Ichiban comply with retail codes of practice thanks to automation


Ichiban UK Ltd is the largest sushi manufacturer in the UK. The company produces both own label and branded authentic sushi for major retailers in a growing UK market. At their single site in Suffolk they employ over 450 staff in a 24/7 operation, last year alone they cooked around 1,200 tonnes of rice.

Ichiban's challenges

Ichiban UK Ltd contacted OAL to investigate the implementation of a label verification and date code control system in response to the introduction of stricter rules, regulations and codes of practices set by retailers. Breaches of these codes of practice can result in substantial fines as well as loss of reputation.

The increasing consumption and popularity of sushi meant any installation needed to minimise downtime to maintain capacity. Ichiban UK hoped to use the installed system for both compliance and to drive operational efficiency and productivity on the shop floor.

We chose the OAL system because it’s a tried and tested solution that provides the compliance we need. It’s easy to use and has helped us focus by accurately recording line stoppages and identifying areas for improvement.
— Julie Rice, Technical Manager, Ichiban UK

Technical automation solution

OAL Autocoding was installed across four packing lines at Ichiban to ensure the correct label, date code and price has been applied to products. A touch screen terminal was installed on each line that linked to scanners, C Wrap labellers, Ice printers (Ice Thermal Transfer labeller), and Mettler Toledo checkweighers with a master database of products. A fifth mimic terminal was installed in the Low-Risk area for operators to carry out routine quality checks and to scan outer case label barcodes, ensuring products are packed in the correct case. Three interesting features of the system are:

2D coding & scanning

2D barcoding and scanning allows Ichiban to scan products without using the EAN barcode which means all areas of packaging are traceable (to ensure the correct version of labels are used). This simple system reads every single code that passes through the scanner, compares it to the job inputted within the system by the line operator. If a mismatch error occurs the line completely stops which takes away the risks which ensure they meet the retailer’s requirements and are completely compliant. Unlike 1D barcodes, 2D barcodes provide complete control over the version of packaging used. 2D barcodes are not under the control of the retailer, so can be adjusted when there are any minor changes to the packaging to ensure that old packaging is not used.

OEE performance

If an incorrect label is on the line, the line stops and a supervisor must investigate before the line can restart.  Operators must then record on the touchscreen terminal the reason for the stop thus collecting actionable data. The data is both highly accurate and can be used in real-time so actions can be taken if any issues occur. The automatic system replaces existing manual production logs, proving more accurate and reliable data.

Promo labels

The OAL Autocoding system provides assurance over the correct use of promo labels. By applying a 2D code to the front of the label or printing a 2D code onto the backing paper the label can be scanned. If the product does not require a promo label, the scanner will either detect the wrong barcode or will detect a consecutive no read and stop the line.


The OAL Autocoding system has provided peace of mind to Ichiban UK Ltd by securing the label, date codes and price on their packaging. The system was installed quickly with minimal factory downtime.
Ichiban UK uses the system to identify and improve production performance as the OAL system automatically records downtime. The accurate date is then used to proactively prevent issues arising on the packaging line.

Lauren Moir