Inefficient coding and labelling operations can hold back a business. Are yours? To keep pace in an increasingly competitive world, every manufacturing business needs to run as efficiently as possible. The hard truth is that if your line is not operating efficiently, your days are numbered.
But there’s one area many manufacturers overlook that could make a significant difference: their coding and labelling operations. You might have an effective production line, but inefficient coding and marking could be costing you valuable time, money and resources.
But before we look at ways to make your coding and marking operations work more efficiently, check out this ultimate guide to coding and labelling, because not all coding and labelling equipment is created equal…
And now for 10 ways to make your inefficient coding and marking operations work far more efficiently.
- Check and maintain your equipment regularly
Regular maintenance is critical to the optimum performance of coding and marking operations. Things to look for will vary depending on your equipment, so work with your supplier to create a Total Preventative Maintenance (TPM) list. It’s far more efficient to maintain your machinery than to risk costly downtime. (You may find this interesting on how important TPM is to Australian manufacturers.)
- Check non-coding parameters
Are all components of your packaging line operating in unison to create an efficient operation? If package motion drivers aren’t operating within the correct parameters, it could cause skewing, fluttering or random slipping. Check the parameters of the conveyor rail position, backpressure, lighting and lenses. Even the slightest defection from the right parameters could be causing your coding and marking operation not to be working as efficiently as it should be.
- Use the correct consumables
It might sound obvious, but the easiest and most cost-effective way to optimise the performance of your coding and marking equipment is to use the recommended ink, ribbon or labels. Don’t be tempted to buy cheaper ink or ribbon to save money – you’ll only end up losing out in the long-term because your coding and marking equipment won’t run at its optimum efficiency.
- Clean the print-head
Traditionally, inkjet printers can suffer from settling and thickening of the ink, which inevitably diminishes the equipment’s performance. However, today’s inkjet printers have an automatic flush-cleaning feature on the machine’s shutdown and startup, meaning you don’t have to flush out the print-head manually to remove the gunk. However, label printer applicator and thermal transfer overprinter print-heads still need to be replaced due to regular wear and tear.
- Watch for warnings
It’s important to be warned well in advance when ink, other consumables or media is running low. This notice means operators have the time to replace the needed consumable during a product change over without the risk running out and losing time (and money) or having to halt operations to replace. Quality coding and marking systems will provide sufficient warning before consumables need to be replaced.
- Control the environment
The temperature and humidity of the surrounding environment can impact the efficiency of your coding and marking equipment. Ensure your equipment is in a stable environment or invest in coding and marking equipment that is known to perform well in varying environments. Also, look at the vibration in the surrounding area, such as that created by conveyors and products on the line. Depending on the equipment, you might need to invest in a shock absorbent platform to keep them stable. Otherwise, look for equipment with good shock resistance.
- Reduce errors in variability
Are you printing variable codes, such as use-by and best before dates? If so, ensure your product sensors are kept clean at all times so the correct code is always printed on the correct product.
- Educate your staff
Give employees access to the proper training, tools and resources to ensure coding and marking equipment is running smoothly. Ensure operators understand that it’s not just about high production rates, but ensuring that the products display the correct codes and marks. After all, this could be the difference between your products making it to the shelves or being rejected by retailers.
- Take advantage of integration software
Integration software, such as Matthew’s iDSnet, can be used to connect all your coding, labelling, and other end-of-line packaging equipment (e.g. vision systems, checkweighers and scanners). This can enable quick changeovers, validation and error detection without manual intervention. With the right integration software, you can be confident that the right code and artwork is applied to the right product. And because you also gain access to OEE metrics, you can quickly rectify any issues that might be causing inefficiencies. (See here for OEE improvements made easy, while this blog explains what OEE actually is. you may also find it interesting to note the 12 most important metrics to measure in manufacturing.)
- Be confident in vendor support
Do you have reliable, local support from your equipment supplier? When selecting your equipment, choose your vendor on the merit of their long-term support rather than the initial outlay. Service and support are critical in ensuring the ongoing efficiency of your coding and marking equipment. Make sure your supplier is available to provide regular maintenance and servicing as well as emergency support when you need it. (Here’s a bit more on choosing a provider.)
If you’re thinking about investing in coding and labelling equipment, or upgrading your existing ones, get in touch with Matthews Australasia. Our experts can help you choose the right 2D coding solution for your application and business.
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Image credit / Kuo Chun Hung