Understanding the Expected Cost of Operations
Are you spending more than you should on maintaining
your marking and coding equipment?
By Bruce Castro, US Service Manager
Ever wonder what you spend on parts to keep your marking and coding equipment running? Even more importantly, do you know what you should be spending? We all know that maintenance isn’t free and everything with a moving part wears out sooner or later, but few really understand the expected cost of their application.
Many operate under the assumption that the costs they pay are the expected costs of operation.
If you want to know your spend on Diagraph or Norwood parts, just reach out to us and we’ll engage the local Service Engineer and Field Service Manager to find out. This service audit will identify your current spend and compare that to your expected spend on inkjet, label application, thermal transfer overprinter and hot stamp parts.
Through a service audit, allow us to review how you are performing and make recommendations for lowering your operating costs if your audit indicates that you are above the expected spend. We provide more than just equipment – we provide solutions to help you improve your marking and coding operational efficiencies.
After reviewing your comprehensive service audit, you may be wondering if it is the right time to move into a new system versus absorbing the cost of continuous maintenance on your current equipment. At your request, we will provide you with a downtime avoidance and maintenance savings analysis to help you determine if purchasing a new system is the right investment for your production line.
If you use Diagraph inks and solvents, or have more than one Diagraph technology in your facility, you may qualify for a free service audit. There are other ways to request this audit at no charge. Contact us 800.526.2531 to find out more information.
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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.
Selecting ink for your inkjet technology – impulse jet, valve jet or thermal jet – requires an understanding of your application and some basic qualities of the inks available. We asked our inkjet experts for key information to help shine some light on understanding the ink options available in the market:
A: All inks are made up of essentially the same things; a solvent, colorant, resins and other additives. It’s the resins and additives that give inks certain properties that allow them to adhere to specific substrates better than others. Solvent is the carrier of the ink. Colorant is what gives the ink the color you see. The resin gives the ink the ability to stick to substrates. The additives are anything else added to the ink to give it a desired property (surface tension modifiers, dispersing aids, gloss reducers, etc.)
A: Simply put, the surface tension of the ink and surface energy of the substrate determine an ink’s adherence. An ink droplet is made up of many molecules of ink. These molecules of ink have to be attracted to each other to form this drop of ink. So, the surface tension is how much they are attracted to each other. If they are highly attracted to each other (water) then the molecules are close together and hold on tightly to each other. When the molecules are not very attracted to each other then they barely hold onto each other and spread out more. It has to do with the charges of the molecule, or lack thereof.
Water is polar, which means it has a negatively charged and a positively charged end. These negative and positive charges attract to each other like magnets do. For example, when the water is placed on a glass, it just beads up and runs off because the glass has no charge (non-polar). The water is not attracted to the glass. However, if we add soap to the water we alter the surface tension and the dynamic changes. Soap molecules have a charged side (polar) and a non-charged side (non-polar). When the soap dissolves in the water it allows the non-polar side to be attracted to other non-polar substances, like glass.
So, to make an ink better adhere to a substrate, additives are used to change the surface tension of the ink to more closely match the surface energy of the substrate.
A: VOC stands for volatile organic compound. With some exceptions, the solvents used in products such as coatings, inks and adhesives are generally classified as VOCs. Unless they are controlled, these solvents are emitted into the air after they perform their function. Thus, solvent emissions from products and industrial operations are one of several significant sources of VOC emissions. Emissions of VOCs, in and of themselves, do not necessarily give rise to health or environmental concerns. In many areas, however, they react with oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ground-level ozone – the primary component of “smog.” For that reason, they are regulated as “ozone precursors” under the federal Clean Air Act and similar state laws.
A: Dyes and pigments are both colorants. Dyes are soluble liquids and dissolve into the ink base. They do fade over time. Pigments do not dissolve as they are solids and do not fade. Since they are solid they may settle, or sink, to the bottom of a container if the ink has a low viscosity, or is thin and watery in texture. The weight of the pigments causes the inherent problems with pigmented ink. First, they can actually clog printheads if they’re too large. Secondly, if they are allowed to settle the ink will not have the same color.
