Coding streamlines materials management

Linda Casey

January 29, 2014

5 Min Read
Coding streamlines materials management

As part of one of the largest diversified suppliers to the food service industry, Golden State Foods Liquid Products division packs more than 17 million cases (about 400 million lb) of liquid products annually. the $4 billion company services more than 20,000 restaurants from three continents with hundreds of various condiments, sauces, dressings, syrups, jams, jellies and toppings with a variety of quantity and packaging options.
To satisfy customer needs, the copacker offers customized case-packing solutions. Because of this, operations in golden State Foods' Liquid Products Division-such as those located at the Conyers, GA, plant-stored many types of preprinted cases on site.
Golden State Foods also offers to place variable data on corrugated cases to customer specifications or shipping regulations. These cases often would need to display very specific information about The product contained, such as the ingredient Lists, expiration dates, lot codes or handling Instructions.
For products packaged for export, Golden State Foods' customers might require cases to
have additional information such as an importer's number or information in languages other than

Eliminating waste
To meet customer packaging requirements, Golden State Foods' Conyers plant would hand-
apply labels to cases. this required workers to print and apply labels before the cases were even
filled. in some instances, extra cases were labeled and not used, so they would need to be stored until the customer required another shipment of the same product.
To eliminate storage hassles and hand-labeling, Golden State Foods purchased two pairs of
Videojet 2330 large character ink-jet printers for two of its case-packing lines. the printers enabled Golden State Foods to purchase plain corrugated cases, which are less expensive than preprinted cases and can be used for all shipments. "Over the last couple of years, we've probably eliminated at least 40 printed cases and replaced them with their generic counterparts," explains Dick Robinson, materials manager for Golden State Foods.
"Probably the best benefit is that if there is a formula change or other changes with the product,
we can make those changes to the packaging right on the fly instead of having to purchase new
printing plates or having to throw out obsolete material," adds Jeff Yenisch, packaging engineer
at Golden State Foods. "We're able to include very detailed information including ingredient
statements, logos, product names, date codes, all on this one ink-jet panel. It gives you a lot of value where you can start to consolidate your cases into generic cases."
Yenisch sets up the information to be coded using Videojet's Claricom CLAriSOFt PC-based
message management software. Off-line message creation gives Golden State Foods centralized management of messaging such as bar codes, lot codes, expiration dates and other variable data. Program features such as automatic date rounding and date calculations are designed to minimize the possibility of a human data-entry error, improve product traceability and reduce the potential of a product recall due to incorrect coding. Golden State Foods confirms that use of the ink-jet printer's automatic date calculation feature has eliminated human error with date coding at the manufacturer's Conyers plant.
Although some decision makers at Golden State Foods initially wanted to slowly adopt use of the coders, they were quickly swayed by the machines' performance.
"We were going to run them a year, just to see what kind of issues we ran into in terms of
maintenance or reliability," says Robinson.
Yenisch adds: "We added four more sets of printers within a year's time. Now, we are up to six
different production lines that are equipped with these printers."


Partnered pairs
The printers are installed on a conveyor line to code filled cases as they come down the line. Each line has one printer on each side, enabling Golden State Foods to code both sides of the cases simultaneously.
The printers are networked so employees can control the pair from an intuitive touch-screen control system on a single master unit-both can print the same data.
To set up a pair of printers, packing line personnel simply enter the product's SKU number into the master unit's HMI. The printers are automatically configured to print the information for the specific item associated with the SKU number. This process reduces errors that can sometimes occur with manual operator entry.

New looks are made easier
In addition, the printers provide the flexibility to meet customer changes. The copacker can code characters as large as 2.75 in. (70 mm), and the size of the characters can be scaled to meet customers' varying requirements or fit more information into a specific location on a box.
"If a customer wants to change how a code or logo looks, or add a word such as ‘new' to the box for six weeks, we can do that immediately," Robinson says. "It's been great. To tell the customers that we can meet their requests on the very next production run because it's just that easy to make printer changes."
It also compliments the copacker's design services well. Customers can simply provide Golden State Foods with graphic files to be printed on their cases or they have the option of sending design concepts to the copacker, which will then custom build the graphics for them.
"Whether it's a concept or a finished design, we can either import it or recreate it in the software," Yenisch explains.


Fast changeovers keep cases moving
Because changeover from one product to another takes less than a minute, Golden State Foods
is capable of production runs that last for five straight shifts or as small as 25 cases. "Selecting a different job on a printer takes a matter of seconds," Yenisch remarks.
Additionally, the inkjet printer's self-maintenance system helps eliminate downtime because
operators don't need to stop a line to prime, purge and clean printheads. Because the self-maintenance system is non-contact, it also avoids printhead damage that can occur during the periodic maintenance required on other ink-jet printers.
The Videojet 2330 has an ink-recycling system that captures ink used for automatic printhead maintenance, sends it through a filtration process, then makes the ink available for printing. The carton tracking interlock system eliminates accidental triggering of photocells to prevent unintentional case coding.
Ink waste is further reduced by Golden State Foods' standardization on Videojet printers. All case coders use the same type of ink so the operators cannot install the wrong fluid in a printer.
Golden State Foods found that the ink-jet printers run smoothly and efficiently, enabling the
company to print approximately four cases/min per line while minimizing operator intervention.

More information is available:
Videojet Technologies Inc., 800/843-3610. 




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