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A refreshing approach for the drinks sector

Arnaud Laugier, Markem-Imaje EMEA marketing director, explains the rationale behind the company’s new product strategy and how the latest coding and marking technology is helping the drinks sector

Arnaud Laugier Markem-Imaje

Markem-Imaje has chosen a new product strategy aimed at meeting the very specific needs of each industrial sector. This vertical approach enables the equipment supplier to offer tailored solutions that take into account manufacturers’ industrial constraints and their demands for quality, performance and innovation. A dedicated global team allows Markem-Imaje to develop coding solutions that are perfectly suited to the specific requirements of each industry.

Why has Markem-Imaje adopted a new strategy now and what does this mean for the drinks sector?

This approach is driving innovation and has already led to the development of new integrated coding solutions such as Mark&Read, a visual recognition system as well as improvements in dedicated networking software that can manage and monitor all equipment within a manufacturing plant from primary packaging line coders to pallets.

What are the most significant considerations in terms of marking and coding for the drinks sector today?

The main considerations for the drinks sector will typically be the accuracy of coding equipment and the quality of the codes as well as overall line efficiency and of course the total cost of ownership.

It is a sector that is characterised by extremely high production line speeds and conditions that place high demands on equipment that is in use for prolonged periods. Typically, coding equipment will remain in use for up to eight years and it has to be able to deliver high contrast, legible codes at high output rates – 100,000 products per hour is not unusual – so reliability is also paramount. Even a short period of down-time will have a massive impact and no manufacturer can afford to let their coding equipment create a bottleneck on the line.

Coding standardisation also presents a real challenge for many manufacturers: the burden of new legislation and the need to include increasing amounts of data on labels and packaging is only going to increase.

What new technology is available now to help manufacturers improve line efficiency and reduce costs?

A new generation of laser coders has been developed by Markem-Imaje that can deliver up to 50% increases in output rates on beverage production lines and as much as a 300% increase in character printing capacity, improving traceability and making it easier to add promotional codes for instance.

One of the latest models within the patented SmartLase Code Technology (SCT) range is the SmartLase C350 BOU which features a flexible and adjustable extension, known as Beam Orientation Unit (BOU). This unit positions the coder at the optimum distance for quality marking of up to 45,000 labels/hour and can be adapted to all labeling configurations.

Both the SmartLase C350 BOU and other models within the SmartLase C series incorporate Markem-Imaje’s proven SmartLase Code Technology, which gives 30% greater performance over an extended lifetime. Integration into the production line is easy due to its modular design. The IP65 option uses no plant air and no water, and in all configurations the coder features a dedicated fume extraction system for a cleaner, safer, odor-free working environment.

We may be out of recession officially but many businesses still have to face the reality of reduced budgets for investment in new equipment. When it comes to coding and marking, is it possible for smaller drinks manufacturers in particular to compete on a level playing field?

It is possible and in fact, although the reduction in the level of capital available for investment has undoubtedly impacted on the sector, many of Markem-Imaje’s customers have found that alternative methods of purchasing equipment can bring new benefits beyond securing more advanced coding technology.

With the reduction in capital expenditure budgets and an increased focus on running lines at maximum output, many businesses have moved away from the traditional model of outright capital purchase of coding and labeling systems. Customers want to be able to plan their costs and quite rightly, they want a guarantee that their equipment will work. That’s why Markem-Imaje launched its Smile programme – an asset finance package that challenges the industry’s status quo.

Smile means that instead of purchasing equipment outright, customers are buying a package of equipment that is guaranteed to work as promised along with consumables and servicing that will optimise product performance and minimise downtime. The package covers all parts and anything classed as a ‘wear part’ is proactively replaced at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. The additional benefit is that the cost will be spread over the life of the equipment for a single, regular monthly or quarterly fee.

Similar purchasing packages have become de rigueur in other industries and the Smile programme can be used to procure any Markem-Imaje equipment, from continuous inkjet to print and apply as well as laser and thermal transfer technologies. With the option to include Markem-Imaje networked systems, it is also possible for any equipment issues to be controlled centrally and dealt with immediately by trained coding and marking equipment specialists.

These factors help businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership, plan effectively and to produce accurate forecasts that are not subject to the impact of unforeseen service and maintenance costs.

And finally, are there any big changes on the horizon for the drinks sector in terms of its coding requirements?

In a fiercely competitive market place, brands are always looking for new ways in which to drive consumer loyalty and any promotional tool that adds value beyond a short term increase in sales is worth serious consideration. Promotional coding, which enables a more strategic approach than price discounting for instance and which leads to longer term sales growth, is set to play a significant role in the drinks sector.

The key to the success of promotional coding is the consumers’ interaction with the brand. It is something that on-pack promotions, which have no link to purchase, cannot do. Collecting valid, proof-of-purchase data helps to track consumer behaviour and ownership of this customer data provides an insight to the ‘path to purchase’ which then enables personalised communications to build brand engagement.

Markem-Imaje can now offer manufacturers the first instant, promotional coding software solution that has no impact on productivity. It is the ideal alternative to existing solutions such as pre-printed codes on packaging and insertion of cards. Above all, it dispenses with the need to install a costly, complicated-to-use real-time controller on each production line to send codes to a printer, one by one.

14 May 2014