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Got milk? A label for one bread crumbs manufacturer did not. Last year, their simple labeling error failing to list “milk” as an ingredient led to nine Class I FDA recalls for more than 3.5 million pounds of food. Make no mistake: When it comes to labeling, the stakes couldn’t be higher. You’re holding people’s lives in your hands, sometimes quite literally. The smallest labeling errors can quickly become breaking news nightmares on CNN. And even beyond the FDA and criticality issues, labeling mistakes threaten the success of marketing campaigns and compliance. Shoddy labeling can deter a sale, as well as incur substantial fines from big box stores and online retailers. It’s enough to keep any manufacturer up all night, whether you’re Chef Boyardee or a small craft brewery bottling IPAs in your basement. Want to sleep great at night? Implement a system of quality control (QC). It’s practically melatonin for any manufacturer looking to destress. Detect a labeling error while the product’s still on the line and the adhesive’s still sticky and not overly aggressive. QC measures catch problems before they become exponentially expensive.
The good news is QC technology is prevalent, easy to use, and can integrate seamlessly to solve nearly any challenge presented by the most robust labeling systems. It only depends on how intricate an analysis you choose to implement, according to the criticality, expense, and complexity of the labeling production. Essentially, there are three technological methods to ensure quality labeling: photoelectric sensors, ultraviolet detection, and visual camera inspection. Each of these can be integrated cooperatively together to assure reliable compliance. Photoelectric Sensors use infrared light to analyze the contrast between the label and the background of the product to ensure the presence of a label. Ultraviolet Detection uses electromagnetic radiation to detect the presence of ultraviolet responsive ink on a label. It is used to detect a label that does not have a contrast detectable by a photoelectric sensor, such as a white label on a white product. Visual Camera Inspection takes a photo of a label to provide a deeper inspection into the quality of the label itself. As highly sophisticated QC, camera inspection can accept or reject according to acutely specific quality standards at accelerated cycle rates. It does more than just tell if a label is present – it can determine if the label is positioned correctly. It can evaluate text on a label, measure color coding as well as the accuracy of a barcode. It can read batch codes, lot numbers, or expiration dates. And yes, it can tell you if the label for a dairy related product accurately lists “milk” as an ingredient. Yet even the best QC tech should always be used in conjunction with traditional manual inspection through spot checking. There is always the risk computers have been programmed incorrectly, or that sensors have been configured for the wrong setup. Despite the benefits of technology, there’s still nothing better than a set of eyes at the end of the line to guarantee a product is bonafide shelf worthy.
In any healthy relationship, communication is essential. To implement the best quality assurance, first find out what issues are most critical to the customers you supply. What are their biggest concerns, challenges, and priorities when it comes to accuracy and critical error? What are they looking for? What keeps them awake at night? Don’t just guess or assume what’s critical or a priority. Quantify concrete specifications to which the QC needs to conform through clear and open communication with the client who receives your product. Next, take that information to your labeling distributor or supplier and pick their brain. At CTM Labeling Systems, we insist on reaching out to the companies who use our label applicators to determine what criticalities are at stake. Then we can sit down together and discuss what QC technologies should be implemented to ensure quality, accuracy, and compliance throughout the labeling process.
When it comes to labeling systems, everything is on the line, both literally and figuratively. The criticality of immediately identifying errors cannot be overstated. QC technology provides efficient and comprehensive tools to ensure the integrity of labeling productions. Nevertheless, manual human inspection continues to be an essential cog in any quality assurance integration. Naturally, as companies grow and evolve, so do their labeling systems and their needs for QC. Say you start out as a small brewery hand-labeling bottles in the family garage. As business improves and expands, your labeling needs grow conjunctively, as do concerns for accuracy against critical error. Rather than simply adding on new features and QC measures, it is often best to start fresh with a new labeling and QC system that can better handle this new stage of evolution. Talk to your labeling systems provider about what options might suit you best. In the end, you can achieve a robust labeling and QC system that meets your needs and identifies critical errors right on the production belt. The FDA never knocks on your door. Nobody gets sick or poisoned. CNN calls someone else. Life continues to flow smoothly like the beltway of product continuously streaming off your manufacturing line, every package labeled correctly and ready for the shelf. They can quote larger and more valuable opportunities and accept more projects.
Want to learn more about how to get the most out of your next labeling project? Check out CTM Labeling Systems’ FREE GUIDE, “The Secret to Planning a Labeling System.”
Guest Post By Ed Schneider | July 16, 2018 Ed Schneider is the Director of Sales and Marketing for CTM Labeling Systems -- a leading manufacturer of pressure sensitive labeling systems located in Salem, Ohio. He has held this role for over 10 years. Prior to joining the team at CTM, Ed spent 22 years with a major plumbing manufacturer in Salem, Ohio where he held various positions during his professional development, ultimately holding the position of Plant Manager for 7 years prior to his departure and current position held at CTM. Ed earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Malone University in Canton, Ohio where he received his degree in Business Management. Ed currently resides in Columbiana, Ohio with his wife Cindy.