Labelling Solutions How to eliminate labelling mistakes

Adem Kulauzovic, director of coding automation at Domino Printing, explores the use of automated coding and marking solutions to reduce the risk of costly product recalls

n coding and marking, manual processes in both label selection, and label management can ultimately lead to labelling mistakes on a final product. Utilising manual processes can leave


production lines susceptible to simple errors, which can pose a tremendous risk to manufacturing operations. Errors in product labelling can necessitate product recalls, which are not only costly in terms of logistics but also have the potential to harm the long-term value of a company. Consumer protection laws require manufacturers and suppliers to bear the costs of all product recalls – according to a study by Deloitte, food and beverage manufacturers can expect to lose up to USD$10million in wasted stock, logistics, and penalties resulting from a product recall. Product recalls can also do long-term damage to brand reputation and relationships with consumers.

PROTECTING CONSUMERS In the food and beverage industry, product labelling is of particular importance in ensuring the safety of the end consumer. When mislabelling occurs, it can pose a significant risk to consumers, as even a slight change in an ingredients list could lead to a product having undeclared allergens. Product labelling requirements, and

standards for recalls, are set by relevant government regulations in which a food or beverage product is sold. Failure to adhere to regulations surrounding the labelling of food and beverage product can have significant repercussions for manufacturers. In both the EU and the US, errors in product labelling related to allergens necessitate a mandatory recall of all mislabelled products – and despite the consequences, this continues to be an issue for manufacturers the world over. Labelling issues are not just an issue in food

and beverages: manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices are also subject to strict legislation surrounding the labelling of products on the market in order to keep consumers safe. Indeed, 9 per cent of all medical device recall events in 2018 – over a million units – were due to labelling issues.

LABELLING COMPLIANCE OBLIGATIONS Legislation and best practice recommendations surrounding the labelling of consumer products have become stricter in more recent years, placing increasing pressure on businesses not just to ensure that labels adhere to safety regulations, but also to put in place systems to identify and

solve possible product labelling mistakes before they occur. Since January 2011, businesses in the US

have been required by law to implement preventative measures to avoid labelling mistakes in food and beverage manufacturing. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), requires manufacturers to implement and monitor effective measures to prevent risks in production, including errors in labelling. Globally, the International Food Standards

and the Global Food Safety Initiative require that manufacturers and retailers implement procedures for label checking to ensure that products are labelled correctly and within the necessary scope of the laws in which they are sold.Meanwhile, in the UK, retailers wishing to be a part of the British Retail Consortium must demonstrate that they have a system of checks in place to ensure check and ensure against product labelling errors. This includes having documented processes in place following product changeover, and changes in batches of packaging, to ensure that labels applied are correct for products packaged.

HOW DO YOU STOP THE ERRORS? Having identified that the primary cause of labelling errors lies in manual data entry, the first step towards reducing such errors clearly comes from simplifying or reducing the need for manual data entry on production lines. The answer lies in switching to an integrated system to ensure alignment of your product labelling with your current production order. At the most basic level, companies can utilise a label design software to automatically populate product labels and manage their distribution across multiple printers from a central location, such as a production office. This reduces the number of data entry points on the line itself, thereby reducing the chance of errors occurring. Furthermore, by replacing

individual messages with a template tied to a product database, potentially one can reduce the number of labels being managed from hundreds to only a handful. Introducing label templates, and so

reducing the number of labels required to on production lines, not only makes it easier for manual workers involved in code selection, but it also makes it significantly easier to make changes to labels when legislation changes. The next step in error reduction is in establishing good label management. With the simple application of IoT methodology, it is possible to integrate automated coding solutions to automatically populate labels information obtained from a production management system – this can further help to prevent mislabelled products arising from issues in label creation. Integrated label management solutions can

be anything from a simple barcode scanner used to select data from a UPC or production order, to full integration with an existing MES or ERP system – enabling label creation directly from a centralised management system. Populated labels can then be automatically pushed through to a printer without any manual intervention, mitigating the risk of labelling errors and helping to grow efficiency on production lines.

VALIDATION AND VISION CONTROL The final step towards error-free coding is in establishing a validation system to ensure that all information on product labels is present, correct, and readable. Today, high- speed manufacturing environments have made manual inspection of every product impossible and unreliable – an integrated vision control system (VCS) can instead be used to validate a product label, and further reduce the risk of the product reaching a retailer with improper information. Integrated cameras and a VCS can work alongside coding automation to verify information against production orders and shift codes, to eliminate labelling mistakes. They also can be used to provide verification for item-level serialisation – enabling track and trace of every pallet produced. Product labelling is of primary importance to

manufacturers and brands; yet, making significant changes to production processes is not always feasible. Integrated coding automation solutions can ensure the accuracy of product labelling, without necessitating significant changes to the production lines. July/ August 2020 37

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