Vanomation - Your automation partner for industrial printing applications.

Traditional vs Robotic Printer Applicators

Synchronization issues with traditional print & apply systems lead to mislabeling problems as well as difficulties with installation and support. Traditional systems are challenged with handling boxes of different sizes as well as placing labels on different faces of pallets and boxes.

Customers facing any of these issues may want to consider looking at the new generation of robotic print & apply systems.

Specifically, the new robotic printer applicators based on the single Vanomation Controller overcome all these issues. The RPA2000 systems include a new collaborative robot cell and the Vanomation Controller. The key feature of the Vanomation Controller is that it combines barcode label data and the spatial placement data into a single data stream. This eliminates the possibility of mislabeling and makes installation and support very easy.

Why automate the process of label application?

There are two main reasons to automate barcode label application on boxes and containers:

  1. to handle increased volumes of product throughput at lower costs;
  2. and, to reduce mislabeling.

Handling increased throughput improves the efficiency and ROI of your factory or warehouse. Now that many customers consider the barcode label to be part of their product, reducing mislabeling is critical to reducing chargebacks, refused or returned shipments and customer satisfaction. This is critical with larger retail customers who have aggressive compliance policies in place.

We suggest there are three main things to look for when selecting an automated print & apply system. First, endeavor to minimize the overall changes you make in migrating from a manual to an automated system, e.g. use your current barcode label and printer protocols (even as you will likely change out hardware.) Second, select a partner who can demonstrate an easy integration with your current or planned ERP/WMS/WCS system. If they cannot commit to get the system installed in a couple of days, you have not selected the right partner. Third, ensure your partner can provide ongoing support, specifically 7×24 support to maximize your ROI.

Box vs Pallet

Many customers want to use the same print & apply systems for box and pallet labeling. Let’s take a look at this and offer our perspective.

The characteristics of box traffic in warehouses are: high volume, high speed, label application while moving and variable sizes. By contrast, pallets tend to be low volume, slow moving, labels are applied when pallets are stationary and pallets often need multiple labels on different faces.

Traditional print and apply systems can address high/low volume and speed, they can apply labels to moving and stationary boxes and pallets. Where they struggle is with variable box or pallet size and the requirement to apply labels on different faces. System Integrators are challenged to solve these issues with expensive workarounds. What is needed here is a totally new approach to address the changing needs of customers.

Having problems getting the right label on the right product?

We often see an issue in factories and warehouses where the automated print & apply system is putting the wrong labels on boxes and pallets. We have seen situations where customers have struggled for months to solve this issue, sometimes never being able to do so and reverting to manual methods.

Traditional print & apply system architecture uses two separate control systems. The first is the ERP/WMS that manages the printing of the barcode label. The second is the control system that activates the mechanism to apply the barcode label. Mislabeling occurs when there is a synchronization issue between these separate control systems.

New print & apply system architecture uses a single controller. The same system both prints the barcode label and activates the mechanism to apply the barcode label. This solves the synchronization issue and eliminates mislabeling. It is also much simpler to integrate and support.

The rise of Collaborative Robots

The following is from the Robot Report:

“According to a new study published by ABI Research entitled Collaborative Robotics: State of the Market / State of the Art, the collaborative robotics sector is expected to increase roughly tenfold between 2015 and 2020, reaching over $1 billion from approximately $95M in 2015. Insiders suggest more rapid growth: that collaborative lightweight robots will become the top seller in the industry in about 2 years, selling hundreds of thousands of them and with prices falling to the $10,000 price point.”

The driving forces for collaborative robotics are: they don’t need safety fences which makes them cheaper, they are easier to use which means simpler to implement and program, and they are designed to work alongside humans.

Applications that are ideal for collaborative robots involve repetitive motions, often in hard to reach places and harsh environments. Movements that would cause ergonomic issues for humans are also ideal functions to be replicated by collaborative robots.