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.
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.
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.
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.
To achieve packaging compliance, manufacturers need more than picking the right product coding technology. Data management and packaging control and automation add another level of sophistication to an operation’s compliance practices.
Incorrect manufacturing codes can be applied to products due to human error or improper material handling practices. But manufacturers can rely on data connectivity and good data management practices to handle variable print message editing and selection.
Data management is part of Industry 4.0 -- by using data management and connectivity to manage data integration on the production floor, manufacturers can automate the correct information being printed on the correct products, which is an important step in ensuring packaging compliance. Specialized printer management software can make this process seamless.
One-way data management allows manufacturers to use existing databases to automatically fill in data for print message formats. The populated codes are sent in real-time directly to the printer. By using a central database to link and populate batch, date, and barcodes, user error can be minimized.
Manufacturers can use two-way data management to receive feedback in real-time that will allow them to improve their operational processes:
Making sure the right manufacturing codes are being printed onto products is one half of the printing process. The other half is to make sure that the packaging substrate is presented consistently to the coding technology to be printed upon. Among other consequences, improper material handling can lead to codes being printed inconsistently and incorrectly.
Material handling measures that can minimize printing errors include:
However, even with these measures in place, incorrectly printed products can still occur. Which is why it is important for material handling reject systems to be in place in order to detect non-compliant products before it reaches the retailer, or more so, the consumer. Packages with incorrect codes printed on them can sometimes have the opportunity to be reworked with the correct manufacturing codes instead of being scrapped completely, which is a less than ideal situation from a production throughput and financial standpoint.
Some features of reject systems can include:
And by evaluating the material handling processes regularly, the processes can be improved over time so fewer packages fail packaging compliance in the first place.
For manufacturers to achieve packaging compliance, implementing data management and good material handling processes are recommended, along with using the right product identification solution.
Working with a partner that has an understanding of material handling best practices and how to utilize data management to optimize operations can help manufacturers better achieve packaging automation. Manufacturers should also seek out partners that offer a variety of product identification solutions, support beyond installation of equipment, a network of conveyor and vision system partners to create turnkey solutions and training for maintenance staff. The combination of all these factors can set up manufacturers for success in packaging compliance.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog series on how to achieve packaging compliance. Check out the other posts here:
Companies rely on engineers or technicians to keep production lines up and running. Because these job functions are essential to hitting production targets, it is critically important that their skill level on equipment is proficient. The amount of time and money that will have to be invested in training production line workers should be a major deciding factor when deciding to replace product identification equipment.
Many manufacturers apply variable information such as lot, batch and expiration dates on their products with continuous inkjet (CIJ) technology for the following reasons:
The Linx 8900 series offered by Diagraph offers an additional benefit: minimal need for line operators to learn new procedures when the units are introduced to the production line.
Linx 8900 Service Features
Traditionally, CIJ printers require the attention of skilled labor to keep printers clean (which is critical to operation) or to tweak print quality at the printhead level. The industry leading Linx 8900 series printers can be operated and maintained with minimal touches due to the following features:
If you are considering replacing existing CIJ equipment and need it to operate with minimal intervention and training, the simple operation and maintenance of the Linx 8900 series printer makes it the right piece of equipment for you.
According to PMMI’s 2017 Trends in Food Processing Operations, “Four out of five companies have more than 100 product SKUs and over half predict SKUs will continue to increase, driving the need for faster changeover.”
A number of factors contribute to the drastic rise in SKUs, like company acquisitions and portfolio merging, flavor variety, count variety and retailer-specific case sizes, to name a few. Managing an increasing number of SKUs is costly for snack food manufacturers, especially when a bulk of them only contribute a small portion to their bottom-line profit. Constant starting and stopping of production lines to changeover a new product run means more downtime in a manufacturer’s operations.
On-the-go lifestyles, practiced commonly amongst the Millennial generation, have increased the need for convenient packaging:
A greater emphasis on healthy options has also increased the number of recipe variations, causing more SKUs to be made for tracking purposes. Consumers want to be able to recognize the ingredients in their products, known as “clean labeling”, giving rise to popular snacks like popcorn, breakfast bars, pretzels and others to have variations such as:
In addition to having access to ranges of food products in virtually any shopping setting – retail chains, convenient stores, grocery stores and department stores – consumers are also demanding to have the ability to order their snacks and other groceries online. Different distribution channels are assigned different SKUs for manufacturers to have visibility into tracking purchasing. On the fulfillment end of the supply chain, it is of the utmost importance that cases sitting in the warehouse of online distribution centers are clearly labeled with the correct product information to ensure accurate customer order fulfillment.
For instances when skilled labor workers do not speak the primary language of your printer settings, these barriers can be dealt with through advanced line setting features in the user interface of marking and coding technologies. More and more, interfaces for coders and labelers are moving towards the look and feel of a smartphone – with recognizable icons instead of text. For operations with multiple production lines to accommodate different products, the name of the product can be replaced with an image of the actual product for quick recognition. This simplified naming method for line settings reduces the user error brought about by language gaps.
There are a couple of levels in which SKU proliferation can be managed in an automated way through your coding and labeling printers:
1) Storing messages at the machine level with meaningful names to alleviate mistakes during changeover. For example, naming your message “Gluten Free Crackers” versus “Crackers”.
2) Message retrieval from a database through barcode scanning goes a step further through verification, ensuring that the message on the secondary cases matches the primary product information.
You can make the greatest impact on your operations, including managing SKUs, when you partner with a solutions provider to design your entire marking and coding operation around this objective. With your main requirements and unique specifications in mind from the start, it is possible to integrate a coding and labeling solution that not only works seamlessly in your production line but can add additional value by automating the SKU management process and reducing downtime.
Interested in more forward-looking trends and topics affecting manufacturers in the snack food industry? Download our free whitepaper, 2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging, for a full analysis of how these changes will impact manufacturers, packagers and retailers.
2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging
Diagraph Marking & Coding focuses on partnering with customers in every aspect of their coding and labeling operations, including working closely to develop a unique supply strategy that ensures our customers have the appropriate coding and labeling supplies on hand for when they need them. This holistic approach to partnership allows Diagraph to maximize efficiencies for customers and drive tangible value throughout a long-term partnership.
When working with customers to develop a custom supply strategy, we take a close look at the following:
Many of our customers prefer to opt-in to our annual supply strategy service to receive regular deliveries tailored to their production. Supplies are routinely sent at a specified interval utilizing this service and are eligible for special Diagraph Insider Predictability Discounts. Other customers with more seasonality to their business often enjoy a standing order arrangement that allows them to call in a pre-determined order on-demand. Both of these programs have their perks.
Interested in working with Diagraph to keep your marking, coding, and labeling operations running as easily and efficiently as possible? Speak with a Diagraph representative today by calling 1.800.722.1125 or contacting us through the website.