemical packaging companies. Many Chemical companies rely on Continuous Ink Jet Coders (CIJ) to provide high speed non-contact coding of variable text such as date and batch codes on their primary product. Linx model CIJ printers are ideal for Chemical producers and packagers with a proven track record of reliability and increased uptime due to very clever design. The printers have mistake-proof and mess free refills, avoiding costly downtime.
Linx also features the most advanced printhead on the market. The printhead is sealed with no manual parts or adjustment points. Upon shut down, the printer automatically flushes the printhead conduit, nozzle and gutter with solvent. The solvent evacuates to the controller. This cleaning, known as Full Flush™, results in quicker start up, reduces ink build up and its’ accompanying printer downtime. Self-cleaning and quicker start up allows maintenance staff more time to work on production instead of their printer.
Chemicals can be packaged in all kinds of substrates and under a variety of conditions. A common challenge when coding in the presence of chemicals is the reaction of coding ink to the product, process or environment. Marks can smear, bleed or disappear entirely. Linx has developed special purpose inks that provide maximum print quality and increased printer performance by eliminating coding issues before they start. Here are some examples:
Detergents, shampoos and cleaners are among the wide variety of products that contain alcohol. With these products there will always be the risk of splashing alcohol onto the finished product during packaging. The alcohol splash can smear, obscure or even remove coding ink. Some products, like electronic components, require cleaning with alcohol as part of their production process. If you need an ink to withstand an alcohol splash, we suggest:
1075 Black Alcohol Resistant
This ink is formulated to have a high level of resistance to chemicals such as alcohol. It is fast drying (1-2 seconds) with excellent adhesion, particularly to plastics. It resists alcohol washes (ethanol, isopropanol, etc.)
If a packaged product comes into direct contact with a wash, splash or rub of a solvent (such as Engine parts, brake pads, cables), you will need an ink with high adherence properties. If you need an ink to resist solvents, we suggest:
1370 Black UV Cure
This is a black pigmented ink that cures instead of dries. When in the presence of UV lamp system, the ink cures in 1 second. The cured mark is supremely resistant to chemicals, abrasion and is tolerant of heat.
Many products have alkali baths as part of their packaging process. If you need an ink to withstand cleaning with alkali solution, we suggest:
1014 Black Plastic Adherent
This ink was formulated to give excellent adhesion to plastic substrates, including those commonly regarded as difficult for CIJ inks such as polyethylene, nylon, and polypropylene. This versatile ink has aggressive adhesion and is resistant to alkalis.
1070 Black Alkali Removable
This ink is highly water resistant when dry but is easily removed if washed with detergent or dilute alkali. It performs well on many substrates and is ideal for coding reusable containers in the brewing and beverage industries.
Products packaged in metals may have oil present on the surface. Oils tend to separate inks from substrates, removing marks completely. If you need an ink with aggressive adhesion, we suggest:
1290 Black to Blue Thermochromic
Thermochromic inks are specially developed for the canning industry and to show a color change effect when processed through a retort or autoclave process. It is a robust ink and often specified for applications that do not require a color change as it penetrates thin coatings of oil and grease and resists removal by oils, waxes, fats and varnishes.
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.
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:
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 Michelle Chamberlain
Marking and coding products correctly is an essential part of the supply chain. Consumer packaged goods must meet packaging compliance to adhere to global and government regulations and retailer standards for product safety. Managing the printing of product codes remotely - with the right tools and software - not only eliminates waste associated with reduced time and motion along with reduced defects from key stroke errors, but also minimizes physical interaction risk to workers. You can monitor and manage your print production remotely by automating your marking, coding and labeling process. Centralized printer management software like NEXTConnect from Diagraph can help you with this.
Without NEXTConnect, each printer must be updated manually. However, with NEXTConnect software to monitor and manage your printers remotely, the need to physically touch the printers is removed - a huge benefit during Covid-19.
Common challenges manufacturers experience with production in normal circumstances are compounded during a disaster. These include:
4 major attributes of centralized printer management software, like NEXTConnect, that facilitate remote work
Some other benefits of centralized printer management software include:
With the NEXTConnect app, you can manage and monitor print production right from your smartphone, desktop or tablet. NEXTConnect works with iOS, Android and Windows.
Keeping production in essential industries is crucial and minimizing the risks of exposure to Covid-19 is equally important during this challenging time. Using a centralized printer management software suite that will allow you to control the process remotely is a vital tool to stay both safe and productive now and in the future.
Want to know more? Contact us to schedule a demonstration of NEXTConnect.
When it comes to product identification equipment, Diagraph likes to keep intervention requirements to a minimum so that customers can simply focus on producing their products. We do this in several ways including:
It is worthwhile to spend a little more time breaking down the importance of these three areas of focus:
At Diagraph, we design our coding and labeling equipment to run cleaner for longer between required interventions as well as to withstand wear and tear to get more useful life out of our equipment. This results in greater equipment uptime and a stronger return on investment over the life of Diagraph equipment.
We accomplish this by focusing on minimizing the number of steps required for routine interventions as well as extending the length of time that can pass between those interventions. Product capabilities like automatic printhead cleanings help keep inkjet coders running with optimal print quality for longer.
Examining consumable replenishment practices and offering opportunities to centralize ink refills or provide a quick turn label stock webbing approach makes accomplishing required interventions quicker and hassle-free.
Finally, quality materials and thoughtful engineering make a difference when it comes to the longevity of your equipment. At Diagraph, we focus on impact resistant designs – whether it be an inkjet coder or a labeler – to ensure long-term product reliability.
Other than making sure your product coding equipment is properly matched to your application and manufacturing environment, one of the most essential steps we can take to ensure your success is to make sure your line operators and maintenance staff know how to properly handle and maintain your equipment.
Because many of our manufacturing customers deal with worker turnover challenges on a regular basis, we recommend routine training touchpoints to keep workers knowledgeable and good stewards of your equipment investment. At Diagraph, we offer refresher-level training opportunities with each scheduled service visit from a Diagraph field service engineer and high-level, more in-depth training that can take place on location or at the Diagraph training facility in St. Charles, Missouri.
Our most successful customers work with us in partnership to regularly evaluate and maintain their coding and labeling equipment. At Diagraph, we team up with our customers to perform routine equipment assessments, provide regularly scheduled service support, and develop long-term equipment upgrade plans.
Staying ahead of wear-caused failures and properly maintaining your equipment keeps it running for longer thus reducing the need for unplanned interventions. As with all things electro-mechanical, there comes a time when equipment performance starts to impact production throughputs. We help you navigate the useful life of your equipment so that you know when it is best to repair and maintain a system or to upgrade to take advantage of performance and feature enhancements.
By working closely together, our account teams can help develop a multi-year plan that provides measurable cost saving opportunities to our customers thanks to efficiency gains in system and consumable usage optimization. These strategic audits also help customers strategically sequence system upgrades of their older technologies in order to avoid the sticker shock that comes along with most of your product identification equipment failing at the same time. Our goal is to always eliminate surprises as much as possible.
Call us today at 800.722.1125 to learn more about how Diagraph partners with manufacturers to achieve product identification and packaging compliance success.