INCREASING the efficiency of printing and applying barcode labels to shrink-wrapped shipping trays was one of the jobs on the packaging line at Campbell's Soup plant at Shepparton, in rural Victoria.
"The imported print and apply machine, being used for the job, prior to the purchase of a Tronics unit, had been operating at about 70%, instead of a desired figure of around 90%," explained Len Tricarico, engineering manager at the Shepparton plant.
"We did get it up to about 90%, but it was a twelve month journey to get it there ... the delay, we felt, was attributable to it being an imported machine ... and part of the delay was some waiting for parts to come in.
"Whilst the machine was doing a job, we thought we would be better off with a locally made machine. We were familiar with Tronics, as we already have their equipment - twenty Videojet coding units - elsewhere in the plant. So, we elected to change to a Tronics iLabel SS Print and Apply machine.
"As well as being a Tronics' Australian made machine we also had, with Tronics, the back up of a local representative in the Shepparton area," explained Len.
"It made a lot of sense for us to go with Tronics," he added.
With the changeover to the Tronics machine a few teething problems were reported ... "it was more to do with programming".
Tronics' technical staff quickly overcame these issues and the machine was ready for operation in ample time.
Although the new unit has not been set at maximum speed it is comfortably keeping up with the flow of trays coming off the conveyor line. It is expected that it will achieve a rate of over 50 trays per minute.
At these production speeds, with efficiencies in excess of 90%, the Tronics iLabel SS Print and Apply machines were a sound economical choice.
What is being noticed at the Campbell's plant are certain operational advantages.
First, there is overall robustness of the entire unit, including the printer. It has now become an industry benchmark. And, the flow on benefit is less maintenance.
Second, a label width that can be wider than those produced by most of the other makes ... a label width of up to 180mm, with a print area width up to 160mm.
Third, a print ribbon reel capacity of 900 metres. For an average size label, (80mm. high), that is around 10,400 labels, before needing to load a new ribbon. Additionally, should Campbell's choose to do so, they can run the machine without ribbon with a simple parameter change in the print engine and a change of label stock.
This feature gives a great deal of flexibility.
Fourth, a separate motor for the rewind (the label reel substrate left after labels have been removed) thus creating less demand and wear on the print engine.
Campbells' had a wide variety of options for downloading data for printing on to the labels. They decided on a handheld unit for scanning the point-of-sale barcodes. This automatically sets up the print data, therefore eliminating the chance of operator error.