Marking Automation for the Win

How marking automation can help you deal with labor shortages, SKU growth

Are you spending too much time and effort managing the dual challenge of labor shortages and major growth in the number of SKUs?

You’re not alone.

Labor shortages are a worldwide concern. As the generational bulge of Baby Boomers age out of the workforce and move into retirement, smaller succeeding generations mean fewer people can fill these vacant roles. According to a Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute study, the manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030.

This challenge is compounded by another trend: the proliferation of SKUs. Consumers have new demands that change with seasons and the evolution of trends, meaning the number of product variations and options is increasing rapidly. In fact, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, over 30,000 products are launched yearly.

So, how can you cope with labor shortages and SKUs that are out of control?

Automation delivers operational value

One of the strongest arguments for industrial automation is how it can simplify, reduce, or eliminate manual tasks to increase productivity and drive cost reduction.

Whether it’s automated marking, labeling machines, or palletization, automated technology frees employees from manual tasks so they can add value elsewhere. Employees become more engaged and loyal when they freed from incredibly tedious (labeling, anyone?) manual tasks.

Automation reduces the number of touches for operators, which means fewer errors. As a result, you can save money on rejects and rework without facing the wrath (and penalties) of valued customers.

For example, the MPERIA controller has a single user interface that spans all marking related equipment – printers, barcode readers, vision systems, and more. Operators and maintenance technicians need only be trained on the one platform.

Lastly, automated controllers help you quickly change from one SKU to the next with minimal disruption. When a product changeover occurs, operators can simply change codes from a centralized controller and achieve changeovers at the production speed. How? Because the product codes and setup parameters are preloaded in the system or accessed in real time. An operator selects the new product, confirms the system is set correctly, and you’re ready to roll. Or, in more advanced operations, the entire changeover process can be fully automated.

Automation delivers long-term strategic value

Automation has value that stretches beyond the immediate operational benefits. Along with boosting productivity, automation can help you gather and analyze data that you can use to improve your business.

Automated controllers are also data platforms. They can integrate seamlessly with your ERP and other business software to supply essential marking and coding data. This data is valuable for inventory management, employee scheduling, supporting your Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) goals, and other business decision-making.

MPERIA is one such system. It allows you to collect data from equipment and feed it into your OEE dashboards to identify where marking and coding could impact availability, performance, or quality. The insights from this data can pinpoint stoppages, bottlenecks, and other issues to improve OEE.

You can draw on data to schedule workers more effectively to get the most from your workforce. For example, you can look at the seasonal peaks and troughs and work out when it’s worth allocating more staff.

What to automate?

Be thoughtful and strategic about automation to deliver wins where you need them most. Any process that involves human input or interaction is an opportunity for automation. But some areas including coding and automated print and apply labeling will provide an exceptional return on investment.

Maximize the efficiency of your production line marking with the industry’s true universal controller, MPERIA. Request a free demo to try the MPERIA controller. Or chat with our team to find out more. Contact us on 800.775.7775 or fill out the quick form below.