During the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers in essential industries such as food, hygiene products, and medical supplies are needed more than ever. It’s critical that these products continue to be produced and shipped in a timely manner, to support the growing demand. Current manufacturers are doing the best they can to keep their production up at this time. And moreover, companies in industries from cosmetics to breweries to sustainable clothing are pivoting in the face of the COVID-19 disaster.
But maintaining or increasing production to meet demand during this time, while vital, also brings challenges -- including gaps in the supply chain, dealing with new and heightened hygiene and safety requirements, and navigating new packaging compliance requirements during a company pivot.
There’s no place on the planet that is not being impacted by COVID-19. With the globalization of manufacturer supply chains over the past several decades, this means that almost no supply chain will be unaffected by the crisis. Freight shipping has been drastically reduced in an attempt to help slow the spread of the virus. Truck driver shortages were already being reported before the spread of COVID-19, and now the demand for their services has only increased. With shelter in place orders, regions closing and opening on an unpredictable schedule, facilities having to follow quarantine restrictions, even essential manufacturers will be seeing shifts in their businesses.
To further complicate matters, supply chain disruptions cause food that is desperately needed to instead be wasted, as perishable food products are unable to reach market. Milk, for example, has been hit particularly hard already, as the U.S. government has been asking dairy farmers to dump their supply. Meat and produce can be frozen, grain can be moved into siloes, but milk and many other dairy products cannot be kept from spoiling over the long term and those dairy farmers are scrambling to pivot their bulk production to retail packaging.
Your company will be dealing with many potential points of failure across the supply chain. And there are more challenges to overcome as well.
Food, medical supplies, and other essential industries cannot afford to cut back production like other industries. But the workers in these industries are already seeing a much higher rate of infection than the general population. In North Carolina, 23 meatpacking plants have reported outbreaks, with more than 1,300 workers testing positive for COVID-19. And a meatpacking plant in Minnesota has reported almost 200 cases among its workers.
It’s more important than ever that companies implement good hygienic practices to keep workers safe. Proper deep cleaning procedures and 2-week quarantine periods can take time away from the production output of goods or shut down a plant all together. However, these measures ensure the health and safety of essential employees who are mission critical to meeting production demands that fuel the economy.
A number of companies in non-essential industries are pivoting to provide essential supplies during this crisis. Breweries and distilleries are producing and shipping hand sanitizer, due to having the majority of the ingredients already in-house. Meanwhile, restaurants are selling groceries, and the dairy farms that previously sold in bulk are switching over to serve more direct retail clients.
But switching over production means new compliance requirements. Additionally, processing and coding technologies that worked well for previous product needs may not be suited to print on new substrates. With so many challenges being faced, how can manufacturers keep up? Luckily, it can be fast and easy to shift to a new product coding solution.
Small character inkjet coders, for instance, are a great solution for manufacturers wanting to add new printers on their line or for those manufacturers who have switched over to packaging hand sanitizer or more retail packaged foods. Alcohol resistant inks are even available to ensure proper code adhesion even on hand sanitizer products or to withstand more rigorous cleaning procedures. More advanced continuous inkjet systems have simple set-up requirements, making self-installation achievable for facilities keeping a lockdown on visitors.
And in this time of economic uncertainty, manufacturers can lease coding equipment, spreading out payments instead of having to spend a large amount of capital upfront for new printing systems. For operations requiring consumables like inks, ribbons or on-the-shelf spare parts, supplier partners can work up blanket contracts to ensure savings over the long-run. There are multiple ways manufacturers during this time of crisis can meet current and new coding demands in a cost-efficient way.
The landscape of business everywhere is changing rapidly and even essential business manufacturers will be feeling the impact of these changes.
Your company will be dealing with many challenges during this time -- potential points of failure across the supply chain, the dangers of pivoting, rigorous new safety and hygiene requirements. Don’t let your product coding be one of these new challenges. Not when the solution can be so simple. Talk with a Diagraph Marking & Coding consultant to understand your options if you’re being met with coding challenges in your production and we will help you understand your solution options and how to implement them.
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.
Did you know there were 80 GMO labeling bills introduced in 20 states in 2015? On July 1, 2016 the first GMO labeling law will go into effect in Vermont. The Vermont law requires raw agricultural commodity and processed food producers who sell food products in or into the state of Vermont to mark the lowest saleable unit of food packaging with a disclaimer that clearly and conspicuously reads “produced with genetic engineering.”
