A major food company requested ID Technology to supply a print applicator system. This system would automatically assign and label pallets at numerous plants located throughout the US. ID Technology partnered with EBI to implement this system. The system involved using barcode and vision technologies in a multi-step operation:
- Identify the product on pallets which are traveling down a conveyor
- Label the pallet with License Plate Numbers (LPN) using an automatic print-and-apply machine
- Verify the label on the pallet afterwards
- Reprint the label if the correct label failed to be applied to the pallet
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Vision and Rasterized Barcode Scanning
Barcode and vision technologies enabled accurate identification and verification processes. As a pallet entered the pallet wrapping station on a conveyor, Datalogic scanners scanned the pallet. For products that displayed a barcode on the outside of the pallet, we were able to use industrial fixed position barcode scanners. For those products without barcodes, we deployed industrial vision technology to identify the product by its packaging, including aspects such as fonts, color, images and text. EBI’s Efficient Pallet Label System (ELPS) used the information from these sources to accurately identify the product.
With the product identified, ELPS could then generate and serialize the correctly label. The labels were then sent to the IDT print applicator which is located on the print applicator tamp pad. By the time the pallet has traveled to the labeling station, the printer was ready to apply the label.
Following the label application and as the pallet exited the labeling station, a secondary barcode scanner looked to verify the successful application of the label on the side of the pallet. If the scanner did not detect a proper label – whether missing, unreadable or containing the wrong information – EPLS would print a secondary label on a printer near the end of the system. Such a replacement label would be manually applied to the pallet before it is moved to the loading dock or further into the warehouse.
License Plate Numbers (LPN)
In addition to integrating with the product identification and label verification scanners, EPLS issues, stores and shares the pallet’s unique identification numbers, or LPNs. EPLS uses these unique values to create valid barcode or RFID labels as well as sending the serialized information back to the host WMS or ERP system so that inventory can be updated.
With each pallet labeled with an LPN, the warehouse management team can use mobile scanners to easily locate, move and ship pallets. As a result, the WMS and ERP systems get fast, accurate updates to the database regarding exact status and location of inventory. Because the information is updated quickly and automatically, high volume product inventory can be tracked efficiently and in real time.
As a result of EPLS helping to fully automate the production process, the client is able to keep down inventory holding costs and production labor costs. In the future, other automation technologies can be easily added to EPLS. This could include other identification technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Additionally, with applications like BreadCrumbs, we can integrate this data with a WMS and/or EDI system to automate the creation and application of shipping labels.
Partners and Products
- ProMach - ID Technology print applicator
- Sato America print engine
- Sigo Efficient Pallet Label System (EPLS)
- TEKLYNX CODESOFT Enterprise
- Datalogic fixed position barcode scanner and vision systems