How fast do production lines have to go? When those production lines are carrying Krispy Kreme doughnuts, ready for shipment to grocery stores, the answer is as fast as humanly possible. Many people have indulged in those tasty confections from Krispy Kreme's doughnut shops, or picked up a box or two at local grocery or convenience stores. Wholesale bakeries that pack Krispy Kreme doughnuts supply these stores with boxes for a dozen doughnuts and a special labeling solution that speeds the baked goods to their destinations. The key ingredient to the solution is the customized Gold-Seal printer/applicator from Action Packaging Systems.
Rising to the challenge
Like the ingredients used to start the baking process, the start of this solution was humble enough. Action Packaging Systems, a supplier of labels and labelers,
|The custom standalone labeler is equipped with casters for portability to other production lines.|
sent one of its regular mailings, looking for business. The mailing went to a distributor that dealt with Krispy Kreme, Winston-Salem, NC, and knew the company was looking for a labeling solution. Action Packaging president Doug Rice discovered that the company was searching for a label printer that would quickly and accurately place round spot labels on different-sized doughnut boxes at the end of the bakeries' conveyor lines.
Though Krispy Kreme was testing other solutions, Rice was confident he had the right one–the customized Gold Seal. He was so confident, in fact, that Action went ahead and built a prototype, even painting it the distinctive Krispy Kreme green. Krispy Kreme awarded the contract to Action Packaging, and within six weeks, the printer/ applicator was running in the bakeries. Currently, approximately 30 units are streamlining production for Krispy Kreme suppliers. Rice says that one thing Krispy Kreme executives liked about the unit was its simplicity. The printer/applicator has just two buttons–no knobs to adjust, no gauges and no switches. "It's what we call 'second-shift-proof,'" says Rice.
In the wholesale bakeries that pack the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, one printer/applicator is assigned to each line. The number of lines varies, but most bakeries working with Krispy Kreme have between one and three units.
The semi-automatic labeling system is completely self-contained on a cart, neatly packaged with an air compressor, a vacuum pump and electrical components in a cabinet underneath the unit. Wires run from the cabinet to a junction box to the unit, and a drawer containing a keypad slides out of the way when not in use.
"It's very portable, and that's important," says Tim Honeycutt, certified purchasing manager and vp of purchasing for Krispy Kreme. "We use our production areas for a variety of products, and not all of them need the printer/applicator there. So we can roll it in or out as needed."
Durability was an important consideration, since bakeries can be a bit dusty, and production areas are regularly washed down. Again, Rice had no doubts about the customized printer/applicator. It's built to wear well, to "just run" every day. "For example," he says, "our takeup waste motor has no chains and no belts. It's direct-drive and electric." The standalone system also uses a durable print engine from SATO America, PD is told. The direct-thermal SATO M-8459Se Series print engine prints at a 203-dpi resolution with a maximum print width of 4.4 in. and a print speed of 5 in./sec. "It's simple, and easy to diagnose and service, and parts are easy to get. It also accepts jobs on the go faster than others," Rice mentions.
Simplicity in a cart
The 11/2-in. spot label for the doughnut box is simple enough. It contains a price, a sell-by date and a store number in addition to preprinted graphics. Though simple, it is essential that it be there, and in the same place, box after box.
"Previously, we applied labels manually in stores. It was very labor-intensive, and there was a lack of standardized presentation of the product," says Honeycutt. The printer/applicator speeds-up production, give us consistent placement and proper placement on the box, and overall, improves the look of the brand."
As freshly boxed doughnuts come down the various conveyor lines, averaging 20 boxes/min, workers pick up and place each box under the applicator. Also included in the custom labeling system is a Printpad™ bar-code printing terminal from Teklynx International. The terminal is connected to the printer/applicator to allow workers to enter the price and sell-by date when prompted by the system. The Printpad, preprogrammed with all nonvariable label data downloaded from a PC running Labelview™ bar-code labeling and integration software from Teklynx, feeds that data plus the store number to the printer that creates the label. The tamp/blow application completes the cycle, adjusting instantly for different-sized boxes–its stroke ranges from 1/2 to 4 in. Then, the worker takes the labeled box and stores it on a rack to be shipped later to the appropriate store.
Getting the computer data into the unit was another essential part of the application. Action Packaging programs the keypad/terminal using a PC, which stores all essential label data, and ships it with the Gold Seal printer/applicator. Action Packaging also provides system integration duties and maintenance services. The company also supplies the spot labels, which amount to around 100 million/yr.
The 'perfect account'
"The Action Packaging folks were very customer-oriented and extremely responsive," Honeycutt says. "They took our ideas and requests and came back with a system that met those requests. It is user-friendly, easy to use, and customized for things unique to our business."
The great relationship will continue. As Krispy Kreme expands operations, more distinctive green Gold Seals will roll out to streamline production.
"These units are doing a great job for us," says Honeycutt. "They are very durable, very consistent and simple in their operation. Our people want to come in, plug them in and watch them run. We are achieving what we wanted to achieve," he states.
Ah, how sweet it is.
For more information:
Label/applicator: Action Packaging Systems, Inc., 860/872-6311. Circle No. 220.
Print engine: SATO America, Inc., 314/846-0892. Circle No. 221.
Print software, terminal: Teklynx International, 414/577-3905. Circle No. 222.