Integrated Label Printing at Line-Side

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For a manufacturer of consumer goods in Southwest Ohio, managing their production label printing needs was labor-intense and time consuming. Production planning for more than 25 lines was scheduled a week in advance for the following week’s production. The labels needed for scheduled production were printed offline, in advance of actual production.

Production labels consisted of a multi-part label that included the product, carton and serial labels. The label was produced on an expensive polyester material. Labels were staged at each line for that day’s scheduled production for that line and selected as a specific job began to run. Often times, too many labels were printed for what was actually produced, resulting in waste or production had to be stopped because not enough labels were printed. In addition, labels often needed to be reprinted if they were mixed-up and the wrong label was put on the wrong product. This often resulted in a manual process of re-labeling and re-packaging mis-labeled product.

The process was cumbersome, time consuming and costly.

The solution leveraged smart printing and brought label printing to the production line. Here’s how POWERPRINT transformed the customer’s production label printing from offline, batch printing to an integrated operation with labels being printed in real-time.

Smart Printing is Key

Smart Printing gave ADI the ability to bring label printing to the production line. How? By using “smart printers, which refers to:

  • A printer that can run independently of a host computer

  • A printer where programming ability resides within the printer

With these 2 criteria met, production label printing was brought directly to the line and integrated, in real-time with actual production. This eliminated the need to do any offline printing and provided a flexible process for label printing that could easily adapt to changes in the production schedule.

Giving the Line Operator Control

To start, ADI wrote a scheduling application that runs on an internal website. Production scheduling is still done a week in advance by the department supervisor. But control of that days schedule for a particular line is now in the hands of the line operator. The app facilitates the creation and editing of each day’s production schedule and gives the line operator the ability to start or stop any job assigned to their line or change the order in which the jobs are produced. Schedules for all lines are visible to anyone. All of this is delivered on the printer at line-side.

While the information for the product carton label and serial label comes from a common database, the labels are printed on two different printers, both of which are at the production line and are triggered to print as the product is being assembled.

This resulted in 2 areas of cost savings:

  • Reduced label material costs as the system now allowed for the carton and serial labels to be printed separately and on the most cost-effective label stock. Previous to this, the carton label was printed with the serial label on an expensive polyester label material.

  • Reduced instances where the carton and serial labels were mis-matched which resulted in a labor-intense process of re-labeling and repackaging product.

Last, for warranty and quality control purposes, ensuring that unique serial numbers were generated was critical. With the POWERPRINT system, serial numbers are automatically generated and controls built-in to ensure a serial number is never duplicated. In a given year, the system assigns over 3,000,000 serial numbers.

Benefits of Integrated Label Printing at Line-Side

  1. A flexible process for production label printing that easily adapts to production schedule changes

  2. A wasteful and costly method of printing labels in advance of production was replaced with labeling at production in real-time which virtually eliminated used labels

  3. A label printing process that significantly reduced the instances of mis-matched labels, eliminating the need to re-label and re-package product which was labor-intense and costly

  4. Production is no longer interrupted for label issues