Lot Coding on Primary Packaging

Challenged daily by excessive setup and downtime with existing lot coders, JCS Global Distribution sought a more efficient system.

The Challenge 

JCS Global Distribution in Saddle Brook, New Jersey was using inkjet-based coders to mark lot numbers and date codes on a variety of paperboard packaging boxes, with substrates such as high-gloss, metallic or heavily pigmented coatings. The plant also occasionally marks plastic jars and bottles. In order to run at an efficient rate, a lot coder needs to mark the required information at rates of 20 cartons per minute. However, this was not the rate at which they were operating. “We would spend up to an hour, daily, just trying to get the inkjet printers to work—and sometimes a lot more,” Clifford Potters, Operations Manager at JCS, recalls. “They were very unreliable and required constant cleaning, which was not only dirty and time consuming, but also did not result in any better or more reliable performance.” For an operation that packs thousands of products each day, Potters and other management agreed that the lost production time justified searching for a new, more reliable, coding solution.

Matthews’ Solution

Potters first researched lot coder options online. “I looked on the Internet for companies that sold coders, and came across a few,” he says. “But most of them were out of the country, or no one was able to come out and either demo the product or even let me talk with a live person.” Potters reached out to Matthews Marking by email to inquire about his options. Shortly after, he was contacted by Tom Milot, a Matthews Marking Account Manager. The two discussed JCS Global Distribution’s issues, and Milot made arrangements to personally bring a VIApack thermal inkjet printing system for an on-site demo. Based on JCS’s need for high-resolution at high-speeds, the VIApack system is the ideal solution, especially for packaging marking—such as batch codes, date codes, fixed and variable texts, graphics and barcodes.

The VIApack includes the L-Series thermal inkjet printhead, a photocell, and mounting hardware. It also comes with the MPERIA® marking and coding automation platform that controls printer and manages messaging creation and editing via touchscreen. This provides an out-of-the-box turnkey solution that is easy to implement into to production line. The VIApack system easily handles the operation’s print rates, as it can be configured to mark high-resolution print (600 x 600 dots per inch) at speeds up to 200 feet per minute, or to mark 600 x 75 dots per inch at high speeds up to 1,660 feet per minute.

To address the cleanliness challenges, the L12 utilizes a cartridge-based ink supply, similar to that found in desktop printers. Milot also recommended Matthews Marking’s LS-6023 fast-dry ink to accommodate a variety of paperboard finishes. “Tom was there in a hurry and demonstrated a very reliable and complete system for us. All other suppliers would not come out and demo the product on our own packaging boxes,” recalls Potters. “It made all the difference to be personally trained on the system in our building, and to be able to use the lot coder to see if we liked it before buying.”

The Results
Since the installation, JCS Global Distribution has eliminated more than 99% of the downtime the operation previously experienced, says Potters. Additionally, setup time has been reduced 95%, and the MPERIA multilingual touchscreen interface makes operator training much easier. “The system is both reliable and complete; we are now able to just power up each unit, insert the ink cartridge and that is it,” he notes. “Further, production throughput is vastly improved as we no longer have to stop to maintain or clean the old printers. Lastly, time is money; we are now able to fill our orders without delays caused by trying to maintain the old systems.”

Potters originally projected that the new VIApack system would pay for itself within four months due to both increased reliability and productivity; they’ve since revised that down to two months. “Because of the new system, we have been able to gain production time and use fewer employees, which no longer adds to our overall operational costs. It far exceeds our goals,” Potters explains. “The Matthews Marking solution has enabled us to be able to stay productive at a reasonable cost.”