While many production lines run consistent product, there are also a good handful of plants that require chaotic product flow from their lines. In this case, chaotic product flow is referencing different types of product running on the same line rather than a uniform product. When comparing conveyor scales and manual scales, each method has unique benefits for chaotic product, so we’re going to examine the differences between them.
When it comes to the standard weighing situation, conveyor scales tend to take the cake, but there are still situations where manual weighing might be a realistic solution. Think of a plant that handles offal products as an example. The offal is the leftover parts which are unused for standard cuts of meat, like the tongue, heart, or other organs. They are usually shipped to various other countries or places specializing in some sort of ethnic cuisine, so it is important that they are documented well.
The offal handling is a smaller operation, and with so many different destinations and products, it is almost easier to manually weigh and label the boxes. This lets you be very specific with each box of offal that you handle.
If you combine a manual scale with a labeling printer and controller, you can have a fairly efficient manual labeling system. You can weigh a box and input the product type into the controller to print out a specific label for that product. With the right operator, this can be very quick like an automated system, but it is lacking in consistency. Label placement isn’t necessarily uniform and handling time varies with employees.
On the flip side of things, if you take the same operation and you size it up to a much larger scale, manual weighing just won’t cut it. This is where pre-identification would come in handy.
If you have a chaotic flow of products that requires speedy handling, a conveyor scale is a necessity. When paired with an automatic labeler, it can find the product weight and have it printed on the label quickly and consistently. The question then becomes, “how do you accurately label different products without stopping the lines to make labeling adjustments?”
With pre-identification scanners, you can scan boxes or barcodes before they get to the labeling section. These preliminary codes or labels can tell the controller what the product is so that it can pass on that information to the labeler. A print-and-apply system can then print out a specific label to match that product and affix it to the box/package. This requires no human involvement besides a little monitoring and maintenance every once and a while, making it the obvious choice for a larger operation.
There are reasons to consider both of these options, and we have systems available for both situations, so look around our blog or contact us to find out what might work out best for your operation.
See our Manual Box Labeling Systems
When it comes to looking for equipment that is wash down rated, you should probably draw the line when it comes to most labeling applications.
The main exception to the above statement might be jet spray applications designed to place limited amounts of information directly onto products, such as date information. Some companies say they have met NEMA 4X standards for that, but that is quite different from applying labels to the top or bottom of products. It is also completely different from weigh-price labeling and from applying fixed weight labels to boxes, as well as net weight labeling of boxes, cases, and combos.
We are frequently asked if that kind of labeling equipment can be washdown rated. Here are three reasons for why it is not and likely won’t be in the near future:
- The state of print engines
- Label dispensing mechanisms
- The lack of direct food contact
When we design labeling systems for our customers, whether manual or automatic, we can accommodate print engine brand preferences. The print engines that are the most popular by overwhelming percentages do not offer washdown options. Each of the major brands that supply print engines require customers to keep them away from water spray because water would corrode the components and would interfere with the clarity of the printing process.
The next item to consider is the mechanism that dispenses the labels. It is obvious that you need to keep your label stock dry. But, consider this as well: if there is an opening large enough for a label to get out, then there is an opening large enough for water to get in. Keeping label stock dry would represent a gigantic research and development investment for a washdown labeling system. That brings us to an even larger point about the lack of R & D that could lead to a washdown rated labeling system.
In order to have a NEMA-4X labeling system, everything from the control panel, to the electronics, to the label stock housing, to the print engines, to the label dispenser, would have to be able to prevent water ingress or function while wet. Since there is no direct food contact on any of those components or the overall system, there is no incentive for companies to commit the massive amounts of money that would be required. The solution is simple. If you need to label in a wash down environment, make sure you can enclose, cover, or move the labeling system. We have helped many customers do all three and achieved amazing results.
When sending out meat products, the receiver of those products rightfully expects to receive a certain amount in weight, but sometimes, because of packing problems, combos and boxes aren’t filled with the right amount. This is a dangerous occurrence, but it is possible to identify this problem before it blows up with the aid of a manual box labeler.
The receiving company doesn’t have to accept an underweight box, but that isn’t the true danger of this situation. If the same company finds one box or combo on a truck that comes in underweight, it could give them the right to send the whole truck-full back.
