We’ve all been there. Starving at the end of the day and rushing into a supermarket to pick up something to eat. Consumers may give a cursory glance at the best before date on the package to confirm that the item is safe to eat. They give no thought (and why should they) to how much research and development has gone into the ink displaying the information on the package. Not so for those responsible for coding and marking in the food industry.
Advice for food manufacturers
Manufacturers need to understand the complexities and range of ink available and what ink is best for their product, in terms of quality, reliability and budget.
Of course, it’s not just the date code that is printed on food products. Traceability or batch codes, required by law, are also included. Heavy fines can be imposed if the codes are not up to standard–and the monetary and reputational damage to the manufacturer could be extensive.
Linx inks quality & range
Every batch of Linx ink is quality tested to the highest specifications in accordance with ISO 9001. While no one standard ink is applicable for all uses, there are extensive choices available for the food industry. These include inks that are deliver high-quality results and are suitable for printing onto food products themselves, such as eggs and cheese, and specialist inks for printing on the full range of packaging materials from paper labels and cardboard to plastic packaging and bottles.
Inks for harsh environments
Linx inks are suitable for harsh environments, are fade resistant, quick drying and certified food grade. Adherence is key when coding onto polyethylene and other plastic containers, and Linx has an ink that does that with ease. In today’s hygiene conscious production environments, alcohol resistant ink can be used where products and production lines are cleaned down with alcohol-based cleaners.
Inks for retort processes
Linx’s black retort ink is formulated to resist moisture and transference. This ink is ideal for consistent coding through can and pouch retort applications where the contents are cooked in the packaging after they are coded. Another option for the retort processes in food production are thermochromic inks, which undergo a chemically resistant color change when subjected to wet heat conditions to provide a visual indicator that products have undergone the sterilization process.
Black inks for food manufacturing
Linx’s black inks come with a range of options, from fast-drying and able to withstand temperatures up to 400°F, through to oil-penetrating inks which print effectively through light layers of oil onto plastics, metal, glass and waxy surfaces, or where the code will be exposed to oil later in the process. The inks can provide excellent adhesion on flexible food packaging containers even where a light layer of condensation may be present.
There is also a black alcohol-based ink with low odor and good adherence to a range of substrates including most plastics. This ink is ketone and chromium-free, so it meets USDA requirements for incidental contact with meat and poultry. And to ensure producers meet their environmental goals, Linx also provides an array of eco-friendly MEK-free inks.
Linx inks meet food industry requirements
Because Linx’s extensive range of specialist inks are all certified for CIJ printers, you can rest assured your printing will meet legislative requirements in the food industry. And with online or customer service ordering, you will always have the correct ink in stock for your changeover needs.
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.
Errors can create downtime and missed deadlines. In today's environment, extended downtime is not something a company can afford to have happen. It is vital to understand why errors are occurring and to keep those coding errors to an absolute minimum. If an error is made at the start of the process but not detected until the end, the cost of rework and rescheduling reduces profits.
Mistakes can and do happen. Below are some of the main reasons coding errors occur so frequently.
Of course, it is a good practice to audit coding errors and analyze their causes. This can pinpoint clear actions for improvements such as individual or group training requirements or identify which equipment needs updating or replacing if it has become unreliable.
Eliminating 100% of coding errors is not possible due to the human factor. However, with the wide choice of user interfaces on the market, it makes sense to incorporate as many beneficial features as possible which suit your requirements and workforce. This approach helps reduce operator errors and keeps your downtime to an absolute minimum.
Remember, no one piece of equipment is going to solve your coding errors. You will always need good staff training, teamwork and processes. However, a good user interface that guides employees through initial set up can ensure errors are kept to a minimum. This will go a long way to keeping costs low, reducing downtime and most importantly, keeping your customers happy.
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.
