Videojet: Tag—You're It

Founded more than 40 years ago with the mission to “put marks on paper,” Videojet Technologies has evolved into a leading manufacturer of coding, printing and laser marking products, fluids and accessories for the product identification industry.

I took a trip to the company’s suburban-Chicago location to learn the basics of marking/coding technologies and how Videojet Technologies can help cosmetic manufacturers choose the most appropriate technology for their needs. I expected to hear a lot of information about lines of printers and equipment, but what I learned is that marking/coding is really about systems and solutions that have the ability to address very different needs.

Of course, manufacturers need the physical piece of equipment to mark whatever it is they choose to mark, but without a system in place (which includes consideration for materials, inks, reading codes, managing both data and products, and interpreting data), the equipment is an expenditure and not an investment.

The system approach typically consists of printed codes, specialized inks and taggants, and the first question to answer is: How can including a code on a package solve a problem? Videojet takes a multilevel approach that delves into the creation of the codes and what will be encompassed in them—covert codes or difficult to duplicate elements. Further, the addition of codes to the packaging can’t affect productivity or add undo cost to the product.

Although the company stresses that one standard marking/coding solution is not appropriate for all companies, my conversation with Vidoejet’s Jack Walsh, Chuck Ravetto and Theresa DiCanio helped narrow down appropriate technologies for the cosmetic industry as a whole. We also spent time discussing product protection, and the bulk of that conversation is included in the product protection feature “Battle of the Brands” in the April issue of GCI magazine.

When addressing the marking/coding needs of the cosmetic industry, ink jet is the most versatile option. It’s an option that is appropriate for almost all materials, and, therefore, is adaptable as packaging evolves.

“When we look at the cosmetic industry, we see different types of products. So, we have to consider marketing on all types of plastics, metal containers and marking on the product itself,” said Ravetto, product manager. “There’s just a large, large variety of different materials. In our business, that is actually the first thing we look at. It’s ‘what is it that you’re marking on; what is the material?’ This helps us figure out what to do. This is where ink jet printers come into play; you name the material—with ink jet, you can print on anything.

“The flexibility of the ink jet is that I have a package, and now I have a new and improved design. With this technology, if you suddenly changed your packaging, don’t worry about it. You can keep printing. It’s probably the ultimate flexible tool for the market,” said Ravetto.

Although stock inks are available (Videojet has approximately 300 different ink types), unique inks—with qualities specific to a product—and codes can be created. UV inks, invisible without a special light or reader, are appropriate for high-end cosmetic and perfume bottles where appearance is everything.

“(Brand owners) need to have solutions that are unique, for their unique substrates and unique products,” said Walsh, the company’s market manager for brand protection solutions. “So, the right company (to help with brand protection) may be one that can offer them laser coding, thermal transfer labeling and several other technologies.”

Laser coding, too, is appropriate for perfume bottles and high-end packaging, imparting a crisper, cleaner look. Laser codes are also permanent, so they are tamper-proof.

In terms of cost-efficiency, after capital costs, ink jet adds approximately $.05 per 1,000 pieces. Laser coders, in theory, add no cost after the capital cost.

So, as markets for your products evolve and grow, it’s clear that tagging those products—at some level—is an appropriate and necessary step to protect your investment and company. Analyze your supply chain, consider the concerns of all those involved in that chain (marketing, manufacturing, sales, etc.) and take into account all the methods and options of tagging before making a decision on a solution.

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