Creating an integrated system for customers by configure software and hardware and implementing a verification process.
Some retailers require their suppliers to apply two identical labels to different faces of a case or pallet. This is done to speed locating or processing the order when it arrives. Additionally, some government regulations mandate this practice as well. Non-compliance can result in fines or rejection of an entire shipment.
On the manufacturer’s side, the challenge comes with maintaining the production speed of the shipping process while also applying two matching labels. Both labels must share the same unique data; serial number, lot number, date/time, etc. This challenge is further complicated by mechanical and technical challenges that can result in only a single label being applied or, worse yet, mismatching labels being applied to the same container.
Out of Sync
The normal method is to use two printers to execute the same print job at the same time and apply the labels to the package. It is also where the challenges occur. If the software correctly renders and sends the print job to the two printers simultaneously, label jams, running out of consumables or failed sensor triggering can cause the two printers to get out of sync. When this happens, two different labels with distinctly different data get applied.
Label Software Configuration
Label printing starts with the labeling software. Most major software brands offer the feature set required to print duplicate labels. The key is to determine which program will integrate best into an existing packaging system. For a high-volume automated pallet label application at a major food manufacturer, we used TEKLYNX’s CODESOFT. For another major prepared food manufacture, NiceLabel Business Cloud was the best choice. Both provided the capabilities, but each had unique strengths that best fit the clients’ specific needs.
Most industrial printers can accept print jobs that require duplicates. We used both SATO and Zebra print engines with ID Technology, such as ProMach Group, print applicators for the projects. The industrial thermal printers also offer additional features that can keep them in sync with the other printer executing the job.
Barcode and Vision Verification
Once the system for applying the duplicate labels has been implemented, verification is the next step. To ensure that the labels were printed and applied correctly, we deployed Sigo’s Efficient Pallet Labeling System (EPLS) software with Datalogic fixed position scanners and vision cameras. The barcode scanners can quickly and easily verify a readable barcode on the label and make sure that the unique ID embedded in it is correct. Vision scanners, although trickier to set up, can both read the barcode and check other aspects of the label. This two-layer approach ensures that all customer or government compliance standards are met.
If a case or pallet fails the verification step, it can be flagged and removed from the shipping line. If EPLS detects a missing or defective label, it will automatically print a replacement label on a downstream printer. The forklift operator, seeing the reprinted label, then takes it and applies it to the container.
Getting it All to Work
Creating a packaging labeling solution that tackles these challenges does not require one to become a deep expert in labeling systems. Instead, a skilled label systems integrator like EBI can help bring all the key elements together based on their knowledge of available systems and prior experience. The result is that these complex systems can work reliably with minimal user effort or training. A critical element of this success is the EBI methodology of Analysis, Proof of Concept, Pilot, Roll-out and Maintenance. By following this process, we divide the project into small parts and built the system one piece at a time.