Automatic Barcode Weigh Labeling Systems Problems Explained

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Do you like taking the responsibility of specifying multiple components?

Do you like to take responsibility for the overall system?

Is it worth the risk to you position and career?

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Often we are presented with the task of straightening out a automatic barcode weigh label system.  How does this happen?  To better understand, lets take a look at the components of an automatic box labeling system:

Indexing the product into the system is a key component and dictates if the system will be a success. 

If the boxes are too close, the weighments will be in error and the label applicator will not be able to print the entire label before the next box arrives.  If this happens how will the system clear itself?

If the boxes are of various widths the indexer must also align all boxes to one side of the conveyor for the barcode scanner and barcode printer applicator to properly apply.

Pacing conveyor / speed up roller is the next critical component.

Once the indexer releases a box the speed up roller propels the first box clear of the 2nd box.  The indexer must now activate to retain the 2nd box while not hindering the progress of the first box.  Sounds easy huh?  Well this little step has failed on more than a few systems. The pacing conveyor now stabilizes the box velocity for the in-motion conveyor scale.

A Barcode Scanner (in the case of chaotic product mix) must now identify the type of product arriving into the system.

The Barcode scanner only gets one shot at reading the pre-identification label. Once read, the scanner must be fast enough to send the information to the computer equipment for product identification before the product is weighed. The scanner choices are practically endless and change on practically a weekly basis. Knowing a solid supplier from a flake is not an easy task.

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In-motion conveyor scale equipment must now determine the weight not only accurately but also legally. 

Keep in mind this scale is a trade device.  NTEP approval is not only a good idea, it is most likely the law of your land.  Specifying the size, conveyor speed, division size, tare weight interaction is all part of doing a proper system building job.  The weigh must arrive to the controller at the proper and consistent time every time. The timing of the system is completely dependent on this critical aspect.  Variation here spells disaster in performance and reliability.

Controller equipment must be designed for speed, interface ability, longevity, and reliability. 

Some groups try to control this with PLC equipment (an expensive, and difficult interface job), others attempt office PC equipment (leaves the dangers of automatic updates, viruses and the like), while still others use some unique controller equipment that is only available through them leaving the end user completely dependent on that supplier’s whims.

We take a Windows® 7 embedded industrial computer approach that uses industry-available equipment from multiple suppliers.

We then couple this equipment with digital I/O equipment that allows for use of encoder tracking rather than the error prone first-in-first-out (FIFO) buffering and timing arrangements. Careful, the ice got really thin on this step!

Controller software is capable of sinking the ship or making her sail smoothly.

Experience is the best indicator of potential success. Knowing the pitfalls and avoiding them is what this ballgame is all about. Rookies make rookie mistakes. The options here are endless and complex. Make sure your supplier has played ball many seasons!

A properly configured take away conveyor will accurately move the box to the applicator in the order, position, and orientation that is needed by the printer applicator(s) (yes there often is more than one).

This could as example mean moving the box to one side of the conveyor for one type of product and the other side of the conveyor for the rest dependent on the product’s final barcode label requirements.  The length must assure the label is always fully printed and waiting to be applied when the box arrives.  The box must be square with the applicator and timed perfectly.  The system must also be capable of allowing someone to grab a box right out of the middle of the system and be able to quickly and automatically correct itself.

A Barcode Label Printer Applicator must print a good looking readable barcode label and accurately, repetitively, and positively apply the label to the box and make it stick. 

Sounds easy, well it is not! Although it always surprises me how many printer applicator companies think it is. We have partnered with who we believe are the best in the industry.  Years of experience has taught us the difference.

A Verification Barcode Scanner is interfaced with the system controller to verify that the applied label is correct and readable. 

Timing and accuracy is everything as a properly operating unit runs like a Timex while a temperamental unit will have you rejecting good boxes, driving yourself mad as boxes pile high or production is forced to stop while maintenance fiddles with equipment.

A Product Reject Mechanism sounds simple enough on the surface, but keep in mind it must reject all the bad boxes no matter what size, shape, weight, height, etc.

The product reject mechanism must activate reliably, precisely, and repetitively at the proper time every time. Design of this component alone can also sink your boat.

Now it is time to think about product sortation as sorting specific products to specific locations for automatic box storage or palletizing is generally the next step.

That step is a whole new system in itself!

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Anyone who thinks they will just dive in a build their own or use a supplier who has only built a couple, will have a hard road ahead of them.

Choose a supplier who uses open architecture in their design to keep you flexible in the long run without holding you hostage with unique parts and equipment.

Experience with the industry and it’s requirements coupled with years of experience at a fair price will extend your career and grow our business!

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