When looking at purchasing small character continuous ink jet coding equipment, it’s important to take a step back and look at the total cost of ownership. As consumers, we have fallen into the habit of looking at the sticker price, no matter if it’s a car, dishwasher, or ink jet printer and immediately formulating an opinion based on the price tag. “It’s too expensive” or “it costs more than other ones just like it” might be typical reactions when finding something that looks like it’s priced higher than similar looking, competitive models. And it’s easy to understand why we do that…and we ALL do that. Typically, it’s a large purchase. Or in the case of buying something for business, it’s a capital expenditure, and the purchase needs to be justified. However, if you want to find the true cost of what you’ll spend, you have to look at more than just the initial purchase price, or “perceived price” of any item…you’ll need to look at the total cost of ownership. Doing a proper cost analysis may take a little time and effort, but it’s time well spent. It can save you in both dollars and “sense” later on.
With the purchase of a small character continuous ink jet (CIJ) printer, there are three main areas when considering the total cost:
1. Purchase Price 2. Maintenance & Production Downtime Costs 3. Consumables & Parts Costs
Again, the first and most obvious indicator of pricing comes from the purchase price of the item. And there’s a pretty healthy range of pricing and options when it comes to CIJ printers. Make sure you are comparing equivalent features and options when looking at printers head to head. And if CIJ printers are designed to print, whether it be alphanumerics; date codes; batch codes; lot codes; bar codes; graphics or logos, what makes one different from the other? They all still print the code, right?
The old adage, “you usually get what you pay for” greatly comes into play with CIJ printers, just like it does with automobiles. The similarities are uncanny. Every automobile, when it came off the showroom floor, was designed with at least one commonality in mind: to get you from point A to point B. But think about the vehicles you’ve owned. Hasn’t there been one that drove better, last longer, provided more reliability than others that you’ve had? It’s the same with CIJ printers. They’re all designed to come off the showroom floor, or in this case out of the box, and “drive” or print. However, just like your favorite vehicle, there is a difference from one CIJ to the next, on how it drives, how long it lasts, how reliable it is over time. And in the end, just like an automobile, you usually get what you pay for. In a sense, you can “pay now or pay later”. (“Pay now” meaning the initial cost may seem more expensive, but over time will be minimized by less maintenance, less downtime, less headaches. Or “pay later” meaning a lower cost initially, but over time more expense through frequent maintenance, more downtime, more headaches.
After purchase price, we need to look at an area that may be thought about the least, but arguably should be considered the most. It’s the categories that we don’t automatically think about when we think about “price”, but these are a very important part of the equation when adding up to the total cost of ownership.
Some important questions to ask while comparing CIJ printers:
Do you see the reoccurring theme? Let’s face it, time is money. And the time that your production line is not running is costing your company money. Ask any Maintenance Manager who oversees a CIJ printer on the production line about their joys or pains. Depending on the CIJ printer, you’ll either hear “I press the go button in the morning for start-up, I press the red button in the afternoon for go home, and the time in-between I have no problems.” Or you’ll hear responses like, “my CIJ printer takes forever to start-up, I have to clean the printhead daily, I have to manually make adjustments to the printhead, it’s a mess.” So one of the factors that needs to be added in to the total cost of ownership is time. How long does the printer take to get up and running? What’s involved? How much time is spent daily on maintaining the printer, or more specifically, the printhead? Are manual adjustments to the printhead needed in order to maintain print quality throughout the day?
Is the printhead your friend or foe? For example, if daily printer startups takes 10 minutes every day x 7 days week x 52 weeks/year, that’s an average of over 60 hours spent just on getting the CIJ printer to print! How much is your time worth per hour? Do the math. How important is it to have a CIJ printer that does not require daily printhead cleaning nor any manual adjustments made to the printhead? How much time could that save? How much money could that save! That too is part of the cost of ownership that needs to be factored in.
While not all CIJ printers require factory air, many today do. So another cost as part of your analysis is factory air. How often does the air filter need to be replaced? What is the cost of the air itself? $400/year? And what about portability or rather mobility. Some manufacturers like to have one printer to move to multiple production lines at different times of the day. If so, how easy is it to move the CIJ printer if there is an airline connected to it? Will I need an airline added in another location? If you’re comparing a CIJ printer that does use factory air vs. one that does not, make sure to take those items into consideration as well. They too are part of your cost.
