The switch was made about a year ago.
“We used to have one guy feeding case blanks into the printers and another guy stacking them at the other end” says Jeff Shaffer dry warehouse manager at the Weston OR firm. Now the printed blanks are automatically bundled and sent down a return conveyor to the same operator who loads unprinted blanks into the system. The bundles are placed on pallets which then go to packing lines or temporary storage.
Digital case printing relies on special software and a thermal plotter that burns images on an inexpensive film stencil. Mounted on a drum the stencil transfers ink to the case blanks as they move past and contact the drum (see http://www.packworld.com/go/c021).
In the photo shown here all printing on the side of the case that has the bar code is done by the Iconotech printer. On the front panel only the words “Frozen Mixed Vegetables Mezcla de Vegetales” are done by the digital printer; the rest is preprinted.
Perhaps even more significant than the labor savings the new printer brings is its ability to print bar codes that can be scanned reliably. Because the previous equipment couldn’t print bar codes the firm would either order cases with bar codes preprinted on them by the corrugated supplier or it would print bar codes on labels that were manually applied. The former was costly from an inventory perspective while the latter added yet another labor cost.
‘We were able to decrease our inventory costs by $100 in the first six months after the switch in printers was made” says Shaffer. He figures the new printer will pay for itself in about a year. —PR