Desserts Manufacturer Cracks Coding with Offline Date Coding System

Published20th May, 2015

Carton Coding at Marston FoodsWhen Somerset pudding company Delicious Moments went into administration in 2010, it looked as though the 50 or so staff who worked there would lose their jobs. Then a local businessman bought the company’s assets, took on the workers and set up Marston Foods.

In the five years it has been in existence, Marston Foods has evolved into a thriving chilled and frozen desserts business – it turned over £7.5m in 2014, a 200% increase in just two years. Around 200,000 desserts leave the factory each week, the majority destined for Asda, the Co-op and Tesco, for sale under premium own label ranges.

“The speed, quality and versatility of the system is ideal for us as we use quite a lot of different pack and sleeve sizes. We’re packing 30 different lines in a day, from individual desserts to 8 inch family products.”

While its desserts are still entirely handmade save the use of a couple of depositors, with such exponential growth, the company’s packaging processes have had to evolve and that includes its coding operation.

When Marston Foods first started trading, cartons and sleeves were manually coded using a bench coder. This was fine initially, but when volumes started increasing, as Colin Gillespie, operations manager with Marston Foods, puts it, “we had fun and games with that machine”.

“It was very labour intensive; we had to manually print the sleeves one at a time and sometimes it would cause hold ups in production due to the amount of time it would take to print the volumes required. It would also bring up quality issues from time to time with regards to print clarity, and when you’re supplying the major supermarkets you simply can’t afford to have coding issues,” he says.

By September 2012, manual coding was no longer viable and Marston Foods purchased a udaFORMAXX offline date coding system from PrintSafe.

The udaFORMAXX is a standalone system that enables manufacturers to code sleeves and cartons off-line and bring them to the production line already printed. The system picks sleeves from a stack, accurately prints date or batch codes and places the printed sleeve neatly onto another stack for collection. The system can be integrated with various printing technologies, including continuous inkjet, thermal inkjet, thermal transfer, hot foil and laser. In this case, PrintSafe tested different print sources and selected continuous inkjet as the most reliable.

Desserts CartonsThe main reason Marston Foods went for the udaFORMAXX was its inherent flexibility. The company’s vast array of desserts, which includes lemon tarts, fruit tarts, cheesecakes, panna cotta and tiramisu, is packaged in a range of sizes and formats, from twin and multi-pack pots with sleeves to foil trays in windowed cartons.

While the number of sleeve and carton variants in terms of shape and size might be a challenge for some coders, the off-line coding system can be easily adjusted to code onto a raft of different sized sleeves and cartons.

“The speed, quality and versatility of the system is ideal for us as we use quite a lot of different pack and sleeve sizes. We’re packing 30 different lines in a day, from individual desserts to 8inch family products,” says Gillespie.

Sleeves and cartons for each batch are pre-coded with use-by dates off-line at speeds of up to 500 per minute and presented to the packing tables, so the coding operation no longer causes hold-ups.