Correct product coding and marking is vital to manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Not only does it help improve supply chain efficiency and visibility, it also provides customers with vital information about the products they buy. In today’s world getting codes right isn’t just important – it’s crucial. This article explores the fundamental considerations that manufacturers need to undertake in order to avoid packaging errors that impact their bottom line.
Prevent Errors rather than Calculate the Damage
A recent survey conducted by Videojet found that 50 to 70 percent of coding errors are caused by operator error, with the most common mistakes consisting of incorrect data entry and job selection. In response, many companies introduce more checks during the packaging operation. However, this does not address the root of the issue – which is why the wrong codes are being entered in the first place. It’s in the manufacturer’s self-interest to understand the scope and cost of coding mistakes and take countermeasures to virtually eliminate them. Not only does this increase plant efficiency, but it would help ensure that manufacturers comply with the coding requirements.
Preventing Errors by Design: Mistake-Proofing Coding Processes
Manufacturers need proactive solutions to address issues – from unaccounted costs, to ineffective countermeasures, to partner mandates – therefore it is vital to respond to coding problems before they happen to virtually eliminate unnecessary costs. There are two ways to deal with coding problems at the source, that is to say, the production line. First, is to proactively reduce the likelihood of errors; or secondly, try to catch errors when they happen, in order to minimize waste, then correct the error and get back to production as soon as possible.
It’s important to remember it’s not a case of one or the other, it is an integrated two-pronged approach; even if you’re effectively preventing coding errors, you still need the ability to quickly respond if something goes wrong - in order to limit the damage. But clearly, resources invested in prevention will prove much more cost-effective, compared to the expense of remediation.
In recent decades, manufacturers have increasingly turned from quality assurance, based on statistical sampling of products bound for market, to a more proactive philosophy of prevention. Often referred to as “poka-yoke,” this approach focuses on up-front process design. Lean manufacturing processes are created with fail-safe features that allow operators to immediately detect a mistake and correct it – or, preferably, prevent mistakes from occurring at all, regardless of the operator’s actions.
Code Assurance: Approach to Coding Quality
Code Assurance is a comprehensive approach to preventing or virtually eliminating errors in the coding and marking process. A Human Machine Interface (HMI) – including both hardware and software components – can and should be designed to simplify data entry and help prevent operator errors, during code entry and job selection. By redesigning the structural flow of coding processes, it is possible to minimize operator interaction therefore reducing the risk of errors to the point where getting the right code on the right product becomes the norm.
The Code Assurance methodology relies on four basic principles which are integral to avoiding packaging errors. First, we recommend that manufacturers simplify message selection, so the operator selects the right message for the right job. Secondly, operator input should be restricted to the absolutely essential points of contact only. Thirdly, we advocate automating messages as much as possible, with pre-defined rules, to help prevent incorrect entries. Finally, manufacturers should use authoritative data sources – such as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or, other enterprise IT systems – so that the appropriate information is automatically sent to the correct printer for a new job.
About the Author:
Matt Perkins is a Vertical Marketing Manager for Videojet Technologies where he specializes in the baked goods, salty snacks and tobacco industries globally. Through his work, he visits baked goods, salty snacks and tobacco manufacturers to better understand their processing and coding challenges and improve marking and coding solutions for those industries. Prior to Videojet, he was an Associate at A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm. He holds a BSE in Systems Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
About Videojet Technologies:
Videojet Technologies is a world-leader in the product identification market, providing in-line printing, coding, and marking products, application specific fluids, and product life cycle services. Our goal is to partner with our customers in the consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical, and industrial goods industries to improve their productivity, to protect and grow their brands, and to stay ahead of industry trends and regulations. With our customer application experts and technology leadership in continuous ink jet (CIJ), thermal ink jet (TIJ), laser marking, thermal transfer overprinting (TTO), case coding and labeling, and wide array printing, Videojet has more than 325,000 printers installed worldwide. Our customers rely on Videojet products to print on over ten billion products daily. Customer sales, application, service, and training support is provided by direct operations with over 3,000 team members in 26 countries worldwide. In addition, the Videojet distribution network includes more than 400 distributors and OEMs, serving 135 countries.