As the French hypermarket giant Leclerc demands that all secondary packaging from its suppliers meets increased traceability standards by the end of 2013, major brands everywhere are considering the implications. Jeremy Barson, Markem-Imaje systems integration engineer and GS1 Barcode Standards and Implementation Group member, examines this drive to enhance secondary packaging coding. From 2014 it will no longer be sufficient to code only primary packaging with dynamic manufacturing information such as BBE dates.
In fact many retailers have insisted for some time now that secondary packaging for certain product categories such as chilled, must include more than just an ITF14 bar code that simply identifies the product. Shelf life information and traceability data that are typically provided via a GS1-128 bar code are equally important and need to be incorporated into any product identification solution that supports a product on its journey through the supply chain.
Leclerc is now insisting that all secondary packaging from its suppliers must meet these revised standards by the end of 2013 – for manufacturers this means that barcode information must now be printed at the point of packing their product and not pre-printed at the case manufacturer as typically happens today. With this precedent set it is now widely expected that other principal retailers will follow suit. Yet many product manufacturers are currently using coding equipment not suited to printing these higher resolution GS1-128 barcodes on demand and this has had some major brands urgently seeking new bar coding solutions.
Historically most manufacturers have used either brown or white pre-printed corrugate for their secondary packaging cases. Typically an inkjet printer has been used to print the single ITF14 bar code to achieve product identification at ANSI grade verification level D (American National Standard Institute). This new requirement to print the more detailed GS1-128 EAN bar code requires the code to be printed at a higher resolution achieving a minimum of ANSI Grade C.
Investing in the right technology to address this coding change is now a critical decision for retail brands to protect their bottom line. And it is one which is becoming increasingly urgent. With an enormous variety of coding equipment available the purchasing decision will inevitably appear complex and manufacturers will need to draw on the wealth of experience of coding and marking specialists such as Markem-Imaje, an Accredited Solution Partner of GS1.
For those choosing to print the GS1-128 bar codes directly on to white corrugated or on to a white area on a brown case, large character inkjet printers, such as the 5800, will be the best option. The Touch Dry® Hot Melt technology is capable of printing high resolution, high quality and durable bar codes at high speeds of up to 182 packs per minute. Codes and messages never bleed or fade, dry on contact and deliver 100% readable, GS1 compliant codes. Alternatively manufacturers can opt for printing on to brown corrugate and use a Print & Apply labeler such as the 2200 series. With easy to use proven technology and thousands of units operational around the world, the 2200 delivers GS1 compliant ANSI grade A/B bar codes at even the highest application speeds, printing codes on up to 125 packs per minute regardless of data complexity or content.
Investing in new technology to print high resolution, dynamic bar codes on secondary packaging may be an unexpected cost for some but it is undoubtedly outweighed by the benefits. It is telling that the change is being driven by industry rather than through legislation, but it remains true that such investment is also now essential for every brand that supplies the major retailers in the UK and the EU.