Software at chocolate manufacturer
Higher efficiency, lower error rate. Labels printed ‘just in time’. With master data that is automatically supplied from the customer’s database. And a system tailored to workers from a custom company. Process engineer Lien Claes from H.Essers talks about two labelling systems.
“The error rate of our previous system was too high. The efficiency was too low. The new system had to be more user-friendly, so that errors were excluded. And if something did go wrong, the problem should be solved quickly. After all, we work with workers from a customisation company. They sometimes got a bit lost in the many manual actions.
Line 1: ready to stock
On this line, H. Essers processes the products that require additional dating and then go into stock. “We do that based on the orders that come in automatically via the warehouse management system. But before we stock them, we put a date on them. At the beginning of the line, the large starter pack is scanned. Then the workers unpack the products and place them on the roller conveyor towards the inkjet printer. The products are diverse: from chocolate bars to chocolates in a box. This system can handle that great variety.”
“The inkjet knows from the scan which lot and product it is about and which date it has to print. Then comes a final check to see if all the small boxes are in the final package. And finally, a label for the final package rolls out of the printer.”
Line 2: ready for transport
The basic principle of this line is the same: workers empty the boxes, label the individual chocolate products and pack everything up again. “Yet this line was much more complex to set up. Because the sticking itself is done manually. But mainly because the information on the label is much more extensive. We are talking about different products and therefore different information about the nutritional values. And also different languages, since we supply the whole of Europe for Godiva. From Russia to Turkey and from France to Sweden.
“Our question to Codipack was to come up with a concept that does everything automatically. When a pallet arrives, it is scanned at the beginning of the line. That information goes to the PLC. It then knows how many boxes will pass through. The boxes themselves are also scanned. So the line knows exactly how many products will pass.”
“On the roller conveyors, a sensor checks what is coming. Is it an item or a box? Based on that information, the labelling software retrieves the correct information and sends it to the label printer. When a product passes, it offers the right label. The worker takes it off and sticks it on the box.”
“The PLC keeps count. Does a box pass by when it should actually be a product? Then the line automatically stops and an error message appears on the display. So we know immediately that something is wrong – that was not the case before. The display shows the quantities: the number of boxes on the pallet and the number of items in the box. The PDF display then shows the labelling instruction. And it shows the quantities. In this way, it counts down until the pallet is completely finished. It also plays a role in troubleshooting.”
Tailor-made software link
“The biggest challenge for this line was to get the right information in the right language on the label. Godiva manages the master data. This is in a management system tailored to their own labelling. But it is not suitable for transporting that data to locations. So together with Godiva and Codipack we looked for a way to retrieve only the information we needed.”
“The solution was the label management system NiceLabel. This is controlled by our WMS system and supports label management. A lot of thought went into determining the best possible database structure. ”
“NiceLabel also had to be linked to the master data. Codipack developed a custom-made link that synchronizes our data with Godiva’s data every night. This happens in a parallel database, so every day we have the latest data”, Lien concludes. “Without us having to make a new connection live every time. That works much faster.”
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