Is your company struggling with costly marking mistakes? When your products are mismarked, it can have a serious impact on production schedules and profit margins. Even worse, if you miss these mistakes before your product makes it out to market, you could face penalties and recalls, or even lose the trust of your customers. That’s why it’s crucial that you catch and reduce marking mistakes using proper coding technology.
The easiest way to reduce marking mistakes is by using the right coding technology for your product and manufacturing environment. This means you need to consider factors like:
You’ll need to choose coding technology based on your unique needs and operating environment, which requires a thorough analysis of all the available options. Here are some tips for how to evaluate coding technology to find the solutions that are right for you.
There are many different ink and toner formulations to choose from, but ensuring the best mark adhesion quality also requires choosing the right label material and thermal transfer ribbon types. Most reputable suppliers will allow you to run code adhesion and substrate tests on your product packaging so you can ensure a strong code adhesion before you buy, or will include this information in the scope analysis report or the technical specifications of the quote. Some will even set you up with trials so you can demo their full solution in your operating environment for a period of time before making a decision. You’ll likely want to try several different configurations of inks and labels first to make sure you’re getting the absolute best marking quality from the technology.
Catching and preventing marking mistakes also requires some level of validation or quality assurance in your coding operation. You want to verify that the correct mark has been applied to the product in the proper orientation and that’s it’s completely readable. Scanner or vision systems can automate your validation checks, which will significantly reduce the chances of a marking mistake making it off the production line. Some examples of automated validation checking systems include Auto-ID and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) equipment. This equipment can be connected to both your product databases (for more accurate mistake-checking) and to your coding equipment (to halt production if a mistake is spotted).
In addition to the validation step, you should aim to automate as much of the coding and marking process as possible to reduce mistakes. The more you can limit operator involvement, the less human error comes into the equation. New coding and marking technologies, like airless Thermal Transfer Overprint (TTO) printers, require very little operator oversight and input, allowing for a more automated coding process and decreasing the chance of errors. For example, many technologies allow you to scan barcodes from work orders or products and automatically print the correct mark based on corresponding information from a database. This can also be done without a database using low level integration—plugging a scanner directly into a printer, so you can scan barcodes and then view, edit, or refine the message on the printer’s screen before marking your product.
One of the most overlooked factors that can contribute to marking mistakes is material handling before product coding. If your materials are subjected to heavy vibrations or rough handling along the production line, it can cause them to be skewed when they present to the coding technology, affecting the mark quality and readability. Static electricity in the air, or drafts caused by air purification systems, can also affect the quality of your marks. If selecting the right coding technology still hasn’t sufficiently reduced your marking mistakes, you should review your material handling practices and closely watch your production line so you can make recommendations for the best use of your equipment.
Determining the root cause behind most of your marking mistakes will take a thorough investigation of every step in the production line. Your organization will likely need to evaluate multiple combinations of inks, printers, label stock, and imaging systems to find the configuration that works best for your manufacturing environment, product, and staff. Employing automated solutions whenever possible will go a long way toward eliminating human error and reducing marking mistakes, especially when it comes to material handling and quality assurance post-marking.
While upgrading your coding technology and making changes to your production process is expensive, reducing marking mistakes will save your organization money in the long run. Though you should strive to find solutions that fit your budget, this isn’t the place to be cutting corners. With the right tools and technology, you should have no trouble reducing marking errors and streamlining production.
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