CASE STUDY: The Flying Barcoder™
A stud mill producing 2x4 and 2x6 up to 12' length was utilizing a dual inline print & apply system to apply barcode labels. The company was experiencing a number of frustrations associated with the use of this labeling system:
- The system was having a difficult time keeping up with the desired line speed of 170+ lugs/min.
- The dusty environment in the area of the inline system was resulting in high maintenance and poor operation of the machine.
- Poor label placement resulted in additional manual handling and "fixing" of packages to attain the required 98+% labeling accuracy.
- Poor label application and manual application were resulting in high operating costs and a visually unappealing product.
The rate of correct placement of barcode labels with the inline print & apply system was falling as low as 50%. Since the requirement was 98+% correct barcode placement rate, the mill personnel had to manually re-apply labels to every package of lumber that had missing or improperly placed labels. This resulted in missed production deadlines and higher production costs.
Z-Tec personnel realized that the necessary high-speed barcode placement rates could not be achieved by improving upon the current method of inline barcode application. A fundamental change to the way that the barcode labels are applied would be required.
After carefully accessing all of the currently available technologies, Z-Tec personnel designed a "working prototype" called the Flying Barcoder™. This system would apply the barcode labels after the package has been strapped, guaranteeing over 99% correct label placement without manual intervention.
The Flying Barcoder was installed in the mill in January 2004. The machine could barcode a package of 2x4 (294 pieces) in under 3 minutes and a package of 2x6 (189 pieces) in 2 minutes, both with 99+% accuracy. Compared with existing inline barcode labeling systems, Z-Tec's Flying Barcoder™ saves time and money while improving the appearance of the product to the end consumer.
The machine surpassed the initial specifications by a significant margin; however, eventually even this machine could not keep up with the increase in mill's operating speed. Even though further improvements in speed were possible, the company was no longer interested in print & apply technology and the project was eventually terminated.
Today, with significant improvements in print & apply technology, the Flying Barcoder™ is still a viable option for customers requiring high speed labeling with virtually 100% readability, better than 99% label placement and virtually no human intervention. The machine is available in several configurations with both linear positioning system as well as robotic system options.