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Oct 1, 2013

Labeling Systems, How Many Do You Need?

automatic labeling

Dual Top & Bottom Labeler

When working on a labeling project, having one printer/applicator for each label that you need to apply is not always the best solution.

We helped a customer increase production by nearly 10% on one line, by simply adding a second labeler to their system.  This was a high speed system that was labeling at over 130 packages a minute.  The label rolls that they were using contained 3,000 labels. This meant that the label roll would run empty in less than 24 minutes.

automatic_labeling

Obviously this line would be shut down while the label roll was being changed out, however, this company had a very good operator working on this line and she could change the label roll out in just over 2 minutes.

We set up a second labeler that was paired to the first labeler so that when the first labeler ran out of labels the second one would automatically take over the labeling this immediately took production from 7,150 packages per hour to 7,800 packs an hour.

The customer also found some other benefits as time went on. They found that production didn’t suffer as much when the normal operator was gone, because the fill in operators were not as fast as she was at changing out the labels.

Whoever was filling in could easily take twice as long to change out the empty roll causing twice as much down time. They found that without the necessity to change out the labels so fast, that the operator could take the time to do the proper maintenance on the machine like cleaning the print roller and print head after every label change, as a result the read rates on the bar codes went up.

manual box labeling_02

Another benefit was realized when they would change to a product that would require a different label, they could set up the labeler that was not being used at the end of the first run to produce for the second run. That way when the next run started they could switch over seamlessly with the push of a button.

Additionally they were better equipped when their customer asked that a second label be applied for a special that the store was running.  They now have some peace of mind knowing  that if one of the printers has a problem the other one can continue to get the days production out the door.

Automatic Box Labeling Brochure

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May 25, 2013

Automatic Weigh Labeling with Catch and Fixed Weight Labels

Automatic Weigh Labeling is a fairly easy-to-understand process.

You weigh the product, the scale relays that weight to the labeler, and the labeler applies a label with the appropriate weight and information for that product.

automatic weight price labeling

Weigh Price Labeling System

An important option that you have available with weight labeling systems is the choice between catch weight and fixed weight labeling because that can dictates a lot of the labeler’s other features.

Fixed Weight Labeling

Fixed weight labeling is any labeling process where the label weight is specified before the product even crosses the conveyor scale. The company specifies their weight and the conveyor scale takes a reading to determine if that product is in an appropriate range. If so, it is given a label and sent off to distribution. If not, it can be diverted to a different location.

The ranges can be easily adjusted so that you can fine-tune the amount of product coming through. The system can also track how much is rejected and how much is heading off for distribution.

Each type of product shares the same exact label for product uniformity. The system is capable of handling different products with a pre-identification label, or “license plate”, but the weight per product type will be the same.

While less specific than catch weight, fixed weight labeling systems are capable of tracking your actual output compared to your nominal output so that you can see if you are giving away too much product, allowing you to alter your weight range or processes to improve yields and save money.

Catch Weight Labeling

Catch weight labeling, on the other hand, is used in industries where product is purchased in terms of price per unit of weight of the actual known amount in the container.

The product crosses over the conveyor scale and its weight is determined and sent to the labeler which prints a label that is specific to that package.

Each product is labeled with its own unique weight. This system needs to be a little more flexible than the fixed weight labeling just because it involves more changes in the printer and data handling.

Once you choose one of these two, this can determine the necessity of diverts, the type of labels and printer, and the division size needed by your conveyor scale amongst other things.

We make this process easy on you by helping you through the design process because we have years of industry experience.

We work hard to make sure that you have the right options to achieve optimal production and cost potential and by providing you with some of the most accurate equipment on the market.

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May 24, 2013

Saving on Labor With Automatic Labeling Systems

If you have a handful of people in your facility that are hand applying labels to your packages or cased product, you should be looking at Automatic Weighing & Labeling.

Automatic labeling systems are the number one labor saving device you can invest in right now!

top and bottom labeling

Top and Bottom Labeler with Extra printers – permits label change-out while line is still operating

Complete return-on-investment often happens within a few months of purchasing your system.

Weighing and labeling packages by hand can often involve quite a few people, but one well-designed automatic weighing and labeling system can increase your throughput by 2 or 3 times and reduce labor to 1 or 2 operators.

