The Benefits Automating the Case and Labeling Operations of Your Processing Plant
Reduce Cost and Increase Throughput with Automated Case Labeling
Automated case labeling and solution integration can increase overall plant throughput while reducing production expenses and waste.
Automation is a buzz word that can either excite or discourage an audience. The perceived cost and complexity can cause some people who read the word “automation” to immediately tune out. Either that, or a lack of information on automation can make the topic seem overwhelming and out of reach. No matter how it is perceived or viewed, is it hard to deny the direct benefits automation brings to the food manufacturing process. Introducing automation to the case weighing and labeling process can increase a plant’s case labeling throughput by over 60% while directly decreasing overall production costs. Now, more than ever, process automation is affordable and less complicated than it seems.
Increase Operational Throughput by 60%
Decrease Production Costs through Efficiencies
Reduce Human Error Due to Manual Interaction
Maximize Plant Real Estate
Anyone who has spent time around a meat or poultry processing plant will know the constant struggle of trying to be more efficient. Manual processes seem comforting to some in the industry because they seem failproof. However, those manual processes greatly reduce a plant’s output capacity, increase the risk of human error, and lead to decreased revenue due to inefficiencies and errors. Customer demands need to be met, and inefficient processes or downtime due to labor issues costs money.
Not only do processing plants struggle with efficiency, they are tough environments that constantly struggle with the cycle of employee turnover. Large processing plants are often found in rural areas of the country where lower population density makes finding and keeping reliable plant-floor operators even more of a challenge. All these factors drive processing plants to look for solutions to become more efficient and highly productive.
Now is the Time to Automate
For meat and poultry processing plants, automation is not as complicated or expensive as one might think. Adopting process automation into case weighing and labeling will streamline production and help eliminate unnecessary costs and waste. In a time when profit margins are decreasing, efficiency and productivity are essential. Partnering with the right solution provider will remove the complexity of automation and maximize its effectiveness.
This document will outline the benefits of a fully automated case weighing and labeling solution. First, we will describe the benefits of process automation, and how these benefits will quickly increase a plant’s efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Then we will identify the various components of an automated case weighing and labeling solution. Finally, this document will summarize how integration brings each component together to make the final powerful and purpose-built automated solution.
Benefits of Automated Case Weighing and Labeling
Investing in an automated case weighing and labeling solution will provide a measurable ROI over a short period. Processing plants will see a return on their investment across multiple areas of their operation. Here are a few areas where a processing plant can expect to see a rapid ROI.
Increased Production Throughput and Efficiency
As sales volume increases, each company is faced with the decision of how to handle the increased demand. On average, a manual weighing and labeling line can process between 10-12 cases per minute (approximately 720 cases/hour). The average automated case weighing and labeling line can process between 25-35 cases per minute (approximately 2,100 cases/hour). That is an increase of over 60% in throughput. A processing plant, using a manual process, would need two to three more additional manual lines to equal the output capacity of a single automated case weighing and labeling line.
Each additional manual line also raises the cost of production. The additional cost is because a processing plant must allocate a full-time operator to run the manual weighing and labeling process on each line. Automation significantly increases production throughput and efficiency without raising the overall cost of production.
Reduced Impact of the Employee Turnover Cycle
The employee turnover cycle encompasses the entire process of hiring an employee, providing on-the-job training, employing them at the company, and then losing them to another job opportunity. The meat and poultry industry experiences the employee turnover cycle at an exceptionally high rate. This is especially true for plant-floor equipment operators. The plant-floor can be a tough place to work due to the environment. Oftentimes a plant-floor is cold, wet, loud, and chaotic. Meat and poultry processing plants spend a lot of time and money on the employee turnover cycle, and it significantly contributes to the cost of production.
Automation within a meat or poultry processing plant significantly reduces the impact of the employee turnover cycle by minimizing the required number of operators to run a production line. A fully automated weighing and labeling line is designed to operate with little to no human interaction. The system identifies incoming product traveling down the conveyor, then weighs, labels, and verifies that the right label was placed on the box without the need of an operator. The only time an operator is required is if the automated line detects an error.
A Reduction in Human-Related Errors and Improved Labeling Accuracy
As with any manual process, case weighing and labeling is subject to human error. Human error can occur on a manual weighing line at several stages. The first opportunity for error is when a product is misidentified and incorrectly labeled. Mislabeled product is a costly expense that can result in fines from customers, or even result in product recalls.
The second opportunity for human error is on label placement. Certain requirements demand a label be applied uniformly on every box. This requirement can only be achieved accurately and efficiently by an automated print and apply system. Finally, an outbound verification scanner on an automated weighing and labeling line will ensure the correct label is placed on each box, and that each label’s barcode is readable.
