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Systech offers end-to-end solutions to optimize packaging operations

By Trina La Susa

Markem-Imaje’s 2200 print and apply labeler automatically applies GS1-compliant labels on cases of cheese products, including the use-by date as well as tracking data.
 
Markem-Imaje offers food grade ink jet printer model 5400 FG designed for direct printing on food. Food grade ink images may be jetted directly onto cheese.

PRINCETON, N.J. — Systech, a solutions division of Markem-Imaje, assists companies around the world with printing the correct code on the correct product to deliver accurate, real-time supply chain insight, actionable product data and digital connectivity. Steve Tallant, senior director of the Solutions Marketing Group at Systech, says dairy companies can protect their brand, optimize packaging operations, improve line output, ensure coding excellence and create operational efficiencies by leveraging the key pillars of packaging intelligence: message management, verification, line control and insight.

“The time-sensitive nature of dairy makes errors in packaging and coding devastating, especially with regards to the quality of date codes,” Tallant says. “Internationally, there are several countries looking at food traceability. It is marking and coding that will make traceability happen — and if we’re serializing, that is impossible without a formal, productized software solution like our Packaging Intelligence Suite.”

Tallant discussed how structured and automated message design, simpler data management and vision inspection are critical elements to producing quality packaging during a Pack Expo Connects live presentation titled “Authentic, Safe and Connected Products Across the Supply Chain: Optimize Packaging Operations” in November.

Headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, Systech has a global presence with a strong footprint in the Americas and Europe, and has its software running on thousands of lines. Systech has been a strategic partner of Switzerland-based Markem-Imaje since 2019 and was acquired by Markem-Imaje in January 2020. Tallant says this solutions division of Markem-Imaje helps its customers meet needs for speedy line startups, reduced downtime, lower costs/inventory, correct product codes, better quality, less rework and greater efficiency with less manual input.

“Global brands across industries rely on Systech to code their products accurately and efficiently and to keep their products authentic, safe and connected across the supply chain — from packaging to the consumer’s hands,” Tallant says. “We are the only provider that delivers an end-to-end solution to optimize packaging operations and protect customers’ brands.”

Tallant notes the complete combined range of the Packaging Intelligence and Brand Protection Suites from Systech offers capabilities that include message management, verification, line control, serialization, traceability and real-time authentication. This combined solution set empowers customers to reduce waste, drive efficiency, achieve compliance, detect supply chain threats, engage consumers and gain end-to-end data intelligence.

For packaging operations, Tallant shares details about the three key elements of the Packaging Intelligence Suite.

• Message management

Through message management, Systech’s customers can improve data accuracy and line efficiency using automation. With Systech’s message design, Tallant says customers design and manage complex messages from one central, intuitive interface. Additionally, he says the company’s automation can accelerate line startup and changeover time and allows stock keeping unit (SKU) data entry and message data maintenance. Data management also plays a key role in message management as it minimizes the risk of operator error and time spent manually copying data across production lines, Tallant adds.

“What we want to do is look at the various messages that need to go on during the packaging supply chain at various levels in real time, eliminating the need to, for example, manually program a printer to do this,” he says. “We’re getting the right codes put on products and cases, and we’re getting, from a pallet tracking standpoint, the right pallet codes. We’re also retrieving the right information from possible ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, getting SKU data and again bringing a consistent platform together for these messages to be created efficiently, reducing waste and ensuring compliance.”

Tallant says the overall benefits of Systech’s message management solutions include reduced manual effort and error through automated data as well as information processing that provides greater marking and coding efficiency, reduced product waste, better uptime via faster changeovers and real-time printer monitoring and compliant message designs for GS1 standard compliant barcodes.

• Coding verification

Another key element of Systech’s Packaging Intelligence Suite is verification, which produces quality packaging and readable, accurate codes, according to Tallant. He notes that both verification and automation inspection can allow for greater packaging accuracy by verifying package labeling, contents and data for a broad variety of container types; confirm printed data is consistently present and accurate; and improve quality assurance by detecting all coding and packaging errors in real time.

