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.
Coding for Safety & Traceability in the Food Supply Chain: A Comparison of Continuous Inkjet & Laser Coding
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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.
Pallet Labeling: The Final Step In Your Production Tracking Process
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.
A different laser technology has been getting some new press lately, thanks in part to growth in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market. Fiber lasers aren’t new, but their application in the consumer packaged goods market has definitely hit a growth spurt. Product packaging is evolving and making use of different materials, like High Density Polyethylene or HDPE which is most desirable for its high-quality presentation, durability, and versatility in handling liquids from automotive oils to shampoo and specialty drinks. It’s no mistake then that the fastest growing laser marking technology is fiber laser which has the ability to mark directly onto HDPE as well as a range of materials not previously well served with CO2 lasers.
What then, are the other key differences between CO2 and fiber lasers?:
Fiber lasers don’t necessarily use more power, but do use power differently. The laser beam produced is in a different part of the light spectrum and is a much tighter beam. This is what allows the laser to mark materials that other lasers can’t, such as HDPE. Or, mark into other materials better such as rubber and metals.
By comparison, fiber laser can be quite small and compact. Instead of a bulky tube of gas, fiber lasers use optical fiber as their lasing medium. The exact science of it can be quite detailed but the bottom line is: these lasers are compact and have a small footprint. This allows for easy and convenient installation to the packaging line.
Like most industrial equipment, fiber lasers do come with their own set of safety requirements which can be managed safely through proper guarding and training.
CO2 Versus Fiber Laser Feature Comparison
Comparison of CO2 and Fiber Laser Marking Materials
The good news in the FMCG packaging and product identification market space is that there are lot of new materials and innovative packaging designs. Even better, Linx Printing Technologies has introduced a fiber laser with easy integration, reliable operation, and the flexibility to deliver high quality codes across the widest range of materials for both static and dynamic applications. This durable product, which includes the IP54 rated marking head, enables the coders to operate in more challenging environments with the fiber laser beam source lasting more than 100,000 hours.
If you have any questions about the benefits of lasers, or specifically about the Linx FSL20 (20W fiber) or FSL50 (50W fiber), feel free to reach out to one of our marking and coding experts here at Diagraph. We are happy to walk you through the best options to meet your specific application needs. Call 1.800.722.1125 to speak with an expert today!
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.
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