Although the labeling message requirement is clear, the law does not specify exactly how manufacturers need to apply the mark to the packaging container. Determining how to apply the mark is entirely up to the manufacturer’s discretion.
Moving forward, food producers need to keep a keen eye on the changing regulations regarding labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Unless or until there is a federal law regarding labeling, individual states make the rules on whether or not products sold in their state need to have labeling that includes warnings such as “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering”. Companies need to decide whether to change their formulations to eliminate GMOs, adjust the geographical markets they sell into, or modify their labeling to meet individual state requirements. The path of least resistance and expense will usually be to change the labeling.
If your product has regional or national distribution, how do you manage specific variable information for sales to a specific state? Diagraph provides a solution with its Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printers.
If you can use the same GMO call out to cover the requirements of all the regions you sell into, then you can create, store, and easily select the GMO message to be printed onto your product. If different GMO messages are required, you can choose to print all of the necessary GMO messages on each package or easily create different messages and select the appropriate one for a specific manufacturing run. Regardless of the flexibility you need and the type of packaging material you are marking on, the Linx 8900 Series has you covered.
The 8900 family of CIJ printers is capable of printing between one to five lines of text, logos, and barcodes, and is designed for maximum efficiency and minimal effort. The stainless steel cabinet boasts a minimum IP55 rating, which makes it suitable for a wash-down environment. The 8900 Series printers are designed to run reliably and feature the ability to program 4 to 50 production line settings and up to 1,000 unique messages to enable quick and painless change overs and message updates.
With easy change overs and high quality, high speed print, companies can easily add any required GMO text to existing packaging using Linx CIJ.
Although CIJ technology is ideal for meeting nearly every GMO labeling need, there are a variety of technologies available to you to stay in compliance with the law. All-electric label applicators and thermal inkjet printers may be good alternatives depending on your operation. Contact us today for a free consultation to determine which technology is best suited to meet your unique needs: 800-722-1125 or email info @ diagraph.com.
Ease of serviceability was a common pain point expressed by customers at this year’s PMMI Annual Conference “The Customer Speaks — OpX Leadership Network Panel”. Manufacturers are experiencing frequent turnover, making it difficult to keep a staff knowledgeable, up-to-date and skilled on their equipment. Additionally, training staff can be a costly investment, especially when you’re in a constant rotation of training a new force due to your skilled labor – your time and money investment – walking out the door.
Normal wear and tear is inevitable on continuous inkjet technology, leaving manufacturers with the option of relying on field servicing from the technology provider when staff lacks the knowledge and training required to maintain their CIJ systems.
There are some features you can look for in a CIJ solution to circumvent mounting preventative maintenance costs related to an unskilled workforce:
This is only one pain point associated with continuous inkjet printers that add to your total cost of ownership. For Diagraph's full round up of hidden costs of owning a CIJ system and how to evaluate features for a lower cost of ownership, read our whitepaper.
The Hidden Costs of Continuous Inkjet Coders Whitepaper
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:
Discover which Diagraph solution is right for your application by completing our short technology assessment. Click here to complete the assessment.
For Immediate Release – February 5, 2013 Contact: Dina Garland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 636.300.2035
Diagraph’s All-Electric Label Applicator High Speed Tamp
The HST (High Speed Tamp) is the newest application module in the Diagraph line-up that directly addresses the challenges of the sustainable packaging. It’s unique pivoting design allows for the contouring of irregular surfaces at speeds up to 300 FPM. With fewer tray packs containing sidewall corrugate, applications that were primarily solved with ink jet solutions and standard tamp labeling systems are now in need of a new product identification method. The HST reliability solves this challenge with an All- Electric design and a precisely controlled servo motor design. No more concerns about labels adhering to the shrink surfaces, since the pivoting head and roller ensure the label is not only adhered, but conformed to the product. This greatly improves upon application methods that depend on blow-box technology, which is highly subject to varying distances to the product and concave surfaces. Tamp systems suffer from finding a balance between good surface contact and the danger of getting caught up in the shrink wrap. The HST was designed to solve the real-time challenges of manufacturing companies, who strive for maximum up time and appreciate the difference that good quality makes. Learn more.
For more information, call 800-722-1125, send emails to email@example.com or visit www.diagraph.com. To view videos of our labeling and coding product applications, customer success stories and demonstrations from the trade show booth, please visit YouTube’s Diagraph Channel www.youtube.com/diagraphitw. Also, please take a moment to “Like Us” on Facebook www.facebook.com/diagraphitw in order to receive announcements and stay in touch with what’s new at Diagraph.
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.