“There are multiple levels to verification, which helps us ensure the high-quality packaging and accurate codes on product. This is where we’re actually using vision inspection systems to look at the labels themselves to make sure they’re accurate, the data is readable and that the overall quality of the codes going on packages is correct, and doing that from a systematic approach,” he says.

Tallant says Systech’s automation inspection uses mark-and-read technology and coding verification to ensure quality, accurate codes as well as readability. He notes that codes have to be readable for compliance and end-customer use or consumers won’t want to buy a product, for example, without a readable expiration date.

“If we’re able to find coding errors and discrepancies in real time, it’s not just one product that most likely has an error. If you were to only inspect them at the end of a line, you would find perhaps 100 individual packages that have unreadable codes,” Tallant says. “We’re able to find them in real time, then stop lines so the problem can be addressed. There’s a lot to do — and we aren’t just marking, we aren’t just accurately coding products, but we’re reading them and verifying them at line speed.”

The verification system is able to detect what product code (UPC or EAN) is supposed to be on the line, know what packaging type it’s supposed to have and make sure the right pre-printed packaging is going into the system for coding, according to Tallant. This leads to less rework and scrap, reducing waste, along with fewer recalls due to 100% compliant codes, he says. Systech’s vision inspections have several capabilities including grayscale/color detection, printed data verification, component placement, defect detection, color verification, label positioning, quality capping and sealing, and more.

• Line control

Additionally, Systech’s Packaging Intelligence Suite offers line control functionality to optimize coding and printing processes for greater uptime, instant visibility and maximum overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), according to Tallant. He notes that benefits of line control include the ability to select one correct job each time to avoid costly changeovers and minimize mistakes; instant access to performance indicators from printing and line equipment; immediate alerts when problems occur; and real-time and historical data that allows users to identify bottlenecks, optimize printer performance and implement process improvements.

“This is where we get into owning and operating devices in a best practices way,” Tallant says. “We want dashboards, and we want to be able to look at overall production to make sure we’re doing the right things at the right time and have data to back that up. So we’re able to go in, look at our jobs, look at our devices and look at the overall packaging environment to verify things are going the way we want them to.”

He notes that production control allows users to download complete jobs in one step from a simple interface or automatically. Production control allows customers to automate previously manual startup procedures and processes for printers, from product-coding printers to case-coding printers to pallet-track label printers, Tallant says.

Printer performance line control allows access to browser-based dashboards for immediate error alerts. Tallant says this is a very important aspect because printers are automatically monitored for things like ink levels, heat and other factors to avoid unreadable codes being placed on products with these printers.

“We have dashboards that will allow you to look at your printers to know their performance, see their statistics and solve problems as you get to various thresholds where operators will have to go in and do some updating or repair maintenance to those printers on your line,” he says.

“Again, in complex packaging operations, there’s not just one printer we’re talking about; we’re talking about multiple devices on multiple lines, so having a centralized place for this to manage is essential to best practice printing operations.”

Overall, an OEE calculation allows a manufacturer to look at line availability, line performance and the quality products coming off of a line. Line control equipment computes the optimal OEE calculation from packaging line devices and uses large screen television monitors with live OEE data to visually cue personnel about the status of established thresholds. Tallant says Systech’s customers see 10-15% improvement in OEE calculations on critical lines, especially when used to help drive organizations’ continuous improvement programs.

“At the end of the day, we want to ensure that your finished products are correctly marked and compliant with regulations or supply chain vendor compliance that may not be governmentally mandated, but is still required,” Tallant says. “That’s important to us — we look at that as we’re doing billions of packages, codes and identifiers.”

All of this functionality is grouped together into the Packaging Intelligence Suite, which Tallant says can reduce the cost of manual data entry and message data maintenance by 90%, cut changeover duration by 50% and save hundreds of hours per year.

“We ensure that coding solutions are compliant for packaging and distribution regulations, help drive waste-reduction across packaging operations and improve operational efficiency for our customers through message management, verification and line control solutions,” he says.

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