It’s the same concept as pouring Italian dressing on your salad without shaking it. The dressing will have a different taste because the ingredients are not mixed.
A: One component of ink that helps it adhere to substrates is resin. The resins allow the ink to spread creating more surface area helping promote adhesion. Resins can be categorized as either brittle, semi-brittle or flexible. If an ink containing a brittle resin, like acrylic, is used to print on film it can ‘flake’ off the film because the resin is stiff and is not able to adhere and conform to the shape of the plastic. If an ink with a flexible resin was used, the resin would be pliable and therefore be able to bend or flex with the film.
Diagraph’s top-performing ink, ScanTrue II Plus, and all valve jet inks are produced in our Marion, Illinois manufacturing facility. All of our inks have been designed to perform at the highest level with Diagraph manufactured inkjet equipment. If you have any questions, or wish to better understand what kind of ink would be optimal for your inkjet application, reach out to our experts!
What: The US food industry is the leader for flexible packaging with the market continuing to grow with an expected 3.9% CAGR and valuation of $392 billion by 2023. Flexible packaging currently accounts for 19% of the packaging market – second only to corrugated paper. Advancements in slider closures, fitments, and improved barrier properties are driving preferences amongst both manufacturers and consumers.
Why: The flexible packaging market has taken off due to a shift towards sustainability and consumer-friendly packaging. The adoption of flexible packaging is growing amongst manufacturers due to the ability to form flexible packaging on the spot from raw materials – saving time, cost, materials waste, and space. With advances in the recyclability and space savings when discarded compared to rigid packaging, consumers are developing a growing preference for flexible packaging options while the entire supply chain from manufacturer to retailer to consumer is realizing the extended shelf life benefits of innovative resealable closures.
Who: CPG and pharmaceutical manufacturers are responding to consumer demands by innovating with flexible packaging options for their products.
Industries of Interest: Food, Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical, Personal Care
• Convenient packaging, excellent barrier properties, and sustainable materials are all factors contributing to the continued growth of flexible packaging in the coming years, ProFood World (https://www.profoodworld.com/bi-library-article/us-flexible-packaging-reach-392-billion-2023?oly_enc_id=8131B4747801B1S)
• Growth of flexible packaging brings demand for innovation, Packaging World (https://www.packworld.com/growth-flexible-packaging-brings-demand-innovation)
• Seafood to drive growth in the converted flexible packaging sector through 2023, Seafood Source (https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/processing-equipment/seafood-to-drive-growth-in-the-converted-flexible-packaging-sector-through-2023)
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At Diagraph Marking & Coding, we like to work closely with customers to understand the cycles of their business. This allows us to develop and recommend a personalized plan to manage maintenance schedules and on-hand supplies for their coding and labeling operations.
Cyclical account trends help predict and plan for the following:
We believe that customers are best served when we can partner in every aspect of their coding and labeling operations. This holistic approach allows us to maximize efficiencies while driving tangible value throughout a long-term partnership. Let us be the coding and labeling experts so you don’t have to be.
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.
Do one of these two scenarios occur in your end of line production?
The Hidden Costs of End of Line Coding Whitepaper
If you’re a manufacturer integrating traversing CIJ and thermal transfer overprinters in your form, fill and seal machines, consumables contribute to your total cost of ownership in a major way. You may identify with some of the following common pain points related to coding onto flow packs, plastic sleeves and sachets, and it is crucial to your profitability to find a solution for overcoming these issues:
There are alternatives available to you to avoid these common pitfalls in multi-lane coding operations. Look for these two features in your system to minimize parts, fluids and ribbon costs in the long run:
1) A single consumable – To avoid the mess and additional training, specifically evaluate options using a single roll of ribbon for all of the print heads.
2) Ribbon saving mechanisms – Once you have evaluated a multi-lane coder with ribbon instead of ink, ask about ribbon saving mechanisms. Industry-leading applications ensure minimum gaps between prints and can result in up to a 50% reduction in ribbon waste.
Are you in the process of evaluating multi-lane printing and coding technologies to meet your unique form fill and seal machine requirements? Download our free Hidden Costs of Multi-Lane Printing guide.
The Hidden Costs of Multi-Lane Printing Whitepaper