Much of the focus on coding for the snacks market is on the requirements of the primary pack but today equal attention needs to be paid to secondary packaging. Crucially important is the need for accurate, high-quality coding of variable information, such as sell by dates, barcodes or traceability information. Errors can have significant cost and time implications.
Delays in the distribution process
Unreadable codes will cause delays in the distribution process and potentially retailer fines or the return of goods to the manufacturer. Unreliable equipment can result in unnecessary downtime. Another challenge is the growth of retail ready packaging which means printed information may have to be more discreet so as not to interfere with box designs.
Of course, the first question is whether you need a coder at all – why not pre-print boxes or labels instead? This may be fine if you are manufacturing just one product, but if you have several products and pack sizes, direct printing can be more flexible and responsive to production changes and customer demands. It will also reduce consumables and storage costs and means there is no danger of excess stock at the end of a production run.
Selecting the most appropriate coder involves a number of considerations. The size and shape of the primary pack may dictate the type of secondary packaging – for example shelf-ready cartons or cases. This can affect the speed at which coders need to work, anything from 30-60 cardboard cases per minute to up to 200 or more cartons. Printers must be robust and reliable, and able to withstand bumping from packs which may not be placed straight on the line.
Adjacent side printing of barcodes may be required
Printers with quick start up capability, where the first print is as good as the last, minimise the risk of poor quality codes. Adjacent side printing of barcodes may be required to ensure the codes are easy to see when cases are palletised. Quick drying specialist inks can help in environments where there is a risk of smudging.
Fast set-up procedures will speed up changeovers and maximise production uptime. Printers featuring picture-led displays, capable of storing and switching between multiple messages, or being controlled remotely via a web browser, can help eliminate costly errors on the factory floor.
There is a wide choice of technologies and equipment available to meet these needs – from entry-level coders, to those capable of both primary and secondary pack printing, to high-definition ‘future proof’ coders that can print graphics and where further capability can be added as needs become more complex.
Coding may be a necessity purchase for snacks manufacturers but investing time to consider the options and identify the best technology for your business can pay dividends through its contribution to a smooth-running and efficient packing operation.’
John Tierney is the marketing director, at Linx Printing Technologies.