Discover how to improve labeling efficiency by integrating the right equipment into your production line.
Many peoples' lives during the coronavirus shutdown have gone something like this:
- Order pajamas and board games from Amazon and eBay
- Watch cat videos on YouTube.
- Binge-watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Prime.
- Squeeze in quality time by running Google searches on the meaning of life.
Others — many of them business owners — have been a bit less laid back, as they struggle to plan for an uncertain economic future that may far outlast the virus itself. With luck, they are able to plan not only for survival but for future growth by reading and thinking about ways to increase productivity.
If you can identify with the second group, you’ll want to read this post about improving your manufacturing process efficiency and learning how to label products better — specifically, speeding up production by eliminating repetitive manual labor through automation.
In addition to increasing output, other benefits of using automation to streamline the way you label products include:
- Freeing up time to focus on other aspects of your operation.
- Reducing employee fatigue that can lead to errors and repetitive motion injuries.
- Improving quality by ensuring precise and consistent placement of labels.
- Printing accurate data on labels such as lot numbers, dates, and barcodes.
Let's take a closer look at how to improve labeling efficiency by integrating the right equipment into your production line.
Analyzing Production to Identify Bottlenecks
Even if your production line is not large, start with careful measurement and analysis of your current production line. You'll want to identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks and set new goals. First, how long does it take to move your product from start to finish? Once you know that number, it's time to collect other data you’ll need to measure efficiency.
First, record how long each process (e.g., filling, capping, labeling) takes. Add up all the process times, then divide that number by the total time you recorded above. Since there is always some time lost between stations, efficiency will be below 100%. A good rule of thumb is to aim for efficiency of at least 80%, which would mean 20% of total time is lost between stations.
Besides looking for overall efficiency gains by speeding up product movement from one station to the next, you should focus on the stations themselves. For example, many businesses are hand-labeling products to avoid the cost of automatic labeling machinery. Rather than continuous in-line production, this forces a batch-oriented process that includes regular periods of downtime to load more products.
The total picture is bigger than your production line, of course, so make sure your inventory and material supplies are sufficient to keep pace with production. Look at sales, too, as you search for any and all factors that could slow things down.
Justifying the Cost a Labeling Machine
If production is slower because of a hand-labeling process, it's time to get real about what you're missing: the potential gains of smoothly-running continuous production. You're not even getting adequate ROI on your other production equipment if the line has to stop regularly so that the batch-labeling process can catch up.
To justify the cost of a new labeling machine, study how professional labeling equipment can maximize your return on investment. An in-line labeling machine can streamline order fulfillment in several ways, increasing output by as much as 300 percent over batch labeling. High quality, user-friendly automatic labeling machines have revolutionized labeling for smaller, growing companies such as wineries and craft brewers.
Besides the considerable time and cost savings of moving to continuous production, an important benefit of freeing up workers from repetitive hand-labeling is a reduction in fatigue, errors, and accidents. Mistakes don't just waste time and materials — they could lead to costly lawsuits and penalties if you're in a highly regulated industry such as food or pharmaceuticals.
With automated labeling in place, your team can be redeployed in more productive ways. One person could manage two machines, for instance, for a dramatic increase in output and efficiency.
Tracking Inventory and Eliminating Errors
With a modular labeling system that allows you to add or subtract pieces to reach your optimal setup, you can start with a basic labeling machine running in batch mode. Later, you can upgrade to in-line operation to speed up production without replacing your initial purchase.
As your operation expands, you may want to add a modular label printer to provide date stamps and batch numbers. (We discuss this in depth in the post, Pharmaceutical Label Applicator with Expiration Dates.)
Touch-screen controls on Pack Leader USA's labelers provide easy access for setup, and a label count feature lets you precisely count progress during a production run, as well as the exact production number for the day.
Errors are reduced with features like auto label setup on the PRO-215 Top Labeling Machine, for example, and missing label detection, which shuts down the machine if a label-free product passes the sensor.
And a standard feature for all Pack Leader USA machines is the use of precision stepper motors that ensure accurate placement of every label.
Finally, a job memory storage feature means even if the machine sits for long periods, the battery-free memory retains all settings.
If you have figured out where your bottlenecks are and concluded that labeling is the biggest one, your next step is to learn more about labeling equipment. A good place to start is to view our equipment comparison chart. Then contact us with any questions you have about your production process, and we'll be glad to help you take your business to a whole new level.