by Mark Nordling Mark Nordling
By: Mark Nordling

Did you know the Global Foods Packaging industry could reach $400 billion by the year 2025? While this industry continues to grow, so does the need for companies to automate their manufacturing processes. This is where automation equipment can be a resource; such as labeling machines and label applicators.

If you work in engineering or operations, you may be looking to improve your process. If you’re a business owner or purchasing manager, you need a labeler that will justify the investment. No matter what seat you’re in, there are a few steps to take before choosing a labeler machine.

Step 1: Define Production Challenges & Goals  

Before you begin researching automatic label machines, take time to define what it is you’re trying to fix. Knowing this up front will help you decide on a label machine and manufacturing partner.

Have you tried to implement automation equipment but felt resistance from your team? In this case you may need an automation equipment manufacturer who provides on-site training. Have you launched a new product and need automate a difficult packing process? In this case, you might need a customized integrated labeling system. Were you recently hired to help improve production timelines and output? Are you tasked with implementing new technology and strategies on the production line? In these situations, you might need an automation equipment and a manufacturer who has a process that’s supported by data and procedures.

Here are some questions to help you understand your situation, challenges, and goals.

Questions to Ask

    • What is the smallest and largest product that needs a label applied? 
    • What size labels do I need?
    • How fast and how accurate do I need to apply the labels?
    • What production issues is our team currently experiencing?
    • What does successful automation look like to my customers, team, and company? 

Step 2: Research and Select a Label Manufacturer 

Choosing an automation partner is like finding a dealership before you can test drive your new ride. Factors like the location of the dealership and number of vehicles to choose from are important. But the “feel-good” factors like your connection with the salesman or their Google reviews are also important.

The same goes for choosing a label manufacturer and partner for your automation equipment. They need to have equipment that can do what you need it to do — like apply labels accurately and efficiently. And, they need to offer the customization and support your team and application need. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself and manufacturers when vetting out new partnerships. Be sure to also get a feel for their company and culture as well.

Questions to Ask

    • Does the manufacturer have proof of experience with my application (i.e. YouTube videos)?
    • What kind of aftermarket support does my team need? Does the manufacturer offer this?
    • Are there testimonials that showcase the manufacturer’s work with other food packaging companies? 
    • Does the manufacturer offer free video trials of our products processed on their equipment?
    • Do they manufacture their own equipment in-house? Or, do they purchase and resell equipment from overseas suppliers?

Step 3: Identify Your Label Applicator Needs

Food Labeling Machine

Multifeeder Hygienic Food Labeler

Sometimes you aren’t sure what type of labeling machine or label applicator you need (example pre-printed or print and apply) — and that’s okay. Your manufacturing partner should be able to help identify the best solution based on the challenges and goals you share.

When operating in a food manufacturing environment, a good place to start is to consider the type of labeling machine you  need. There are two basic types of food labeling machines: a hygienic labeler or a standard labeler. Both are great options depending on the level of regulations required on your production lines — like ones permitted by the FDA.

Due to rising foodborne outbreaks and recent CDC and FDA regulations, companies are opting for automation equipment that can be heavily sanitized. The best labelers for this type of cleaning are typically hygienic labelers. If your equipment doesn’t come into contact with food or beverages or isn’t even in the same facility, you may be okay utilizing a standard labeler.

Be sure to discuss these concerns and any types of regulations and requirements your company must follow with your manufacturer. It’s worth the time and research — especially when it can prevent you from having to shut down your production line.

Questions to Ask 

    • What type of automatic label machine do I need to follow our company’s food and beverage regulations? 
    • Are the parts for the label applicator manufactured in-house or purchased?
    • Is the food labeling machine customizable?
    • How often does the labeler machine need cleaning? What types of cleaning agents do we need to use?

Step 4: Test your samples on the Labeling Machine 

It never hurts to ask. A manufacturer who is confident in their products being able to solve your needs and providing a customized experience will say yes. And there’s not a better way to validate your decision before buying something, than to see it in action.

So, ask to send samples of your product to the manufacturer and either watch the labeling machine in person or request a video of the test. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions and ensure the machine produces a quality product you’re proud of.

Questions to Ask

    • Does the labeling machine perform at the speed that our production process needs? 
    • Does the automatic label machine apply labels accurately at this speed? 
    • Will there be future testing after purchasing the labeling machine but before shipment? NOTE: This may include Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) or Site Acceptance Test (SAT).

Step 5: Confirm Lead Time Specifics

Last, but not least, get clarification on the implementation process and lead time. There’s nothing worse than investing in automation equipment that takes months to produce any results and ROI. Be sure to get clarity on timelines and expectations from your manufacturer. You’ll be thankful to have a plan in place with a process and partner you trust.

Questions to Ask

    • How long will it take to implement? 
    • What types of training are available? 
    • Do you offer start up help and training? 
    • How long is the warranty on the labeling machine?
    • What technical service support is available if questions or concerns arise?

But the most important question to ask yourself after researching, requesting quotes, and vetting your options is…

“Do the labeling machine and label manufacturer I’m considering support the challenges and goals identified in step one?”

If your answer is no, it’s time to start the process over. If you’ve tried this process and are still struggling to find a label applicator that meets your needs, we’re here to help. Get in touch with us by requesting information on our automation solutions below.

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