100% Quality Control in the Finishing Inspection
Packaging is a key factor in the supply chain of almost all branches. As brand ambassadors, they play a central role in entering the market and in the acceptance of new product categories. Flawless construction, printing, and finishing are crucial. The German company PackEx GmbH, based in Worms, has specialized in the express production of folding boxes in small series since 2018. As a spin-off of AUGUST FALLER GMBH & CO. KG, the company has extensive expertise in packaging products for the areas of healthcare/pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cannabidiol (CBD), food, and other consumer goods with creative packaging solutions. In order to meet the ever-increasing demands on high-quality food and product packaging while at the same time optimizing the inspection process in the long term, the packaging expert relied on an innovative, fully automated inspection system from EyeC for 100% quality assurance in the final inspection.
The Initial Situation
Seamless quality control is essential for PackEx to ensure that only high-quality, flawless products are delivered to customers. As a producer of folding boxes in small quantities and on-demand orders, the Worms-based company faced the challenge of optimizing quality assurance in such a way that potential printing errors were counteracted proactively during production. Sustainability plays a central role in the orientation of entrepreneurial activity. In addition, the ever-increasing variety of products, compliance with time-to-market criteria, and the very complex requirements and strict regulations for pharmaceutical packaging require production to have particularly high standards. However, a manual check by quality management was too time-consuming due to the fast shipping time of 3-5 days, and random checks harbor a high risk of printing errors or damage given the timely fulfillment of on-demand productions. To avoid costly complaints or product recalls, escalating costs and damage to their image, PackEx was looking for a fully automated inspection system that would reduce the need for human intervention while increasing process and worker safety.
The Search for an Innovative Solution
While the startup was already familiar with print image control systems for comparing random samples or individual printed sheets, the new application was to be an inline inspection. In addition to the integration of an automatic control system in the last production step along with the associated savings potential of a large quality management department, a high degree of user-friendliness was also one of the requirements for the new inspection software. The inline inspection systems from EyeC were the perfect solution. “EyeC’s know-how and professionalism is exceptional. We immediately connected and our contacts quickly understood and implemented what we needed to meet our requirements,” says Michael Mohme, Team Lead Production at PackEx. “From a personal level, it was a very good fit from the start,” he adds. The development was closely oriented towards the needs and expectations of the employees. PackEx attached great importance to this to ensure that the solution was used by as many colleagues as possible. In close coordination with PackEx, the provider of high-performance print copy and print inspection systems implemented the installation of the “EyeC ProofRunner Carton Sorter” and the “EyeC ProofRunner Carton Retrofit”, connecting two tailor-made inline inspection systems that ensure 100% quality control during folding and ensure adhesion.
Operation Areas and Using the EyeC System
With the EyeC ProofRunner Carton series, EyeC offers an inline inspection system for extremely fast 100% print inspection for folding boxes in production. Installed on the folding gluer and a PrintChecker (installed on a Kohmann machine), the two systems integrated by PackEx initially compare the printed image of each individual folding box with the print-ready PDF file in a fully-automated process. The system automatically identifies the print image and the die cut that defines the relevant inspection area. The PDF can be automatically enriched with additional information in the customer’s prepress workflow, for example, to define areas for barcodes, variable data, or color checks. Critical information such as text or logos can also be predefined for inspection with the most precise inspection parameters. In combination with the connection to the customer’s MIS (Management Information System), a fully automated setup of the inspection order is possible within seconds. In live operation, the operator is automatically alerted in the event of defects such as color deviations, hickeys, filled-in or missing characters, stains, or defective 1D and 2D codes. The clear presentation of deviations and important statistical information also helps the operators to easily identify the location and origin of printing errors and to take corrective measures as quickly as possible. Thanks to real-time detection, incorrectly printed folding boxes are automatically sorted out on the folder gluer with the EyeC ProofRunner Retrofit before they are processed. A full inspection report at the end of each job is used for tracking, analysis, and further communication. The automatically generated document is also useful validation support, helping print service providers meet the strict requirements of standards and regulations during an audit.
The EyeC ProofRunner Carton Sorter and the EyeC ProofRunner Carton Retrofit have been in operation for over 4 years at PackEx in the final inspection. The goal of producing small series as packaging-on-demand in 72 hours without losing quality was successfully implemented through the integration of the two systems. “A wide variety of employees work on our machines and with the systems from EyeC, all responsible employees were able to operate the systems independently after a short training period,” emphasizes Mohme. In the meantime, 85,000 folding boxes pass through the inspection every day without manual follow-up checks by quality management employees. They only give an evaluation of the deviations. The production manager sees a further advantage in the fully automated testing process, which relieves the employees to a great extent: “The functional and, at the same time, user-friendly usability of the EyeC systems were exactly what we were missing. Thanks to EyeC, we are now able to focus our people on more impactful projects without worrying about missing mistakes or noticing them too late.” The additional provision of an error report at the end of each inspection also serves as an important tool, which, among other things, shows all errors that have occurred or suspicious spots in documented form. “The reports provide us with a clear picture of any need for action and at the same time highlight potential improvements in our existing processes,” confirms the production manager. The close cooperation with EyeC has also had a positive effect on PackEx’s corporate goals and the quality of their products. “We are in regular contact with our contact persons, meaning EyeC responds quickly to questions or requests and we can always work together in a goal-oriented manner. In particular, working with Katja Kaufmann, Karsten Wägemann, and Benjamin Alb from the Service department is a lot of fun. If necessary, new ideas and solutions are developed together in order to achieve our goals – this has created a real team spirit,” emphasizes the production manager.
The Next Steps
The range of applications for the EyeC ProofRunner Carton Sorter and the EyeC ProofRunner Carton Retrofit will be further expanded in the future. “Right from the start, it was important for us to find a solution that we could use productively quickly and then gradually expand. EyeC’s expertise and the constant further development of the systems are worth their weight in gold for us,” says Mohme. Among other things, an upgrade of the ProofRunner Carton Sorter for checking variable data is planned in order to further exploit even more potential in production and the existing processes.
Further information about PackEx GmbH at www.packex.com.