It's vitally important for food manufacturers to recognise the issues that lead to mistakes on the packaging line and how they can prevent them. Otherwise, they could expose themselves to the risk of a costly and reputation-damaging product recall.
Did you know that one recent survey stated that 70% of coding and packaging mistakes are caused by human error, with the most common mistakes consisting of incorrect data entry and job selection at the coding machine?
It’s no wonder humans make mistakes when the complexities of coding and packaging are constantly evolving. Below we’ve listed some of the most common challenges we see when it comes to packaging.
1. The environment
The packaging hall environment is pressurised and volatile. There are constant changes in product packaging, such as new product launches, so the right packaging rules for today may well not be the same rules for tomorrow.
Additionally, short runs, perhaps dozens of changeovers in a day, create time pressure and many opportunities for mistakes.
2. Confusing date coding rules
It’s easy to mix up the rules for different products or mistype a date, especially near the change of the month (e.g. Jun/Jul) or get the year wrong. Add to that date life concessions, avoidance dates at Christmas, products brought back from chilled or frozen storage for repacking, and the opportunities for human error simply multiply.
Promotional activity in some categories is relentless and this has an impact on getting the right product with the right promotional packaging, which is different to normal.
Often food promotions (such as 2for1) are briefed to the production team at the last minute or packaging arrives just before production starts. This increases pressure and leads to a lack of clarity on when the promotion was meant to start and finish.
4. Packaging artwork
Marketing’s desire to innovate packaging can often lead to headaches for the team on the factory floor. Packaging of products in the same range is deliberately designed to look similar to be attractive to the consumer on the shelf. As a result, the vital differences between them may boil down to just a few words somewhere on the packaging, making it hard to distinguish by the human eye in a pressurised environment.
5. Multiple labels
On certain product configurations there’s not just one item to worry about – there can be multiple labels on one product.
For example, a pack of sliced meat may have several items of packaging to reconcile together e.g. a top and base label, where one label may simply be a list of ingredient declarations. The more to check for compliance, the more chances there are of human error.
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