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Markem-Imaje has highlighted steps that bottle manufacturers can take to reduce costs across coding processes using the company’s 9000 series inkjet coders and 7000 series laser coders.

More and more bottlers are finding that a modest investment in their coding process is paying dividends in terms of increased productivity and reduced operating costs, according to Markem-Imaje.

Whether still or carbonated, water bottling is carried out in cold, damp conditions and typically involves high-output filling lines, long production runs and round-the-clock operation.

In this environment, it’s essential that coding equipment must be extremely reliable at these speeds, printing date and batch codes clearly and consistently with a minimum of human intervention.

As with most beverage applications, the choice of coder is between two distinct technologies.

Small character inkjet coding has been around for more than 25 years and can be found on bottling lines all around the world, printing on glass, PET, waxed board and aluminium containers.

Today’s inkjet coders are leaner and fitter than ever before.

With no printing fluids and little maintenance, laser can offer several benefits – particularly on PET lines – but can’t quite match the application reach of inkjet.

This technology has seen some significant advances and the current third-generation products are claimed to set new standards of print quality and performance.

The introduction of the Markem-Imaje 9000 series of inkjet coders has said to have brought a number of benefits to the bottling industry, offering faster start-up, ink replenishment while printing and simplified maintenance.

The resultant reduction in ownership costs, coupled with its ease of integration, makes the 9000 series suitable for beverage coding applications.

Using CO2 laser technology, the Markem-Imaje 7000 series laser coders are capable of prodigious printing speeds, with 10W and 30W models delivering up to 1,000 characters per second and line speeds of 80,000 bottles per hour on PET bottles and labels.

Precise beam control restricts the depth of oblation (engraving), so that bottle integrity is maintained irrespective of the material thickness, an important consideration given the increasing use of thin-walled PET.

As with the 9000 series of inkjet coders, IP65 wash-down protection is available as an option.

Enterprise-level code management systems offer more opportunities for increasing productivity and eliminating human error from the product identification process.

Networking allows the user to control coding operations from a central point.

In a typical operation, product data and print formats flow from a remote PC to the coders on the filling lines and to the print and apply labellers – or large character inkjet printers – which identify the SKUs.

These in turn are scanned en route to the palletising process, where the correct GS1-128 pallet labels are automatically printed and applied.

ERP links integrate the whole product ID process with the factory system.

Typically, prime product data is sourced from SAP and production data fed back, giving a real-time overview of order status for production management, while automatically updating inventory and shipment records.

In an Iberian water bottling operation, a similar system aligns the output of three plants in a single, flexible solution that can be adapted to meet future needs.

Through careful analysis of product ID requirements and selection of coding and labelling equipment, bottled water producers are able to increase the profitability of their plant operations.

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