Identification and inspection systems are becoming two very powerful components at the end of the line. Labelling, marking and coding systems provide compliance to the exacting retailer and industry standards; while inspection systems, such as vision systems and scanners, ensure higher quality products, less wastage and lower risk of recalls. (See this must read about avoiding recalls with low-cost improvements to your manufacturing processes.)
But with the rise of Industry 4.0, manufacturers are realising the benefits of system integration to create one streamlined, automated solution – and identification and inspection systems are a great place to start. (Check out the manufacturer’s practical guide to the technologies driving Industry 4.0 and what you need to know about Industry 4.0. And did you think vision inspection was just a camera? Wrong! This industry presentation shows you how to get the most out of vision inspection for quality control, or the more powerful quality assurance.)
In this blog, we explore the advantages of integrating these two types of equipment: identification and inspection.
Ask any manufacturer today what is the biggest pressure they are facing and you can bet that “improving efficiency” will be at the top of their list. This is where integrating identification and inspection equipment can really deliver. Both identification and inspection technologies are typically installed towards the end of the production line, but their impact can flow throughout it. For example, integrated inspection systems can be used to guide upstream equipment to deliver better quality – a checkweigher might send a signal back to the filler to adjust the fill levels in case of repeated overfills or underfills.
Every process that becomes more streamlined translates into the ability to focus employee attention to areas that are more complex and demand more attention. It saves time and resources, and can even provide better precision with less room for human error in crucial parts of the process.
Faster product changeovers
With integrated identification and inspection, it is quicker to do product changeovers from one central point. The centralised database of inspection parameters and identification information, along with a user-friendly editor on coding technologies, saves valuable minutes from the process and cuts downtime, which not so long ago could have been a few hours. With integration, product changeovers can be done incredibly quickly, ensuring your production efficiency and quality improve.
Inspecting coding and labelling along with other aspects ensures better product quality overall and reduces the chances of recalls. For example, a vision inspection system can be used to inspect product labels to ensure that the front label matches with the back label and the actual product inside. Any defect products are quickly detected and redirected for correction, or rejected if the error cannot be rectified. The whole process is streamlined. This level of quality control is invaluable, as it prevents costly recalls for products that are not shelf-ready but still make it out the factory door.
One of the major benefits of integrating equipment today is the data insights you can gain, in real-time. By integrating identification and inspection equipment into automated production lines, with control systems all speaking the same language, you can collect and analyse data to drive production line efficiency, flexibility and quality.
Coding and labelling equipment can easily count the total number of products, and inspection systems can provide data about the number of products not meeting the required standards, as well as the reasons for the rejects.
So rather than the packaging line being a black hole, you can find out exactly what’s going on and why. By integrating identification and inspection into one streamlined system, manufacturers gain more centralised control and real-time visibility. All coders and labellers on a packaging line can be networked, which enables primary and secondary product identification to be controlled from one place.
The long-term value comes from continuously analysing identification and inspection data and using the findings to improve production processes and optimise efficiency. For example, if products are detected as being consistently overweight, the problem can quickly be diagnosed and corrected. The result is a more efficient process with less waste – in other words, a lean manufacturing environment. (Find out all about lean here.)
Also, by monitoring in-depth data in real time, operators and line supervisors are instantly aware of real-time production effectiveness, performance and quality information of packaging lines. Integrated dashboards provide an overall picture of what is happening on the packaging line, such as rejects per hour in real time. Detailed production data for a day, week or even several years of operations can be stored in a central database and easily accessed via the internet or extranet.
The availability of comprehensive information with such ease allows manufacturers to make the required improvements and changes to enhance efficiency. And the more efficient the manufacturer, the higher the potential for profit.
Are they easy to integrate?
Absolutely – but it hasn’t always been this way. In the past, communication protocols were limited or proprietary, which meant the opportunity for proper integration was also limited. These deliberately built-in roadblocks mean many automation professionals have grown used to the idea that communicating between devices and vendors is difficult. Unfortunately, some have simply accepted that each installation requires a significant (and somewhat frustrating) integration effort to establish communication within the system and with external networks and databases.
But the reality is different; in fact, the Packaging Machine Language (PackML) and OPC UA Interface standard for machines are becoming increasingly powerful means to standardise the communication within the packaging industry, making integration much easier between the factory floor, machines and supervisory control systems – all without compromising functionality or control. Together they can be used to provide and capture quality data, and send alerts while the process line is running, thereby constantly improving the quality of process and product.
The trick is to work with a specialist who knows how to integrate your equipment to meet your business goals and application needs. You might choose to do it yourself or assign an internal engineer to the task, for cost reasons; however, engaging external experts will bring solid project-management skills and an unparalleled understanding of equipment and systems that will far outweigh any cost barrier and ensure you get the optimal results.
Who should consider integrating?
Manufacturers in three main areas would benefit from integrating:
- Those with manual quality control processes or who have orphaned equipment
- Those who would like to get real-time visibility to streamline processes.
- Those looking to improve productivity and efficiency.
It’s not just large companies who should be looking to integrate their equipment – there are advantages for smaller companies too.
Now you know the advantages of integrating inspection and identification equipment, learn how to get started with integration in this article.
Ready to talk about inspection and identification integration? Speak to Matthews Australasia. With nearly 40 years’ experience in the business, we know how to help drive efficiency, accuracy and cost-effectiveness in your line.
You will also find a lot of detailed information in Matthews’ large resource library. And it’s all free to download! There are case studies, whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action, lots of detailed of brochures and more!
Image credit: iStock / courtneyk