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Software links printers company-wide

Jelly Belly Candy Company has increased factory automation and reduced the costs of pre-printed packaging through good use of package-coding software.
FILED IN:  Controls  > Strategy
FOLDING CARTONS. Small-character ink-jet printers deliver high-quality coding on folding cartons of Jelly Belly products.QUICK SCAN. Line operators scan a bar code on a project ticket and the right coding information is automatically retrieved from Software links printers company-wide
Jelly Belly Candy Company makes 50 official flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans, producing 1,680 beans per second between its headquarters facility in Fairfield, CA, and its plant in North Chicago, IL. In addition, the company offers more than 100 gourmet candies, including not only jells and gummies but also chocolate-covered, sugar-free, and seasonal confections. To manage the packaging of all these products for distribution, flexible factory automation is essential.

Jelly Belly’s production line includes variable-data printing systems that enable the company to easily change the information being coded on primary and secondary packaging for each product it produces. The systems also allow Jelly Belly to purchase plain corrugated boxes and film instead of storing a wide variety of preprinted materials. Jelly Belly relies on thermal-transfer overprinters, large-character marking systems, and small-character ink-jet printers from Videojet Technologies, all of which are networked by package coding management (PCM) software to streamline message management.

Jelly Belly’s niche is the ability to produce and package both large and small batches of candy, and the company’s various offerings mean that some confections are produced in large quantities, while others require smaller batches or seasonal production. Many of these products are bagged in flexible-film packages, and each product package requires unique information specific to that particular product, such as expiration date, ingredient list, nutrition information, product weight, and logo. Initially, Jelly Belly accomplished this customization by using hot stamp printers with titanium plates.

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“There was a lot of overhead cost involved in purchasing and maintaining the plates,” says Jim Schneider, plant engineer for Jelly Belly. “Every time we made a change to a product’s packaging, we had to order new plates and cut them to fit on our machines. There was a long lead time to get the new plates, and then we had to store all the plates on racks within our plant.”

This drove Jelly Belly to begin looking at new technologies to ease the film-printing process by shortening lead times, making changes simpler, and allowing Jelly Belly to continue printing all the information it required at high production line speeds. It also sought a solution to reduce costs and increase flexibility associated with variable-data printing. For example, Jelly Belly wanted to be able to accommodate customer requests for custom printing. To accomplish these tasks, Jelly Belly installed 18 Videojet DataFlex® thermal-transfer overprinters that today are used in its facilities in Fairfield, North Chicago, and Thailand.

The DataFlex printers provide Jelly Belly the flexibility it needs to create images and messages for coding on both the front and back sides of bags. The printers can run up to three shifts per day, six days per week to keep up with Jelly Belly’s packaging demand, which includes printing an average of 85 bags/min. Plus, the clutch-less ribbon drive system within the DataFlex automatically ensures efficient use of printer ribbon and reliable operation.