The ‘next generation technology’ enabled Arla to significantly reduce costs, increase label and marking accuracy and productivity, the company said.
As Arla consists of more than 70 dairies around the world, it faced a range of challenges to provide accurately labeled products.
Arla was looking for a single solution with a standardized method of integration between each dairy’s label and direct marking printers and the Manufacturing Execution System (MES).
Ken Moir, VP of marketing at NiceLabel, told DairyReporter as Arla had been looking for a solution to unify its systems, NiceLabel agreed to develop drivers for the continuous inkjet and other direct marking printer technologies.
Moir said existing direct marking software was ‘prehistoric’ and the previous way of doing things was using a screen and a keyboard.
“In other words it's human data entry (Human Machine Interface), so somebody has got to set up the expiry date and the batch or lot and it's typed in manually. And obviously, as soon as you can type something manually, you can have error.”
However, he added, many companies had simply accepted that HMI was the only way.
“It was perceived as, 'you only do this once per batch. So what's the big deal?' But in this day and age, we don't accept any error, we expect 100% accuracy all of the time.”
Looking for answers
He said Arla wanted to do away with the current system, and had already tried.
“It was trying to do integration via all these local IT companies at local dairies and it was finding it to be a nightmare,” Moir said.
“They were all doing it different ways. So the support was a nightmare. The cost was a nightmare.
“So they basically abandoned trying to do the integration that way, they were still having to use HMI, and that's when they approached us because they said they needed a solution that can drive all the labeling printers, all of the direct marking printers, to build a standardized integration to the manufacturing and execution system.”
Moir said Arla is gradually swapping all its existing labeling software and all direct marking software to use NiceLabel’s solution.
”They went to all the trouble of looking for a vendor to build these drivers and to do this and it was obviously costing them serious money in trying to get to an integrated solution.
“So Arla is the first company in the world that's actually unified its labeling and marking and we've got the first label management system in the world that supports both labeling and marking.
“What is really new is that is the first unified label management system that supports label printers and other packaging printers,” Moir said.
Arla now has a more transparent label management process, which helps them ensure accurate product and production data throughout the entire label-printing process, Moir said.
“We support continuous inkjet jet printers and other direct marking technologies. Labeling software never supported direct marking software and still most don't.”
As for as the benefits of the system, Moir said the first is there is no human data entry error.
“You don't need to do direct marking by manual data entry, you don't need to use an HMI.”
There is also a cost benefit, which Moir said includes direct costs, including the known costs such as the cost of labor, and streamlining the process.
But, he added, there are also indirect costs that are addressed by the integration, such as avoiding quarantine, rework, and extra labor looking for errors.
“And we also talk about the opportunity cost, and the opportunity cost is basically shipping product to market faster, or not losing business,” Moir said.
“In Arla's case, they told the story of the reduced IT cost because they didn't need to use integrators at 70 different dairies.”
Happy with results
Torben Hattel, senior solution architect at Arla Foods, said he was happy with the new system.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in productivity thanks to the solution. Our labeling systems run more efficiently. We no longer spend time mitigating manual data entry errors and we’ve been able to streamline support as well,” Hattel said.
Adaptable to other companies
Moir said the new system is applicable to other food and beverage companies.
“We're really launching a campaign to the food and beverage market,” Moir said.
Moir said the system works “Whether you are one dairy or whether you're 70 dairies, whether you're a small company or whether you're a global Arla.
“If someone else wants to take advantage of what we've developed for Arla, it's developed for everybody, for the F&B industry. Arla doesn't own the IP of any of these drivers, they are all NiceLabel.
“What we're trying to do is to educate other people in food and beverage that we can do this. Arla has created this for the food and beverage industry, it's their vision, they've got to take a lot of credit.”