Blue Earth Foods Protected By OAL Autocoding
Blue Earth Foods are a major supplier of chilled seafood products to retail supermarkets throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. Like the whole of the food industry, they were under pressure from retailers to guarantee that all packaging and date coding was correct for their products. Correct packaging and date coding prevent product recalls and withdrawals that not only can jeopardise retailer relationships but also have high fines associated with them. A robust and expandable system was needed to eliminate these risks whilst minimising any disruption to food production.
Blue Earth Foods chose OAL Group because they understood that the tried and tested OAL Autocoding system being offered meant they could achieve correct date code and packaging verification with minimal disruption to production. Eleanor Agnew, Technical Manager at Blue Earth Foods explains:
“From a technical point of view, OAL understood not only our needs but our customers’ needs as well. This was an invaluable asset that facilitates joint decision making.”
Date Code and Label Challenges
The key elements of the date code and labelling challenge at Blue Earth Foods were as follows:
- Similar packaging because many of the products fell within the same ranges
- High variance in date codes because of short life on products between production runs
- Printed top webs with no barcode identification on them could be incorrectly used on another product
- Packaging format, thermoformed trays, printed top web & base labels
Hence the system needed to be both robust and reliable but also easy to use because of the range of different products produced. Eleanor Agnew continues,
“The OAL Autocoding system is easy to use and gives you peace of mind and reassurance that the correct dates and packaging are on the product.”
At the Blue Earth Foods site in Redditch, OAL deployed the Autocoding system in a staggered approach. Initially, 2 lines, a central product database and supervisory software were installed. This minimised interruption to production and gave Blue Earth flexibility to roll out the system to remaining lines when required. Dave Styler, Engineering Manager, expanded on the installation:
“The installation team were easy to get on with and very obliging. They already know the food industry and its standards and as such managed the installation accordingly to eliminate product risk and line downtime”
For the first phase, 2D barcodes were added to the film & labels. This gave full version control over packaging to product checks, even when a standard 1D barcode was not printed. Omni-directional scanners were used to check the 2D codes on film and 1D codes on labels which meant that all potential challenges highlighted were solved.
Blue Earth Foods have achieved date code and label verification with minimum disruption to their manufacturing operations. Since rolling the system out over further lines, there has been 100% data and label verification with no associated product withdrawals or recalls.
The key benefits of the system have been:
- Elimination of false line stoppages due to ‘no reads’
- Prevention of incorrect tins being packed
- Print control to ensure the correct dates are applied.
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