What’s the BEST choice for encoding YOUR product?


Cij, P&A, Hot Melt, Tij, Tto, Ttol, Ttr, Scij, Hot Roll… an alphabet soup! Perhaps, you may have got really scared for the first time you heard these from a salesmen or simply didn’t get anything that he or she was talking about…

Regardless the segment of industrial activity of your company – Food, Pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics or Metallurgy, among others – eventually will be required to purchase or exchange your coding equipment (for printing the infamous “FAB”, “BBE” and “BATCH” numbers in your product), a Legal obligation, which believe me, also adds real value to YOUR customers.

Before you may think: “ok, now I’ll have to spend money I don’t have buying a machine which won’t help my production process at all” or “another item on the line to give me headaches “, remember that YES there are several technologies and machines available in the market, but NO, not all will suit what you really NEED!

As Technical Specialist on Industrial Automation, I had contact with different production processes, meeting customer demands in several locations in Brazil – within more than a decade of direct action in the production line, where things really happen!

Deep technical knowledge, coupled with a crystal clear understanding of the production process, plus a perfect alignment with customer expectations is the key to “translate” particularities of any machine into real and tangible, added value.

Normally, the combination of three factors – what a machine is able to perform, how best the printer fits the production line, and the fulfillment of YOUR expectations – will be the best encoding choice for you.

You see, what you are seeking is not simply a “stamper crap” to merely mark your products, but an industrial coding solution.
When you acquire such equipment, you purchase a “package”, which may include, among other things: supplies (ink /make-up/ribbon), warranty conditions/exclusions, technical assistance (local or not), operational training and/or Technical, software, hardware and accessories (sensors / supports / interfaces) and etc …

The balanced match of the features and components of this “package” (or, encoding solution) with the particularities of your product, production process and what you really NEED will be the key to getting the BEST technology for your use!

No wind blows to whom does not know where to go…

I attended tense meetings with angry customers simply because there was no alignment between what they needed and what was actually installed at their factory, later on.
I experienced an emblematic case in a German company, a manufacturing leader of medical supplies: besides a problem in the internal communication between client’s own areas, I also noticed that when they purchased the machinery, it was not clear how the production line would look like afterwards… In fact, productive processes were not fully defined at the time printers were installed! In other words – new processes were just added to the line AFTER printers’installation (eg autoclaving), disfiguring entire initial context of the project.
Result? Printers became “villains”, because they turned into a production line bottleneck, and moreover, presenting deficiencies on marking’s anchorage!

Here goes a very important tip if you are the “owner” of the project or technically in charge of it: do know very well the manufacturing step processes involved (specific requirements, material or substrate to be encoded). Last but not least: do keep a clear idea of YOURS (and of your customers) expectations regarding the final result of encoding on your product. No Application Engineer and/or Salesman won’t be able to guide you if you do not know how to detail or report such points.
A true Specialist will fill you up with questions about your product and your manufacturing process – I know this may be kind of annoying, but believe me, this is VERY much needed too!

Do you feel you still need a small consultancy to have a better understand of your production process? Well, this will be a subject for another POST.

There is no free lunch …

Technology is wonderful. Novelties always appear and evolution is a constant also on the industrial encoding segment.
That nice Salesman will eventually show up one day, introducing you to “the-8th-wonder-little-machine-that-does-not-use-any-kind-of-supplies”. But then, you end up discovering that after “x” years, printer’s tube or printhead will be “just dead”, and you will have to deal with the relatively high costs of a new (or refurbished) spare part …

Practical example: you probably know that a LASER printer does not use any supply; no ink, nor make-up, no ribbon.
But, did you know that the gas inside the LASER generator tube wears off? Or, that you have to periodically change some filters in the exhausting system in order to ensure both your and operators safety?

I do not mean that there will be any kind of deception in the Salesperson’s speech, but you should always have to be aware about the very  likely costs of maintaining of ANY machine. Incidentally, keep in mind that potentially ALL machines one day, will fail. It’s the life. Even the most perfect machine ever invented, the human body, “crashes”.
So, tell your vendor that you have to do a printer’s TCO study (a good professional will know how to explain it very well), and that you need to have a prediction of equipment’s natural wear, over time.

Have you ever heard about 6-year warranty coverage of brand new cars?
Nice, huh? But, let’s say you don’t want to expend a dime on its maintenance anymore… Try not to have the MANDATORY periodic reviews done at the brand’s dealership. Then, you will see how worthless such warranty will be, normally, on the toughest moments!

You can’t make an omelete without breaking eggs …

Please do not be fooled. Inclusion of a marking system in your production line may require a cultural change of your employees and this will surely demand some TIME and TRAINING. This is a responsibility of YOUR company, as will be also, look after the equipment and comply with minimum technical guidelines to keep it ok. Of course, automation of printing process will bring you huge performance gains (whoever used manual or typographic stamp knows very well what I’m talking about), but it could be also a nasty headache – if mismanaged.

Ask for help and prepare an annual preventive plan for your equipment. Assure operational or technical recycling of your employees regularly. Have you ever heard about predictive maintenance? With some study, it is possible to predict which faults are likely to occur (and when) on your machine, taking in account the specific application of your production process!

Better safe than sorry …

Some printing systems are intended for critical production processes where prolonged shutdown means massive loss of money, loss of customers and/or loss of reputation. Typically, such critical processes deal with high-value added items, large scale production, or highly perishable products.
Examples? Bales of cellulose, soft drinks, ice cream and etc.

In times of crisis, talking about capital expenditures or recurring expenses (such as maintenance contracts) are a “taboo”.
However, costs incurred due to an unplanned emergencial stopping, lack of spare equipment, lack of common stock parts, lack of local trained personnel (either from your company or form the technical assistance of your machine supplier) pay  – with LEFTOVERS – one planned investment and your peace of mind. Consider this fondly – no matter how good they are, machines simply break down and this can happen at the worst possible time.

Thanks for reading!
Feel free to leave your comments here along with your suggestions, as well!