Effective Use of Available Plant Floor Real Estate
Most meat and poultry processing plants struggle with a lack of available plant floor real estate. Production floors are congested with big pieces of processing equipment that consume large amounts of space. Oftentimes, when a plant needs to add an additional production line there just isn’t enough room available.
Process automation helps increase production throughput while also enabling plants to reduce the amount of plant-floor space required. Adopting process automation allows multiple manual production lines to be combined into a single automated line. This can significantly reduce the amount of space required for weighing and labeling. An automated weighing and labeling line also allows for mixed products from multiple conveyors to be condensed into a single weighing and labeling line.
Key Components of an Automated Case Weighing and Labeling Solution
A powerful and purpose-built automated case weighing and labeling solution is comprised of both software and hardware that are combined to make an overall automated solution. The final solution component is integration, which is vital because it is the glue that bonds the entire solution together.
Carlisle Technology’s iCap M5 Advanced Automated Weighing and Labeling Software
iCap M5 Advanced Automated Weighing and Labeling Software is a proprietary application developed by Carlisle Technology that is designed to enable operator-free case weighing and labeling.
As a thick client application, iCap M5 reduces the risks associated with a processing plant’s network infrastructure by allowing full production even while offline. iCap M5 offers advanced features such as: inbound product identification used to identify mixed product prior weighing, automated weighing and labeling, outbound label verification, reject management, and product sortation.
Carlisle Technology’s Conveyor Scales
Carlisle Technology’s automated weighing and labeling solution includes an NTEP and Canadian Weights and Measures approved conveyor scale. This scale provides the best weighing accuracy available for high-speed in-motion conveyor type applications.
In addition to its high degree of accuracy, the in-motion scale is very reliable, with low maintenance requirements, since it is designed to operate in harsh, wash down environments. The conveyor scale achieves this high degree of accuracy by its single load cell design. This design provides a simple, durable, and easy to maintain NTEP and Canadian Weights and Measures approved scale. The in-motion conveyor scale structure utilizes heavy stainless-steel construction allowing easy cleanability and a load cell that is sealed to repel water.
Panther Industries Print and Apply Labeling Automation Systems
Panther Industries’ print-and-apply labeling automations systems are a key component in the weighing and labeling process.
Available in all-electric or pneumatic options – combined with a straight tamp, swing arm, or blow on applicator – these labeling systems are fast, accurate, and efficient. An aircraft-grade aluminum main plate, quality machined components, and non-corrosive fasteners ensure this labeling system will thrive in your plant’s harsh environment.
Integration, the process of combining multiple individual components into a proven working solution, is the glue that binds everything together.
Most meat or poultry processing plants try to create their own automated solutions by attempting to implement individual components on their own. This usually results in overspending and frustration. Carlisle Technology’s complete automated case weighing and labeling solutions are proven and successfully operating in some of the largest high-volume meat processing plants in North America.
Incoming Product Verification & Weighing
Full cases traveling down the infeed conveyor have a pre-printed PLU (product lookup) label attached to the leading edge of the carton. The PLU label has a standard barcode that contains the PLU information, and is hand applied after the box is packed. The inbound PLU is scanned before the product reaching the conveyor scale. The iCap M5 software receives that data from the scanner and automatically retrieves the product information for the inbound case.
As the case travels onto the conveyor scale, and the scale reaches a stabilization point, a photo eye is activated, and the weighment cycle is started. The weighment cycle ends just before the product leaves the live section of the scale. After the case travels across the conveyor scale, iCap M5 records the product information and weight within its internal database. This data is accessed for management reporting.
Automated Case Labelling
For each case, the weight and variable product data is sent to the Panther Industries print and apply system. A finished goods GS1 barcode label is printed, peeled, and presented to the applicator. The label applicator is triggered via a photo eye and the label is applied to the end of the case (narrow side).
For instances where iCap M5 determines there to be an error related to the case, the system will print error labels with no barcode. The error label displays a large description of the type of error detected (e.g., Over-Weight, Under Weight, NO PLU, etc).
Outbound Product Verification
The case label is scanned almost immediately after being applied to the box. The outbound scan confirms that the product number on the case label matches the original PLU label. The outbound scan is also used by iCap M5 to keep track of any error labels or “no reads.” If iCap detects a certain number of consecutive errors, it will stop the line for an operator to investigate. After the outbound scan, cases travel down the line to be sorted and palletized.
Solution Providers for Better Plant Automation
Carlisle Technology and Panther Industries have been partners for almost two decades. Together, these two companies provide automated case weighing and labeling solutions that are designed to work in some of the highest volume meat processing plants in North America.
We take pride in our solutions because we know the value automation brings to the production process. By implementing this type of better plant automation, a processing plant is proactively choosing to increase production throughput, reduce production costs, minimize human error, and maximize their use of plant floor real estate. .
Contact a Carlisle Technology and Panther Industries representative to get started. Our experts will be back in touch with you immediately.
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