Reduction in human error is another incentive for using an automatic system. One product recall for mislabeling a package or case can cost many times the price of a good automatic labeling system.

Today’s automatic weighing and labeling systems are more affordable, quiet, and easy to maintain. The noisy, dirty systems of the past are being replaced with clean, smoothly-running labelers and scales that are capable of putting the right label in the right place every time.

If you add up your customer complaints, labor costs, and maintenance costs, it will probably be a no-brainer to look into Automatic Weighing and Labeling.

We offer a variety of Automatic Weigh Labeling products that have a foot up on the competition. A lot of labeling systems in the industry are cheaply made, loud, and messy for the sake of fitting into a machine environment, but we refuse to sacrifice on quality.

Our Automatic Weight Labeling Systems are built to withstand some of the worst environments. Rigid stainless steel construction means that they can handle both caustic environments and temperature extremes.

automatic labeling

Automatic Labeling of Boxes

Even with that solidity, they run smoothly enough to hold regular conversation over, which is beneficial to your employees as well.

These systems are also capable of transporting any materials safely and cleanly, including food products.

Our Automatic Weigh Labeling Systems are legal-for-trade and constructed with USDA-approved materials, ensuring those of you in the food industry that your products can be accurately labeled and weigh-priced without bringing in contaminants.

With all of the industry-leading benefits of our systems, why not talk to us today about how Automatic Weigh Labeling Systems can maximize your plant’s production and financial potential!

Automatic Labeling Systems Brochure

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May 23, 2013

Automatic Barcode Weigh Labeling Systems Problems Explained

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?

automatic labeling

Dual Top and Bottom Labeler with Alarm Lights

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.

automatic labeling

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!

Automatic Labeling Systems Brochure

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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!

Barcode Labeling Brochure

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May 22, 2013

Automatic Case / Barcode Labeling Made Easy

The need for automatic (barcode) case labeling equipment continues to increase every day.

automatic labeling

Dual bottom labeler permits continuous line operation while label changeout occurs

Companies want to reduce labor cost by replacing people using manual units with automatic units. The equipment that is available on the market today work’s, however, there are some things that can make the process a success or a failure.

Let’s start at the beginning of the process. You need to discuss the following topics with your supplier prior to purchasing system:

  1. How many pieces per minute?
  2. Dimensions of the largest and smallest box?
  3. Weight of the heaviest and lightest box?
  4. Size of the label?
  5. Location of the label?
  6. How will the system identify what is in the box?
  7. How are the boxes being indexed?
  8. Do you need a verification scanner?

Now let’s look at the system step by step:

Indexing the boxes correctly is the first key to a good system.

Getting the boxes properly spaced prior to weighing the box is an integral part of a system.

Perhaps a point that is just as important as indexing is aligning the box prior to weighing and labeling it.

Are you going to run chaotic (boxes with different product) boxes? If you are, you will need a pre-ident label on the box to tell the system what is in that specific box.

Weighing the box in-motion is the next part of the system. The boxes can not be pushed or pulled onto the scale as both will effect the correct weighment of the box.

Traveling onto the labeling conveyor, we now need to be sure the box is position to be labeled.

Barcode Labeling Brochure

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No mater where the label has to be placed, the box has to be in the correct position.

You may need a conveyor belt that moves all boxes to a certain side for labeling depending on the differences in your boxes.

You certainly need to provide a long enough labeling conveyor to give the controller the time it needs to process the weight and product information and for the Print and Apply to actually print and apply the label, two to three seconds of travel time is a good number to shoot for.

Now you have a box with a label on it, or don’t you? Do you want to scan an area for the barcode label? Do you want to make sure it is readable? If it is, do you want to put that box in inventory? What do you want to do with the box if anything above is missing? Do you need to divert the box? Where is the diverted box going to go and what will be done to it then?

We encourage you to spend some time thinking about if “Auto Case Barcode Labeling” is for you.

The system takes a number of pieces of equipment to do the job; each piece serves a specific purpose to the system and one bad piece will spoil the results of the whole system.

Once you have thought it through and have decided to proceed, find a supplier that takes all of the above information and creates a system that meets your needs!

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