Label machines labeling several boxes (image 1)

Zero Downtime Labeling For Continuous Production

Machine errors, maintenance work, media replenishment – these and other disruptions lead to downtime which increases cost in manufacturing companies. In order to help keep production lines moving, Weber Marking Systems develops labeling systems with zero-downtime technology. We asked labeling specialist Jörg Emrich (Weber Marking Systems Germany) to explain the exciting feature in detail in our interview:

Why is it important to reduce downtime in manufacturing processes?

Labeling engineer Jörg Emrich

Productivity is one of the most important competitive factors in the manufacturing industry. It is highly affected by the availability of machines in the production line. Just imagine a yogurt bottling line that produces 10 bottles per second, all of which need to be labeled: An interruption for 5 minutes,  only to change an empty label roll, would result in a considerable economic loss worth 3,000 yogurt bottles!

Especially now, in the age of industrial automation and digitalization, advanced technolgies help to gain insights on measures such as the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and to identify losses caused by downtime. In the past, zero-downtime-features were outsorced to bulky, external control cabinets. Today, our labeling machines come with integrated smart features that obviate the need for updating the entire production line.

How does the zero-downtime technology work in labeling systems?

Simply put, we use two similar labeling systems that are installed consecutively in the movement direction of the production line. The first labeler in movement direction is called ‘upstream system’. The second one is called ‘downstream system’. We can switch from one to the other in order to continue production. While one applies labels, the other one will act as a backup. They are connected via software interface, which enables them to exchange information and communicate with each other. If one of the labeling systems stops due to an empty roll, a broken belt or any other error, the second one will take over completely automatically.

There are three different modes: safe mode, endurance mode and tandem mode. What do they mean?

In safe mode, there is a primary and secondary labeler. The secondary labeler only takes over during downtime, for example, when the label roll is empty. It can take over at any time, seamlessly, in the moving direction, so that no product remains unlabelled. As soon as the failure cause in the primary labeler is fixed, the system is immediately switched back. It then works parallel to the downstream system for a short time, so that no unlabelled products are produced. The safe mode is perfect if you want to make sure that every single product is labelled correctly and waste is low.

The endurance mode is designed for labeling at maximum capacity, with the operator rarely having to ‘muck in’. If the primary system fails, the downstream system takes over and connects seamlessly so that no product remains unlabelled. The downstream system reports the lack of labels, allowing the operator on site to act in time. If the equipment doesn’t allow for larger label rolls, this mode can almost double the endurance of the entire unit until the next label roll change.

In tandem mode, both labelers work with the same load. They label in constant alternation. Unlike inkjet printers that apply markings contactless, labeling systems have to apply actual labels to surfaces, and are therefore bound to certain physical limits. An additional system helps to increase the overall capacity and performance.

Which zero-downtime mode should I choose?

The decision depends on various factors that our labeling experts will make sure to take into account before offering you the best solution. Let’s say you want to apply a simple EAN label: If you manufacture low-cost products, which can be easily sorted out, the endurance mode might be the best choice. If you need to apply serialized codes, on the other hand, you will need a setup with maximum process reliability. One thing is for sure: Labeling with zero-downtime technology will save you time and money!

Are you ready to increase your productivity? Our application specialists will help you to find the ideal labeling solution!

Get in touch with our team