The past few years have brought numerous business interruptions, including the global pandemic, supply chain challenges, and a reduced workforce, all of which have wreaked havoc on businesses worldwide. Regrettably, these disruptions to normal business operations have compelled some manufacturers to make compromises to meet deadlines, leading to the identification of production errors at a later stage when significant costs have already been incurred. When it comes to coding and labeling, precision is absolutely crucial. Nonetheless, errors can and do occur, and they are more likely on production lines where multiple product changeovers take place or when printing substantial amounts of information.

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Impact of Labelling Mistakes

Product recalls can be a costly mistake for any business and can have far-reaching consequences. Here are some surprising statistics:

  1. The average cost of a product recall is approximately $10 million.
  2. The number of food recalls in Europe increased by 13% in 2020.
  3. Non-compliance figures rose by 275% from 2020 compared to 2017.

Genuine product recalls can be further complicated by missing or illegible codes, as the Best Before End (BBE) or Batch code can often limit the number of affected products that need to be returned. This underscores the importance of implementing thorough checks on a production line. However, manual code checks can be time-consuming, unreliable, and fraught with risk.

Common Coding Problems

There are various ways in which coding can go awry, and while some are more prevalent than others, all of them can result in costly product recalls if the errors are not detected. Here are some of the most common coding issues on a production line:

  1. Operator Errors: Nobody is infallible. In fact, it is estimated that a human operator will make around ten errors for every 600 coding entries. When operators are manually entering codes and data, mistakes are bound to happen.

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Different Types of Production Equipment: If your operators are tasked with working on multiple coding systems and equipment types, the risk of errors occurring is heightened. Each coding point typically has its unique characteristics and operating procedures, and transitioning from one system to another can lead to confusion.

Duplication of Work and Inconsistency of Data: When your operators are managing multiple systems, it’s not uncommon for them to have to input the same information into each distinct system at various points during the production process. This represents an inefficient use of your operators’ time and provides more opportunities for errors to crop up. Additionally, you might encounter the issue of data provided by each system being in different formats, making it challenging to analyze and manage the data from your entire production line comprehensively.

Label Management:In coding and marking, manual processes in both label selection and label management can ultimately result in labeling errors on the final product. Human errors can occur in label selection, such as choosing the wrong label or an older revision of the label. Mistakes can also happen in label management, including deploying incorrect information on product packaging or entering the wrong information into a label template for printing on a product. These are common issues that can lead to labeling mistakes.

Date Labelling:Additional challenges may arise when goods are destined to cross borders, as different markets often require varying date formats. Coding automation software can effectively tackle these coding issues through a two-pronged approach. First, it aims to prevent coding errors as much as possible. Then, it works to correct any errors that manage to slip through the initial checks and controls.

Prevention

Preventing errors begins at the earliest stage of production, where robust and user-friendly systems can play a vital role in error avoidance. As the saying wisely suggests, “prevention is the best cure,” and this principle is especially critical in a manufacturing environment. Detecting a labeling error before it’s applied to a product or packaging is much more efficient and cost-effective than trying to rectify it after it’s been applied.

Domino Printing’s coding automation and label design printing control software offers an efficient solution for label design and distribution throughout your manufacturing processes, from start to finish. By centralizing and streamlining the packaging messaging process, it ensures accurate code design and deployment. Whether you’re creating messages for your primary printers or labels for cases and pallets, Domino’s software provides a standardized user experience across all technologies, reducing training needs. It seamlessly integrates into your production line, featuring a configurable operator interface and an inbuilt product table for efficient data management. This software is the perfect choice for maintaining consistent and precise message printing.

Furthermore, Domino’s coding automation and label design printing control software facilitates the integration of your printers into Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, as well as hosting machinery (OEM) equipment through industry-standard protocols like Weihenstephan Standards (WS). This enables hassle-free installation, ensures accurate data for Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE), and ultimately results in quicker product setup, fewer recalls, and a reduction in operator errors. Here are some of the advantages of using printing automation software:

  • Avoids Errorsreduces the risk of incorrectly entering product information.
  • Centralises Control labels are sent to all printers from a single interface.
  • Avoids Duplication of Work label changes can be centrally managed.
  • Reduces Time Required for Changeoverremoves the need to visit each printer.
  • Wide Range Compatibilitycompatible across a range of Domino coders and works on all major Windows OS PC platforms.
  • Standardises Processessingle message design application for all coding technologies, including full Unicode character support.
  • Reduces Human Erroroperator mode provides a configurable touchscreen optimised interface.
  • Easy Collaborationstore labels and product data in a single secure central location for easy collaboration across an entire site.
  • Integration With Customer Databasesenables easier product lookups.

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Cure

If the strategies mentioned earlier aren’t feasible or face internal challenges, you can consider implementing an alternative safety net to detect and rectify errors. While fixing errors later in the process can be more expensive, it’s better to catch them late than when customers raise concerns. Mistakes like incorrect or missing codes in the supply chain can lead to financial costs and harm your brand’s reputation. Vision hardware and software play a vital role in identifying and addressing errors promptly. Integrated cameras and vision control systems (VCS) collaborate with coding automation software to validate coding data against production orders and shift codes. They can also offer verification for item-level serialization, enabling you to track every pallet, case, or individual product. A VCS can ensure that preventive measures are in place during manufacturing. For instance, when integrated with coding automation software, it can automatically halt production if it detects a set number of labels with insufficient clarity or label data inconsistency with the product the system believes is being produced. Our vision hardware and software can provide the following benefits:

  • Code with confidenceGuarantee that every code is legible and easily readable.
  • Protect your brandPrevent incurring penalties from regulatory bodies or retailers.
  • Eliminate scrapReduce the costs related to product scrap and recalls.
  • Automate code verificationEliminate expensive manual code inspections by automating 100% of in-line code inspection, eliminating the need for periodic human spot checks.

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Conclusion

Manufacturers must prioritize the prevention and rapid resolution of errors on production lines to minimize downtime. Domino can offer a consultative approach to assess your current manufacturing label design and deployment processes, identify potential risks, and explore opportunities within your operation. Feel free to reach out to schedule an online or on-site discussion on coding error prevention.

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