The Coding Conundrum

One would think that applying a code to a product should be easy. However, coding is one of the biggest challenges that occurs for contract manufacturers.

Defining the Problem

Customers have their unique requirements which must be interpreted to the packaging line. If a contract manufacturer has an electronic solution it is a matter of input into a computer system which speaks to the line equipment that applies the code. In most instances, contract manufacturers have a manual system which requires human interpretation of the code and manual input with a verification.

Due to the fact the majority of coding is a manual process, human error enters. Based on the discussion at the F4SS conference in Saint Petersburg, FL this past spring, there are many deviations that occur as a result of coding errors which creates re-work and potential for recall for regulated products. Interestingly these issues resided more in the non-food industry.

Specific challenges discussed were different customer requirements; changeover at midnight; and different company requirements.

Solutions to Resolve the Coding Conundrum

Some solutions that came from the discussion group were to look at:

  • Food industry where the coding is more consistent and tracked by time
  • Electronic solution to pull from electronic job
  • A way to tell customers what the code should be, i.e., adding a coding section to supplier agreements
  • Developing a common coding sequence that can be agreed upon by customers and 3PMs

Electronic solutions and simplification of the process by industry can virtually eliminate the conundrum caused by a complex coding system. If the industry can agree to a common sequence in coding it would have benefits of reduced cost from re-work and interruptions of the supply chain from deviations caused by coding errors.

Lauren Wilson