Growth continues in the personal care industry. This growth is accompanied by innovative product development, resulting in a mix of types of packaging as manufacturers strive to make their products stand out with bespoke container designs in an increasingly competitive market.
Add to this a size polarisation with smaller, travel size containers and oversized formats for daily products such as shampoo and conditioners. Not forgetting seasonal variations – with Christmas around the corner expect shorter runs with varying pack shapes, and regular changeovers of codes.
With so many different pack formats and materials, finding the most appropriate coding solution can be a challenge. Your coding needs to meet the demands of your customers, your quality department, not to mention legislation - so how can you do all this AND reduce your costs?
Setting up bespoke lines
With varying pack types and short lead times, especially for contract packing work, lines may need to be set up quickly so look for coding equipment that is easy to set up on a new line. Portable coders can achieve this, and a simple user interface which anyone can use makes setting up new messages quick and simple.
Look for lightweight coders with small footprints which you can pick up and move between lines, or sit right next to the production line. When space is limited a small coder will make integration into a new line easier.
Simple, user interfaces with on-screen prompts will make new message setup quick and easy. Many CIJ printers now have colour touch screens with large clear icons to get you coding straight away. Touch and swipe actions similar to mobile phone technology makes learning new interfaces intuitive, without the need to read a heft manual. What’s more line settings can often be stored for future use, saving you time with repeat orders.
An alternative to consider is a Thermal Inkjet printer which can print high resolution codes onto both primary and secondary packaging. Often smaller than CIJ these printers are highly versatile and can be easily installed straight out of the box with rapid adjustment brackets, so they are ideal for bespoke lines. Plus they can print barcodes, QR codes, Data Matrix and logos.
Code more with one printer
CIJ printers that include carton coding options give you the flexibility to code onto both primary and secondary packaging, ideal if you need to set up a new line and don’t have a carton coder spare. Multi-functional coders mean you don’t need to invest in new coders at short notice, so you can respond quickly to customer demands and control your budgets.
The non-contact nature of CIJ facilitates easy coding onto irregular pack sizes, plus they are designed to code in any orientation, such as upwards onto the base of aerosols, without any loss of code quality. Conduit lengths vary from 2m up to 6m making integration into your line easy – so the printer won’t need to sit next to the coding area and you can position it where you need to control it.
The flexibility of these coders means you can code a multitude of packaging types with one coder, saving you money on equipment spend.
For guaranteed permanent traceability on your personal care products then consider laser coding.
CO2 scribing laser coders can replicate the print quality of your packaging with permanent coding onto most materials including plastics, glass and card, whilst fibre lasers add bare metal to the list of codable materials.
Although not portable like CIJ printers, laser coders can be compact enough to integrate easily into your existing workflows. Look for compact, single box coders with a choice of a straight or down shooters – these can code in any orientation plus it will be easier to fit into your existing line.
Laser coders are highly flexible, and if you can mix text, logos and machine-readable codes in a single message then you can code quicker than laser coders which can only deliver two lines of print. Keeping up with your line speed is important; your coders shouldn’t dictate the speed of your line, so a flexible laser coder with these features will ensure you meet your deadlines.
Laser coders require no ongoing consumable costs, can code onto a wide range of materials and at high speed, so the long term cost effectiveness of laser coding for more intensive production lines becomes apparent.
If you measure your OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) then you will be aware of the negative impact unreliable line equipment can have. Downtime can be measured by equipment failure, servicing, cleaning, and batch changeovers.
Disinfectant rituals to limit microbial contamination of products can expose your equipment to liquids, similarly powder-filling lines expose your equipment to dust. Coders that fail to cope in demanding production environments increase your downtime and related costs.
So look for a printer that will operate reliably in your specific environment: IP65 rated coders for dust, or IP55 for water ingress. Positive air printheads will also help to keep dust out of CIJ printers.
Self-service CIJ printers are becoming more popular, as you can fit the service around your production schedules. No engineer call-outs and no unexpected downtime. Self-servicing only takes a few minutes with minimal components replaced; you shouldn’t need to replace the ink system on a self-service printer.
Laser coders on the other hand have zero routine servicing. A long laser tube life will also contribute towards lower lifetime costs. Efficient laser coders, such as those with lighter, stronger mirrors, allow for faster, more reliable coding whilst using less laser energy, meaning they don’t have to work as hard as other laser systems, which in turn increases their laser tube life.
Cleaning – it all adds up
You shouldn’t need to spend time every morning cleaning the printhead of your CIJ printer to ensure a reliable start up and quality print. Time spent cleaning is downtime and therefore costly, so calculate how much time you spend each day. Ten minutes? Imagine how much time that makes over a year in downtime? Three and a half hours every month? Forty hours a year? Multiply that by the cost of your hourly downtime rate and straight away you can see how much money you could save with a CIJ printer that doesn’t need daily printhead cleaning, not forgetting the cost of the solvent needed to clean the printhead every time.
Laser coders on the other hand need no cleaning, and nor do Thermal Inkjet printers where the printhead and ink are housed in one simple cartridge. These coders need no servicing and replacing the ink is a quick, mess-free process: simple click the old cartridge out and the new one in.
As already mentioned, easy to use interfaces make code set up between batch runs quick and simple, saving you time. And stored messages and line settings also contribute to reduced downtime. And if you want to capitalise on the export market, then go for a printer which allows you to quickly switch between different language keyboards at the press of a button.
So we have seen that a flexible coding solution can save you money with one coder doing more than one job, either in applying different code types, the ability to set up bespoke lines quickly, or coding onto a range of materials.
And we have seen how coder reliability can impact on your downtime, which in turn costs you money.
If you want to capitalise on the growth opportunities in the personal care industry, and reduce your costs, ensure your coding equipment is both flexible and reliable.