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Value-added Coding: Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Equipment?

By: Lindsay Galas
Posted: May 29, 2014, from the June 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

Package design is an essential element of branding in the beauty, personal and home care industry and a vital part of the product development process. To ensure success, each product often requires specialized packaging to promote the product brand, including unique variable codes such as UPC symbols, color names and logos. However, personal and home care products such as perfumes, nail polish and makeup are diverse in nature and often require manufacturers to produce various fragrances, colors and formulas in the same factory—often all on the same line.

In order to ensure a consistent brand image, beauty brands and manufacturers need to ensure variable code quality does not diminish the product package appearance. To assure a high-quality package appearance, manufacturers have long opted to use pre-printed packaging such as films, labels, cartons or cases, despite the large amount of inventory they must stock and manage for each unique product. With so many different products produced in a single location, managing package inventory for each color, shade or scent can be a challenge for manufacturers when package materials must be switched out during every batch changeover, leading to significant downtime, scrap waste and mislabeled products that potentially could be delivered to store shelves.

Because it offers a high level of flexibility, digital coding is quickly becoming a promising way for manufacturers to combat these packaging challenges while ensuring high-quality packaging with consistent brand images. Instead of using pre-printed materials, using a digital coder to include value-added information lets manufacturers customize the variable data right on the lin, simplifying operations while helping to decrease downtime, minimize excess prepackaged materials and free up valuable warehouse space.

Streamlining Innovation

Pre-printed cartons, labels and packing materials can create an abundance of waste, much of which can be easily avoided by implementing a digital coding system for value added coding. By doing so, manufacturers can reduce manufacturing costs with less packaging to be stocked and managed and can gain freed up resources to work in other areas of production.

Digital coding technology allows manufacturers to print single-color patterns, logos and text on standard packaging during production, making it possible to customize messages with unique information such as lot number, date code, serial number, bar codes, color names, numbers, logos and ingredients. Therefore, standard packaging can be used for all colors and scents and the batch-specific variable information is added in-line, reducing the need to change packages during the changeover process for each unique product. As a result, companies can reduce their required packaging SKUs and can increase uptime and reduced costs due to package discounts on bulk purchases and less stocked inventory.

For example, a foundation manufacturer could use a digital laser to add the variable color number and name, lot/batch code and UPC bar code to a standard black carton, mirroring the pre-printed ingredient and brand name text, which is standard for all batches. Similarly, a body care brand could add a seasonal message to a product label with a quick message change on a digital thermal transfer overprinter, which does not require a package redesign or shutting down the line.

Additionally, managing products with different or regulatory requirements is also simplified. Manufacturers can easily and efficiently add active ingredients or drug facts to a package with an intuitive digital printer interface instead of designing or ordering new packaging.

Value-added Coding Solutions for All Applications

There are many different digital coding technologies available for coding on the wide ranging packaging types and materials used for personal care products, including plastic bottles and jars, flexible packaging, glass bottles and jars, cartons, squeezable tubes, metal aerosol cans, shipping cases and specialty containers. Each substrate may create different challenges, and it can be hard for brands to pick the right one. Therefore, it is important to choose a coding partner who offers a full range of digital coding options and can help determine the best solution to meet business needs and requirements.

  • Continuous ink jet technology (CIJ) works well when printing advanced variable information directly onto product packaging types such as glass, plastic, flexible packaging and metal aerosol cans.
  • Thermal transfer overprinting (TTO) is often used to print UPC codes and color names on flexible packaging and shrink sleeves. TTO is ideal for printing on flexible film or labels applied to cleaning products and lip glosses.
  • Thermal ink jet (TIJ) is an excellent choice for paper packaging, such as cartons or sleeves, often seen in cosmetics, air fresheners and other small personal and home care products. It can produce machine readable 2D and QR codes for promotional or post-purchase customer interaction programs.
  • Large character ink jet printing is the optimal way to customize corrugated shipping cases. This type of system can replace pre-printed cartons and cases by printing customized product icons, bar codes, logos and shipping information.
  • Laser printing is ideal for value-added coding due to the clear, crisp codes and images it produces. Lasers can print logos, text and machine readable 2D and QR codes at high speeds, promoting customer interaction on multiple package types. Ideal substrates include glass, plastic, cardboard and paper.

Using Technology in a New Way

A strong brand is invaluable to beauty and personal care brands—and packaging design reinforces the brand message. Implementing a digital printer for value-added coding can help brands utilize their coding technology in a new way and reap many benefits from their investment.

Variable printing of logos, images, color names and more enhances the brand image and reputation and allows manufacturers to customize packaging and streamline operations. Better leveraging digital coding technologies also can replace pre-printed packaging, enable seasonal package customization and help efficiently meet regulatory requirements, which increase package design flexibility while reducing manufacturing complexity. And all of this can result in savings from reduced manufacturing costs, quicker changeovers, more flexible manufacturing, and reduced waste from reducing miscoded or outdated pre-printed materials. Most importantly, increases in uptime and productivity can help products arrive in stores and to customers faster, keeping the brand and value top of mind.

Lindsay Galas is a vertical marketing manager at Videojet Technologies, a global leader in coding, marking and printing solutions for the product identification industry.