The increase in short run, customised packaging requirements is adding a new complexity to the packaging process. With so many operations involved in loading and setting up equipment there are often too many points where unchecked errors can occur. By adopting a coordinated and integrated approach, errors are eliminated and packs are accurately identified to meet all supply chain, retailer and consumer requirements.
Just as the Production Recipe System knows exactly the product ingredients, so should the packaging process recognise the labelling and identification necessary for this batch, order and customer.
Cobalt Sentinel provides the solution for the setup, validation and verification of the packaging process. A secure setup process establishes the primary packaging requirements, sends variable parameters to line coding and labelling equipment and monitors actual activity. Every sleeve, pre-printed pot, film, pack and label is validated with secure reject processes designed to prevent incorrect product from progressing.
Control from a Single Point
At the start of a new product run, an authorized supervisor selects the product to be packed, by scanning the barcode on the production schedule or the primary packaging, works order or selecting from the product database. The Sentinel Manager validates the input across the corporate network - from recipe and production scheduling systems, to setup the variable parameters for this batch. Additional parameters can be entered via the screen.
The Sentinel Manager passes set up data to inkjet coding, primary pack validation, labelling and verification equipment in line, before the batch begins, automatically calculating ‘display until’ and ‘best before’ dates.
In production, the physical activity is monitored by Laser scanning and /or Camera technology, identifying unique characteristics of the packaging and matching to the batch settings. This includes validation of accurate and legible in line printed data. Any product failing to match is rejected, and an alarm condition is prompted. In the event of multiple alarms a controlled line shutdown is initiated to prevent significant rework.
Primary Pack to Secondary Labelling
The Unique Pack requirements are also communicated to pack and pallet labellers, ensuring the consistency and accuracy of the identification at all levels. Using an integrated Print Manager function secondary pack label formats and variable data are passed to the pack and pallet labellers,
The Cobalt Sentinel verification features grade the TUC barcode to ANSI equivalent standards, detecting quality degradation at its earliest stages. Corrective action is prompted at the next natural line stoppage, to maintain the highest barcode quality, and productivity, ensuring the packs progression through the supply chain.
Record of Production Activity
The logging function of the Cobalt Sentinel provides key data for the reporting and analysis of packaging activity. A pack by pack log is maintained of successful traded unit output, with product code, date, time and verification grading. For operations using GS1 128 barcode symbology, this provides a detailed record for audit and traceability purposes.
Production log data is made available across the corporate network via Ethernet. By populating SQL data tables the data becomes accessible to production reporting and analysis systems.
Security of Setup
Sophisticated access controls are simply operated using biometric technology. Fingerprint authentication means that no one has to remember user id and passwords, and no identities are ‘shared’ through group passwords. Permissions are granted at operator/ supervisor/ engineer and administrator levels, and only the functions available to each user are shown. Each button pressed is recorded in the event log giving a true history of setting changes, should they be needed later to identify interference or training issues. Engineer and Administrator logs show the setup and maintenance functions history. All activity logs are retained locally for a limited period and frequently passed to a local server using the SQL injector.
The Cobalt Sentinel is designed to integrate with line equipment and the corporate infrastructure. The multiple comms and I/O ports enable direct communication with scanning and camera devices, printer applicators, coders and other line equipment. Set up parameters are sent and status and activity signals are received and interpreted by the Sentinel Manager. All ports are configurable to meet specific site requirements.