Label Verification vs Autocoding – which is best?

We all know the high costs of failing to correctly label and date code food products but what is the best technological solution?

Label verification systems typically either use vision or identity scanners to scan products and prevent product recalls. Autocoding and label and date code verification systems use identity scanners to exactly verify 1D and 2D codes. End of line vision label verification systems, on the other hand, use vision cameras to compare the product image to a master image.

Whilst both systems are interchangeable, the differences in approaches present both challenges and opportunities for food manufacturers. Below we explain how both Autocoding and vision label verification systems work and the typical differences.

Label Verification with End of Line Vision

Label verification with end of line vision is a fast growing and exciting area for packaging line verification. By using vision cameras, you can ensure label and date codes have been correctly applied to products and inspect products for all sorts of other faults.

Vision can be used for various tasks including:

  • Correct label and date code
  • Correct label placement
  • Correct packaging
  • Printing mistakes
  • Correct product
  • Counting product parts
  • Volume measurement
  • Product defects

But, for the specific task of ensuring the correct label and date code is applied to every product, there are question marks over the consistency of vision technology. Think of the supermarket checkout and their reliance on scanning the bar code, why haven't they changed? Unlike identity, the results often give a grey answer which needs interpretation and, consequently, the results can never be 100%. When this is coupled with frequent art work changes, the cost life cycle costs can be prohibitive.

Autocoding (Label and Date Code Verification) with Identity

Autocoding (also known as label and date code verification) focuses on ensuring the correct coding information and the right label is always applied to the product by using identity cameras.

Systems proactively control the setup of coders and other packaging line devices, scanning every product to ensure the correct label and date code is applied.

The tried and tested approach overcomes the top five reasons for label and packaging errors in food manufacturing by automating the complete setup of the packaging line.

Once protected, the same system can then be used to go paperless, automating quality checks and automatically recording downtime information to improve factory performance.

Vision or Identity?

In the UK, the majority of label verification systems are identity-based systems. This has ultimately been driven by UK retailers need for complete assurance. At this point in time, identity offers more consistent, high performing scan rates.

Moving forward, we believe both approaches have a place, and install both identity systems for label and date code verification and vision for packaging integrity applications. Interestingly, the sensors technology is advancing at a great pace and now offers the potential for combined Vision and Identity in a single sensor.

Vision systems are a critical part of OAL's development in its APRIL™ robotics solutions. This experience allows OAL to provide a balanced recommendation as OAL has the capability to use both technologies.

Jake Norman