Smart packaging and labelling can protect against counterfeiting, product tampering and theft – Epson Singapore shares more.
Industry 4.0 is a hot topic among manufacturers, with attention focused mainly on the application of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to advanced factory automation for discrete manufacturing. The promise to producers is of lower costs through reduced inventory and lower energy usage, improvements in quality control and productivity, and the insights management can gain from the greater availability of more accurate information.
Smart Labelling and packaging
The relevance of Industry 4.0 to labelling and packaging may not be immediately obvious, but smart packaging and labelling can protect against counterfeiting, product tampering and theft, as well as helping to extend the shelf life of products, and reduce waste of packaging materials.
The key to taking smart labelling and packaging from concept to reality is the digital printing revolution. Driven by both technology trends – speed, format, capability – and market forces such as the demand for shorter runs, customisation, SKU proliferation, JIT production and environmental concerns, digital printing applications are virtually limitless. Labels for every product type, shrink sleeves, folding cartons, tags and shelf talkers can all be printed with high quality and at low cost on a huge variety of substrates, from paper to polyvinyl to metallic foils.
This versatility and rapid changeability has led to the situation today where packaging has become the primary product differentiator when the consumer confronts the vast variety of food and beverage choices on the retail store’s shelves.
Even before the product reaches the shelf, digital printed packaging is impacting the whole supply chain, delivering measurable benefits for brand owners. Through product development, test marketing and manufacturing, to targeted on-demand product promotions, digital printing of labels and packaging is producing higher value and increased revenues.
When it was time to carry out a brand refresh of a popular product for example, digital printing was brought into play as early as the prototyping stage. The product team were immediately able to see the realisation of the brand personality and packaging design evolution – The initial design concepts were printed onto metallic foil, fully mocked up into pouches and filled with product for placement in stores for final real-world, consumer shelf testing.
This brought about a significant saving in time and cost as well as providing the product team with enhanced confidence in the performance of the refreshed product line-up.
Counterfeit prevention and warehouse management
An important application for smart packaging is in the area of counterfeit prevention.
Potential applications include serialization, smart & secure supply chains, track & trace, e-pedigree and regulatory compliance, authentication, anti-counterfeiting and forensic validation.
Easily printed graphical devices such as barcodes, QR codes and colour tiles are proving to be a plausible alternative to, or complement to RFID. At item level, these are a cost-feasible choice. For anti-counterfeiting purposes, many manufacturers are adopting variable image and content printing. Unique pattern images can be recognized by a digital reader, denying the opportunity for counterfeit products to reach the market.
The final piece of the security jigsaw is a CRM code. This random but unique and traceable code is part of the brand’s customer relationship management outreach, and is also highly effective for promotional purposes. Customers are able to enter the CRM code in a smartphone app, creating a direct connection between consumer and brand.
The net impact of this one digitally printed smart label is 100 percent product authentication, 100 percent traceability and enhanced confidence on the part of buyers in the product’s authenticity and quality. It also brought about the opportunity to engage with purchasers of a single product and ultimately increased sales.
Within Southeast Asia, Epson is also working with manufacturing customers in the region for RFID colour label solutions for packaging that utilises colour coding for easy identification of inventory in place of barcodes. Data is encoded into the RFID label for identification, track and trace purposes or warehouse management, and can also help in counterfeit prevention.
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