How Coding Automation Helps Food Manufacturers

How Coding Automation Helps Food Manufacturers

Industry 4.0 includes integrating coding and marking equipment with an MES to help improve productivity and maintenance and avoid unplanned downtime.

By Adem Kulauzovic, director of Coding Automation, Domino Amjet, Ltd.

Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from the eBook, “Industry 4.0 and the Food Processing Industry: Building the case for coding integration.” Download the full eBook to learn how smart manufacturing is changing food manufacturing and packaging operations and helping firms meet competitive pressures; how to get various components on a production line to talk to you and the other equipment; and how coding automation and integration into manufacturing execution systems can help improve productivity, reduce errors, streamline maintenance and avoid downtime.

Simply put, Industry 4.0 is about smart manufacturing systems. On the plant floor, machines and sensors on the production line can share operational data with each other and with a central system located on-site or in the cloud. Just as smart thermostats, appliances and wearable devices are bringing the Internet of Things (IoT) to homes around the globe, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is connecting previously disparate machines and systems on the manufacturing floor.

This unprecedented level of connectivity allows information to be captured at every point on the production process and throughout the supply chain, and presents incredible opportunities for food processing and packaging operations. The resulting data can then be analyzed and managed to make every manufacturing sequence as fast and accurate as possible — from highlighting bottlenecks to indicating the need for maintenance before a failure occurs.

Why Industry 4.0 Matters for Food Production

Across all manufacturing industries, six major trends are driving plant-floor automation:

  1. Lack of skilled labor/labor shortages.
  2. Global increase in product demand.
  3. Rising demand for flexible manufacturing.
  4. Producing products with consistent quality.
  5. Overall operating cost reductions.
  6. Smart machine technology.

For food manufacturers, rising consumer demand for variety in flavors and styles has led to SKU proliferation, which results in fewer long, dedicated runs of one product and more frequent line changeovers.

Automation can help reduce the time needed for line changeovers overall, and it can help reduce the potential for errors when entering new coding data.

Even without integration into a larger manufacturing system, connected coding and marking equipment can alert operators when any parameters are approaching an out-of-spec condition or let them know ahead of time when consumables are running low or maintenance will be required.

Reduced Coding Errors

Coding and marking, which typically take place at several points along the manufacturing line, might seem like a relatively minor part of the whole process of turning ingredients into finished products. However, when errors are introduced, problems are created, such as the following:

  • Production stops.
  • Traceability is endangered.
  • Deadlines and quotas are missed.
  • Corporate liability increases.
  • Waste and rework are created.

Consider the coding on a typical food processing and packaging line:

  • Average message length: 6 characters
  • Number of coders: 3
  • Packaging production line count: 4
  • Production changes per day: 2
  • Days in a year: 355

That means, 52,560 characters are entered per year.

Now consider that the average human makes one mistake for every 300 characters entered. You do the math.

So, you can see that integrating the coding equipment with a manufacturing execution system (MES) and automatically pulling codes from a central system can save a lot of headaches.

Why the Food Industry has Fallen Behind

Compared to other industries, food and beverage has been slow to adopt automation because of:

  • Lower margins.
  • A high degree of material variability.
  • A long-standing, traditional method of manufacturing.

Many plant managers of food production lines have a long-standing sentiment that, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” And that’s understandable. A lot of time and effort goes into planning, implementing and maintaining a smoothly running line. And ever-greater customization and faster line speeds are needed to meet increasing demand. 

Domino Amjet, Ltd., based in Gurnee, Illinois, is a participating EncompassProduct Partner in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetworkprogram. The company develops and manufactures coding, marking and printing technologies. Its complete end-to-end coding solutions span primary, secondary and tertiary applications and include ink jet, laser, print and apply, and thermal transfer overprinting technologies to apply variable and authentication data, bar codes and traceability codes onto product and packaging.





The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.

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