Last year, Pak West’s Packaging Equipment Specialist Mike Mercado went out with a customer to look at labelers at an equipment manufacturer for the customer’s clamshell processing. During the visit, the customer happened to see a case labeler and was given a demo. The customer bought the case labeler on the spot!
The customer had a table-top labeler and was hand applying two labels per carton at 2,000 cartons per day! It just wasn’t on their radar to automate the process until the visit.
Today, the customer is easily meeting its end-of-line processing throughput and has been able to move the labor to other processing in the factory. Come November, the labeler will have been in operation for 12 months, and the customer will see 100% return-on-investment!
So, whether you know, or don’t know, that a case labeler may be in your near future, here are some useful tips to think about during the planning:
1. Know your application. What do you need a case labeler for? A wide range of labels, fonts, and cases? Both direct-thermal and thermal-transfer printing? Serial labeling in continuous processing for high-speed lines? Take the time to consider all the options.
2. Know your customers’ requirements. What kind of information does your customer require on the cases? Some retailers have stringent barcode standards, requiring an “A” or “B” quality rating for automated scanning. Goods can’t be received without proper readable codes. Failure to provide readable codes with the correct information can lead to fines and rejection of goods.
3. Know your recycled materials being used. Many case-labeling problems stem from cases with recycled materials. Variability in recycled content means variability in the case’s surface characteristics. Substrate characteristics can cause unpredictable label adhesion problems. Sometimes the percentage of recycled content can vary from batch-to-batch, and plant-to-plant, wreaking havoc with the labeling equipment. of cases. Work with a supplier to find an adhesive system that is broad-range, yet isn’t so aggressive that it gums up the labelers.
4. Know the reliability, durability, and cleanability issues. Will the equipment last despite a harsh and demanding environment related to temperature and/or operating hours? What will the cost of maintenance be? Another big issue for print-and-apply case coders (particularly with ink-jet coders) is sanitation. Old or dried-out ink inside the equipment can cause severe damage. In some environments, it only takes a few days for ink to start drying out if the machine is not in use.
5. Know the versatility. Today’s markets change rapidly, requiring an agile packaging strategy. Can your case labelers adapt to changes such as the addition of RFID or barcode features? Look to machine builders that anticipate the future.
6. Know that training is mandatory. Lack of operator training has a negative effect on case label quality. Take the time for initial, and follow-up, training to counteract operator turnover.
For those impulse buyers out there, consider taking an equipment manufacturer visit with a Pak West equipment specialist today!
Tips summarized from the article “Tips for Buying Case-Labeling Systems” by Ron Romanik, contributing editor at PackagingWorld.com (April 11, 2016)