Crack The Code

22nd April 2021 | 4 mins

Article published in Print Solutions Magazine, Feb 2021.

It really pays to learn about innovations in carton printing. Rotech Machines explains how the knowledge can provide solutions and serve businesses well.

On the surface, end-of-line carton coding may not be a process that is regularly reviewed or cost-analysed. However, expert appraisals can not only reveal unnecessary and excess printing costs, they can also lead to a far greater understanding of how new coding technology can future-proof the entire process.

Walking through the production facilities at a West Sussex cosmetics manufacturer, the atmosphere is busy and relaxed. But, when Rotech were first asked to visit their factory last year, things were a little different. Their team were having real issues with the performance of their carton feeder and the amount of waste being produced as a result – up to 15%.  And, when you’re printing between 5,000 and 10,000 cartons per day, that is a lot of waste.

In addition to the waste, there was the cost of downtime and a concern about safety. They needed help – not just to find a new printing solution, but to get a better understanding of their options in order to meet future needs.

This ‘cry for help’ is common for Rotech, and it usually occurs when a problem has got to breaking point. It’s easy to understand why. Problems with reliability, quality and excess maintenance costs tend to creep up as a machine ages – high costs and inefficiency become the norm. In reality, replacement, up-to-date technology could solve all of these issues.

Needless to say, we solved the above customers’ problems – we will come back to that later. But, technology aside, what has changed about carton printing? And how are changes affecting the way cartons are printed?


The evolution of the carton

If we go back just 30 years or so, the majority of food or medicine the majority of food or medicine cartons were pretty standard – folded cardboard containers for all kinds of products, flat-packed in varying sizes and weights.

Today, we are living in a much faster moving world, connected by the internet; there’s greater awareness and increasing demand for more sustainable materials, ecommerce has grown exponentially, there are digital touchpoints in all aspects of our lives, and there’s a constant need for brands to innovate and stand out on the shelf.

All of these changes have affected the design and manufacture of carton packaging, therefore affecting how codes are applied. Examples include:

  • New or recycled substrates which may be more or less porous
  • Non-standard carton shapes designed to deliver great customer experience
  • Digital codes such as QR codes or 2D bar codes
  • Multi-substrate, semi-rigid, cylindrical, or laminated cartons
  • New track and trace systems require additional coding
  • New invisible codes required for added security
  • Non-standard ink colours for varying data.

Staying abreast of carton coding innovation

External factors, including those above, are driving change across multiple industries, leaving many to look at whether their current packaging technology can meet their growing and future needs.

Whilst coding is a relatively straightforward end of line process, it is an important part of the packaging process – codes on food, pharmaceuticals and medicines are required by law.

Considering the pace of change, along with the needs of customers, manufacturers should, at the very least, be aware of new coding technology, and asking:

  • Is our carton feeding technology still reliable?
  • Can we meet the growing and future needs of our customers?
  • Can we adapt our system to apply new types of data?
  • Should we look for a more efficient, maintenance-free alternative?
  • Could we reduce our consumable costs?
  • Can our carton feeder keep up with demand?

It costs nothing to be informed

Making sense of the varying types of carton coding technology can be daunting and time-consuming. But it’s important to be informed and ready for change – before issues arise.

Rotech’s coding and marking experts visit factories and warehouses all over the UK to evaluate and advise on coding processes. This free service includes evaluating packaging materials, current coding methods, consumable costs, maintenance costs, working methods and data requirements.  We also take away packaging samples to print onto them using a variety of new technology. The printed samples are then returned with a report of findings.  This leaves customers with a clearer understanding of the options open to them in the future, and the benefits.

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