Coding Solution Includes Line Control

Operation standardization reaches new levels of ease.

Markem-Imaje (Keane, NH) is offering a turnkey solution for package coding and tracing with the launch of a second-generation version of its CoLOS software products.

The Centralized Code and Data Management (CCDM) and Packaging Line Traceability (PLT) system support code marking across all packaging levels, data aggregation for traceability, and compliant reporting. It also shares information with ERP and warehouse management systems and manages production-line components.

“The Markem-Imaje combination of printers with the CoLOS CCDM and PLT application capabilities offers packaging operations managers the ability to standardize their operational best practices with a single solution across their sites. Customers can save time and costs, and enhance decision-making capabilities at all levels in the enterprise,” says David Habib, product manager for software and solutions, Markem-Imaje.

CoLOS software includes CoLOS Enterprise. The Enterprise CoLOS Control module centrally controls and monitors networked printers and production-line scanners. Data are viewed in real time at any client PC on the network.

Coding data and label templates can be controlled and distributed from the enterprise, plant, or packaging line levels. Printers and laser coders on a line can be selected through a CoLOS Control operator panel to tailor batch and dynamic code printing with the right type of print technology (laser, thermal transfer, high-resolution hot-melt ink, liquid continuous ink-jet, and labels) based on a distribution channel’s requirements, Habib says. Similarly, the host PC mode of control avoids the need for reprogramming all the printers for a new run, he adds.

“After the GTIN or batch number is sent to the first printer at the start of a batch, it is automatically conveyed via a CoLOS server to the other printers on the line. This ensures that all the printers are set up with the right code data,” Habib says.

An integrated CreatePro function in CoLOS Enterprise manages label image design with a simple intuitive Windows studio tool.

CoLOS has been upgraded to a Microsoft-certified software platform. The new CoLOS software supports device networking using industry-standard open-communication protocols. With open protocol connectivity (OPC), CoLOS more seamlessly integrates with enterprise-level databases, production-line material handling, and line-code verification equipment, says Habib.

“OPC provides a single, robust protocol that is supported by many manufacturers. We can easily connect to PLCs and other line automation controls,” Habib says.

“We have OPC connections for monitoring the scanners and vision systems on the line. We can talk to the MES. If you are not getting a readable print, we can stop the conveyor system, and then receive an alert on what is wrong,” he adds.

The system supports nine levels of package-nesting traceability, tracking as goods are packed into trays, trays into cases, and so on. “We haven’t seen anyone use more than five levels, but we have built this in to accommodate any future needs,” Habib says.

A CoLOS Data Integrity module provides a security option for pharmaceutical compliance. The software conveys coding data to line scanners and vision systems for verifying the accuracy of package coding. Printing results are logged, and date and time are stamped in a database for 21 CFR Part 11 compliance.

CoLOS Sync software acts as the “traffic cop” for bidirectional communication between Enterprise Control and ERP, MES, and WMS. The application receives the item master file from ERP and stores it in the CoLOS database for use in the print network. As packaging is coded, hierarchy data are shared with ERP and WMS.

The software is configured and priced on a per line basis, so the licensing cost is the same no matter how many printers are running on a line. The license price is then discounted for subsequent lines and sites, Habib says.

“We are offering a complete hardware and software solution, managed start to finish by Markem-Imaje. We strongly believe that this is a solution that companies can begin to use for limited deployment on individual lines, through to full-scale enterprisewide package coding and data management,” Habib says.
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