Products containing animal milk are on a constant time clock. Cows must be milked every day, meaning it is possible for dairy operations to be running 24/7 to get products with an under 20-day expiration period out the door and onto shelves. In these fast-paced manufacturing environments for fluid milk, cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream products, there are several factors that impact the method and features required for achieving legible marks and labels onto packaging.
With perishability of dairy products, there is great urgency for products containing milk to make it to grocers’ shelves with the right product identification. Without proper codes, products won’t even be allowed to ship. Any delay could have health risks for consumers and potential negative financial impact for the manufacturer.
Look for non-contact coders with features focused on maintaining maximum uptime such as:
Cold, wet environments characterize dairy manufacturing facilities. Fluid milks and cheeses can perish quickly and require constant refrigeration from the production line to the delivery truck all the way to the grocery store. Mixing and filling stations call for washdown procedures to prevent contamination and create a damp environment for coding and other equipment.
Coding equipment should include the following features to uphold against these environmental factors:
We recommend the Linx 8900 Series printers for their reliable performance in dairy processing environments. To further improve your batch and date coding in the dairy industry, we can suggest additional accessories like fork style photocell sensors for the most accurate coding, positive air added in the printer cabinet to protect against contaminants entering system and end coders.
Contact Diagraph today to learn more about how these small character inkjet printers can improve your date and batch coding operation.
Click here to learn what marking & coding solution is right for your dairy application.
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.
No one wants to risk their health or the health of their family by bringing home dairy products with indistinguishable expiration dates. Regardless if your dairy plant produces fluid milk, cheese, yogurt or ice cream, if your product does not have a legible expiration date on it, chances are your product will remain on grocer’s shelves but too many instances of poor quality codes will put the dairy processors relationship with the grocer at risk.
Non-contact coders such as the Linx 8900 Series continuous inkjet (CIJ) are an ideal choice for dairy packaging as it allows high speed printing of variable information on a variety of substrates such as PET bottles, foil sealed cups and resealable pouches. The printer is built for harsh industrial environments with refrigeration and washdown requirements. It has a completely sealed printhead and solid stainless steel construction.
Linx 8900 Series printers are right at home in dairies, but how do you ensure your code adhesion and readability? Linx offers a variety of functional coding inks. Here are our top 5 recommended inks designed to meet the performance needs of dairy products.
Not sure which ink type is right for your coding application? Contact Diagraph today to learn more about our Linx ink selection and to request print samples for your diary product coding application. Call 1.800.722.1125 or contact us through the 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
6 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Coding Solution for the Meat Processing Industry
Marking and coding equipment should help contract packagers improve productivity. Diagraph accomplishes this by keeping equipment intervention requirements for our product identification equipment to a minimum.
Diagraph’s coding and labeling equipment runs cleaner for longer between required interventions and withstands wear and tear, increasing its useful life. This leads to greater equipment uptime and a stronger return on investment over the life of Diagraph equipment.
The number of steps required for routine interventions as well as the length of time between those interventions is minimized. Product capabilities like automatic printhead cleanings help keep inkjet coders operating with optimal print quality for longer. Examining consumable replenishment practices and centralizing ink refills or providing a quick turn label stock webbing approach makes required interventions quicker and hassle-free.
Finally, quality materials and thoughtful engineering matter when it comes to the longevity of your equipment. Diagraph’s focus on impact resistant designs – whether it be an inkjet coder or a labeler – ensures long-term product reliability.
After making sure your product coding equipment is properly matched to your application and contract packaging environment, it is essential to make sure your line operators and maintenance staff know how to properly handle and maintain your equipment.
Diagraph’s equipment is designed to have fewer touchpoints to enable hassle-free installation, training and maintenance. These easy access touchpoints minimize the amount of time required and eliminate the need to access the entire system to perform maintenance or changeovers.
Because contract packagers regularly deal with worker turnover challenges, routine training to keep workers knowledgeable and able to be good stewards of your equipment is critical. We offer refresher-level training opportunities with each scheduled service visit from a Diagraph field service engineer. In addition, in-depth training is offered on location or at the Diagraph training facility in St. Charles, Missouri.
Our most successful customers partner with us to regularly evaluate and maintain their coding and labeling equipment. We perform routine equipment assessments, provide regularly scheduled service and develop long-term equipment upgrade plans.
Equipment is kept running longer and the need for unplanned interventions is reduced by staying ahead of wear-caused failures and by properly maintaining equipment. As with all things electro-mechanical, equipment performance will eventually impact production throughputs. We help you navigate the useful life of your equipment to determine when to repair and maintain a system and when to upgrade and benefit from performance and feature enhancements.
By working closely together, our account teams can help you develop a multi-year plan that provides measurable cost savings opportunities due to system efficiency gains and consumable usage optimization. These strategic audits also help customers strategically sequence system upgrades of their older technologies to avoid the sticker shock created if your product identification equipment fails at the same time.
Our goal is to always to make it easy for our customers to make the perfect mark. Find the right product for your application by completing this short assessment.
Call us today at 800.722.1125 to learn more about how Diagraph partners with manufacturers to achieve product identification and packaging compliance success.