2020 will go down in history as a challenging time for food producers. While it is vital that food supplies to supermarkets are uninterrupted and rigorous hygiene is maintained, we should not forget the importance of the printed information that is provided to the consumer when it is on the shelf. There are heavy fines for batch and date codes that do not meet required legislation, and the printed codes must meet stringent traceability requirements should any recall be needed.
What to research
How do you go about ensuring you have the best possible coding equipment for the job in hand? As with any purchase, it always pays to do research and you may want to consider the following:
Why Linx is a good choice for the food industry
Linx’s continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers, with a minimum IP55 rating to withstand washdown, are an excellent choice for the food industry. They deliver quality coding with exceptional reliability, ease of use and efficient operations. Simple user interfaces with built-in mistake proofing help keep uptime to a maximum. Touch screens are solvent and alcohol resistant so they can be operated while wearing plastic or rubber gloves, and operators can use hand sanitizers to stay healthy and still operate the printer.
Linx CIJs are the optimum coders for the harsh environment of food production, and reduce stoppages through:
Linx’s extensive experience in the food industry translates into coders that are perfectly suited to challenging environments.
According to a recent PMMI Business Intelligence Report, the meat, seafood, and poultry packing industries are experiencing “a global boom” due to several factors including import and export opportunities expanding into new markets, growth in foodservice, and growth in ready meals. Food producers are rapidly moving to automate processing and packaging to be prepared to meet increased demand and be flexible enough to adapt to changing product coding requirements.
For food producers and processors with small character coding requirements, Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) printer family. The 8900 Series is designed for maximum uptime and provides the flexibility to meet the demands of complex food manufacturing plants.
Moving towards an automated continuous inkjet coding solution can solve the following problems commonly found in the meat, poultry, and seafood manufacturing industry:
High manual labor costs: Consumer demand dictates changes in the packaging materials used for meat and seafood products. Flexible and clear packaging for shoppers to verify freshness and quality in-store, smaller portion sizes and clean labeling to indicate product varieties – i.e. GMO-free, grass-fed, etc. – leads to more changeovers and a need to produce high-quality, durable codes on a range of substrates. The costs associated with managing a large manual workforce are cited by many manufacturers in this industry as one of the highest expenses. Manufacturers are looking for automated processes that can be run with little to no training required and an easy-to-understand HMI to make product changeovers as effortless and error-free as possible.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Food safety and sanitation issues: Threats of contamination are a constant worry in the meat, poultry and seafood industries. To integrate new automated machinery requires that the process reduces human handling and has clean-in-place and washdown capabilities.
How the Linx 8900 meets this challenge:
Maintenance downtime: Manufacturers want to continue to increase their throughput to fulfill growing demand. To keep production going, predictive maintenance features are essential in preventing unexpected shut downs for repairs, printhead cleanings or fluid refills.
Are you facing these challenges in your business? If you’re in need of a date, lot or batch coding printer, the Linx 8900 Series might be the right option to help you efficiently automate your meat, poultry or seafood packing operation. For more information, visit our Linx 8900 Series product specification page or arrange to see it in action by contacting us for a demonstration.
Source: PMMI Business Intelligence Report, 2017 Trends Shaping Meat, Poultry and Seafood Packaging and Processing
What: U.S. regulatory agencies recently announced a new preference to standardize on the use of the quality-based date label of "Best If Used By" on packaged foods. This recommendation is voluntary and based on research-based industry best practices.
Why: Confusion caused by the use of various date label formats leads to unnecessary food waste. Consumers equate date label information with a warning about the timeline for the safe consumption of the food product rather than a statement of a recommended timeline for optimal food quality. This format recommendation is a part of the "Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy" launched by the federal government in April 2019.
Who: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are endorsing the "Best If Used By" industry standard set forth by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in 2017.
Industries of Interest: Food, Beverage
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Continuous inkjet (CIJ) is the technology of choice for food packaging coding as the solvent based inks adhere to a variety of materials like cartons, plastics, films, foils, metal and glass. CIJ is ideal for food packaging in that it offers high speed, non-contact small character printing and enables food processors to incorporate inkjet codes into their functional safety and traceability processes.
Companies that produce food products are very aware of the financial and public health risks of a recall and therefore understand the necessity of being able to track products through the supply chain. For added food safety security, continuous inkjet printers can utilize specialty functional inks:
Thermochromic inks are developed for the canning industry and show a color change effect when processed through a retort or autoclave process. In addition to visual confirmation of successful canning it is a robust ink that penetrates thin coatings of oil and grease and resists removal by oils, waxes, fats and varnishes.
For secure coding of high-end products subject to counterfeiting or for products and packaging that require discrete codes for internal track and trace, identifying origin or verifying authenticity, there are inks that are nearly invisible to the naked eye but fluoresce under UV light. These fast drying, solvent based inks are water resistant once dry.
Traceability of food product is key to a company’s ability to react to a recall. In addition to providing coding technology that allows companies to trace product, Diagraph and Linx offer the following specialty functional coding inks that enhance food safety:
Linx Thermochromic 1281 or 1291
Our choice for fully functional, easy to use inkjet coders are the Linx 8900 Series line of printers. The Linx 8900 Series inkjet printers provide high quality batch, date, lot and expiration codes which are critical components for supply chain traceability. The Linx models are also durable workhorses in wash down environments and are easy-to-use featuring a robust, sealed printhead, one-touch fluid refills, a highly visible touch screen user interface and point-of-print viscosity control. The Linx 8900 Series line of printers support both thermochromic and UV fluorescent ink applications.
Continuous inkjet is just one option for adding essential date codes, lot codes and batch codes to your food and beverage products. Want to learn more about how your choice of coding solution contributes to food safety and traceability? Download our full whitepaper.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding
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.
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
All food and beverage manufacturers have a commitment to efficient operations and strive to increase output with maximum uptime. Many of these manufacturers require variable information such as lot or batch codes, expiration dates, or barcodes on their product and make use of Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) to achieve these required codes. For high speed, non-contact coding in your food packaging or bottling environment, CIJ printers with known durability features will offer the following benefits:
Routine wear and tear on your CIJ machines is a reality when they are running in high-speed, industrial environments such as a food packaging or bottling lines. Invest in CIJ printers designed for maximum uptime with minimal effort and that have specific features that prove durable in industrial production environments.
See the Linx 8900 printer in action! Call 800.722.1125 or contact us for a free demonstration.