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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.