The possibility of loss in this situation is substantial, so this raises the question of how to decrease the chances of an underweight package getting through.
For companies using a manual box labeler, this should be easily prevented. After being weighed, labelers have the option of printing out an underweight label if the package doesn’t meet a fixed weight standard. Between the operator placing the label and stock and shipping workers checking labels, this box shouldn’t be able to make it out the door for any reason.
A manual labeling system doesn’t just help with weight issues. Certain offal plants send products to other countries because they are willing to spend a premium to make their cultural cuisine. Manual labeling is very important in these plants.
The manual labeler has the ability to print off multiple labels for an individual package. An automatic system would require several labelers for this action. The manual labeler can print off labels for line and SKU identification, product ID, weight, and intended location. These are very important because different countries have different standards for their meat products.
In Japan, for example, the incoming meat products have to be completely devoid of bones for them to even accept them. They are so adamant about this rule that they will even reject product if they find small amounts of bone dust. They could reject an entire shipment because of this, and it will be sent back to the docks where it will most likely go bad, giving the company heavy losses.
Don’t let mixed up or underweight products get in the way of your company’s success when a manual labeling system can easily help lower your risk. Talk to us about manual box and combo labeling for your best solution.
Manual case labeling systems are very widely used in the industry today. There is also the thought of “let’s buy what we need today and worry about the future when it comes.”
This is a common misconception.
When looking for a good manual case labeling system, take a moment to look into the future. Look at what your current needs are and what they could possibly be in a couple years.
- Do you plan on growing the business?
- How many boxes per minute could you need to do then?
These are some of the questions you should look at.
If your current case labeling needs are at a low volume, where you are splitting the duties of a person to do other jobs beside the case labeling, a manual unit should do just fine. We have systems available that can keep your cost down and still offer you a system that is user friendly and will meet your current needs.
The difference could be in the controller. You can use a smart indicator on the scale that will also hold your label formats and send all of the information to the printer for a hand applied label. We also have human machine interface (HMI) controllers that offer more options for your manual case labeling needs.
If you have many PLU’s and a bunch of different label formats you may need to go with the HMI. The HMI can offer you a touchscreen option with hot keys that speed up lines. The HMI’s can integrate scanners to speed up the labeling process. There is the ability to send raw data back to your server for inventory control purposes, and the list goes on.
Now let’s look into the future: your business grows and you have a person case labeling full time with your manual system. You look at the cost of that person and decide to expand your current system into an auto case labeling system. Here is where a little planning before you bought your manual system can pay off.
If you had decided to go with a HMI, you can continue to use the HMI and upgrade to an auto print and apply system. You have saved the cost of a controller and your label information is already in the unit. So when looking at buying a manual box labeling system, stop and look into the future!
What could your future needs be?
See how we can give you options that offer savings down the road, if and when you need to upgrade to a faster unit!
A good example of this is a plant that packages and distributes offal products. They tend to have a lower volume of product to work with, but it is highly varied. They have to be ready to run special orders. This means that they could be filling up something like a small box or something as large as a combo.
With all of these different order possibilities, these plants need a good way to label each one accurately. For this level of product volume, a manual labeling system can do wonders.
A manual labeler can be linked to bench and deck scales to accommodate varying package sizes. Typically, an order comes through, operators pack the proper offal into an appropriately sized container.
At a manual labeling station, the operators weigh the container. This could be simply placing the box on a bench scale, or it may require someone to haul a combo onto a deck scale with a forklift. Either way, the operator then enters in a product code which contains all of the necessary information.
There are many ways to do this. The operator can manually enter the code. He might have a scanner to scan pre-identification labels on the packages, or he might have a pick list of sample barcodes nearby that he can scan based off of the product and package size.
However identification is done, the labeler then calculates all of the appropriate weight info (including the tare weight for the container) and product ID and prints out a label to be hand applied to the box or combo.
This is an especially nice system when palletizing boxes because it can automatically produce pallet manifests which have serial numbers and weights of all products on the pallet. This helps greatly with data management and is an important step to traceability.
If you are looking for a sensible way to label, a manual box labeler could be a good way to go, but we can help you in designing a system that fits your needs specifically.