Labeler equipment manufacturers are faced with the task of further reducing or eliminating downtime.
What’s a good product without a label? Furthermore, what’s a good label without a labeler? If a chicken breast or a box of sausages sells more with an eye-catching label, then care must be taken that that label is applied quickly, neatly, and accurately.
Dean Dunlap, industrial sales manager of Bizerba USA Inc., Piscataway, NJ, says that labeling machinery has to be flexible, as machines are being required to perform either multiple labeling or integrating with other devices to mark and identify packages. He says that the days of a plant serving a single customer with its specific label requirements are over.
“Plants are now searching out and securing as many case-ready customers as possible to take advantages of plant capabilities,” says Dunlap. “However, each new customer brings with them their own specific individual demands of a product line because of unique packaging and labeling.” Along with the labels of the different customers, those customers are starting to push for labels that reflect localized pricing and information requirements.
The equipment, in turn, must be able to change over quickly to accommodate the customers’ label profiles. “New labeling and weigh price labeling equipment must be either adaptable and/or modular in design to allow for quick changeover,” Dunlap says. “Equally important are the capabilities to service the labeling equipment with minimal downtime.” An additional challenge that label equipment manufacturers have faced, he says, is to reduce the number of movable parts in the equipment. Those parts that cannot be eliminated have to be made accessible for easy servicing with minimal downtime.
Bizerba’s GLM-I high-sped plant series is designed for the weight-based labeling of up to 150 packs per minute. The labelers feature a quick-change belt system and easy-to-clean belts and conveyors. Labeling can be carried out from above or below in every GLM-I configuration. The modular print engine of the labelers provides easy-to-change print heads, easy cleaning and convenient insertion of paper and thermal transfer film rolls.
Another innovation within the labeling machinery sector has been the accuracy of the machines, says Rich Thoma, vice president of sales and marketing for Yerecic Label, New Kensington, PA. “It’s probably as focused as it’s ever been,” he says. “It used to be that if you were within an inch, you had to accept that. Now, you can get the label placed on just about any type of package in just about any position you want.”
Yerecic, which manufactures labels (see sidebar, page 127), got into the labeler side of the business after developing machinery for in-house testing. Thoma says that the focus of labelers now has been to develop equipment with minimal downtime. “The labelers we carry have an automatic setup that reads the label, the label length, and the packaging, and pretty much gets it right into position on its own,” he says. “Then it stores the information, so that when you run that package again, it just pulls up that program, and you’re ready to roll.” Another option to minimize downtime is to have a machine that accepts expanded roll sizes. Some machinery, he notes, also comes with a separate piece of equipment to continuously feed labels into a machine, even if a roll needs to be changed. That addition completely eliminates downtime.
Mandates and options
Jay Brewer, product master, labeling, for Multivac Inc., Kansas City, MO, says that one major upcoming change may affect Canadian processors and food being shipped into Canada, as the country is moving to mandate food nutritional labels. “The early trend with Canadian processors as we’ve experienced it seems to be split between applying a pre-printed pressure-sensitive clear film label for the ‘no-label’ look and printing the nutritional facts label with a thermal transfer printer mounted on a Multivac cross-web labeler,” he says. If they decide to go with a paper label, there are significant cost savings to printing on a blank paper label inline, Brewer says. The label is less expensive and changeover time is reduced.
The company has enhanced the programming of its labelers to enable more integrated communications with thermal transfer printers. “This gives processors a great deal more flexibility in how they configure their packaging and labeling operations, and also eliminates some of the downtime,” he adds.
Multivac offers Top Space Saving Labelers, which have been redesigned to apply pressure-sensitive oxygen-scavenging labels to the inside of the top web. Brewer says the positioning of the labeler on top of the packaging machinery cabinet saves plant space and is ideal for label placement in this application. It also eliminates the need for additional dispensing equipment for the oxygen scavengers. Separate labelers can be coordinated for both inside and outside labeling. NP
Labeling equipment suppliers participating in this article include:
Labelers are changing to accommodate new trends and technology, and the labels themselves are following suit. Rich Thoma, vice president sales & marketing of Yerecic Label, New Kensington, PA, says that new trends are also at work among labels.
“In some areas where there’s a non-printed film involved, we are seeing more of a push toward corner labeling, giving maximum exposure to the product,” he says. The corners, he explains is normally dead space on a package, as far as being able to see the product inside.
“That leaves a lot more of the product, which is centered in the package, viewable, and still gets a lot of information onto the package.”
Yerecic has also been introducing multi-layer formats of labeling, maximizing content while minimizing the space used on the package. The multi-layer formats, which could contain a coupon or a recipe, work on existing labeling equipment, Thoma says, and still lets the consumer see the product.
Thoma says Yerecic worked on a consumer research project with the National Beef Board and the National Pork Board on labeling, and what needs to be done to help consumers prepare more meals at home rather than dining out.
“We found there are a lot of foodservice sales from boredom from the consumer,” Thoma says. “They’re bored with their normal meal rotation, but they either don’t have the confidence to try new things, or they don’t have the time or research and planning to create new meals or try proteins they’re not comfortable with.”
How can processors help alleviate this boredom? “The number one simple solution is to show the consumer a finished meal picture on the package. We’re such a visual society, selling the sizzle and not just the steak is more important than it’s ever been before,” he explains. Thoma adds that the labels should also include simple preparation steps or an easy-to-follow recipe, so customers can feel more confident about preparing a good meal.
“We look at labeling in two ways,” he says. “You need to draw the consumer’s attention to try your product, and you need to make sure they do all the right things to prepare your product so that you get a second sale.”