Also, and without getting into the details, it is important to know how frequently your CIJ printer will require scheduled maintenance. You’ll want to understand from your CIJ vendor what is recommended by the manufacturer and factor that into your cost.
Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to consumables. Ink consumption will be based on the volume used to mark your product. Solvent consumption has many variables based on ambient temperature and fluids management (i.e. are you wasting solvent on printhead cleaning, are you needing to refresh systems with new solvent when you haven’t finished your old solvent yet). Figuring how much ink and solvent your CIJ printer requires to put your mark on your product is part of the cost analysis. Also, in terms of purchasing fluids, make sure that you are comparing the volume of fluids per case. Some vendors will package and sell 6 bottles to a case; others will be 10 bottles to a case, so make certain you are looking at the total volume when looking at cost per case on consumables.
Replacement parts should be purchased from a manufacturer-approved source. Discount replacement parts (i.e. from a third party) may prove to be more costly due to increased maintenance & service costs.
So that’s basically it. The key to determining the total cost of ownership is to look at the total picture. And if you’re working with a reputable vendor of CIJ printers, they’ll alert you to this and even aid in figuring your total cost. The main thing to remember is that a CIJ printer with a higher purchase price does not make it a more expensive printer. In fact, it will probably save you money because of its quality, reliability, and longevity.
At the end of the day, what you’re really buying is value and peace of mind. If you have to continually stop your production line to babysit the CIJ printer because it’s time to add fluids, tweak the printhead, etc. on a printer that you saved a few thousand dollars on, you’re not saving money. With CIJ printers, you really do get what you pay for. Remember, it’s about dollars and “sense”.
And just like automobiles, you should be able to do a “test drive” of the CIJ printers before you purchase. A quality vendor will access your application needs, make a recommendation based on best-fit technology and provide you with a free, no-obligation demonstration of the CIJ printer on your production line. If they can’t or won’t do that, look elsewhere.
Not having what you need for your coding and labeling equipment when you need it can put a halt to production. This is why we recommend taking a proactive approach to the supplies you need to keep your equipment up and running in tip-top condition. The result? Your coding and labeling operations run like a well-oiled machine, with the right amount of consumables at the ready based on your production and the right parts on hand leading up to preventive maintenance actions.
Through the Diagraph On-time Delivery component of our Diagraph Solution Center model, we match each customer with a dedicated account team that can help plan your order schedule for supplies around the following:
The Diagraph On-time Delivery program is just one of the ways we partner with customers to deliver tangible value throughout a long-term relationship. Free yourself from the hassle and complexity of coding and labeling supply management and also save money by opting-in to our annual services to receive a predictability discount.
Learn more about the other three components of the Diagraph Solution Center:
The Container You Choose for Your Brew Determines Which Coding Technology You Should Choose
An excerpt from 2016 Comprehensive Guide to Date and Batch Coding in the Craft Brewing Industry
Different types of technology are needed for printing on your primary (bottle or can) package and on your secondary (outer box) package. Continuous ink jet (CIJ) and laser are the most common options for printing date codes, batch codes, other text, graphics, barcodes, QR codes and other codes onto primary beverage packages.
When selecting a coding system for your primary packaging, the first step is to consider what type of material you will be printing on. Keeping in mind that you can reasonably expect the printer to last five to seven years, what types of packages are you using now and do you plan to use in the years ahead? Bottles can be coded with either laser or CIJ systems. Cans are coded with CIJ technology. This means that a craft brewer who wants to be able to code on both cans and bottles will need a CIJ system.
The next consideration that should factor into your coding technology decision is production volume. Download our free guide to view cost comparisons based on the number of bottles and/or cans you fill per day.
2016 Comprehensive Guide to Date and Batch Coding in the Craft Brewing Industry
As a leading provider of marking and coding technology, Diagraph works with breweries of all sizes across the country to fulfill product traceability needs that can easily scale up for future capacity and complexity. Diagraph manufactures batch coding and date coding technologies that span the entire packaging line -- from primary product to secondary packaging all the way to pallet labeling.