Code-breaker

Contamination of product can cause serious issues for a brands reputation as well as regulatory challenges. Darryl Blackeby at ifm efector presents a track and trace solution.

Most major supermarkets now require all suppliers to ensure all supplied products can be traced across the entire supply chain. Contamination, defects, recalls or even tampering can sometimes happen. Having the ability to monitor and check in with the product as it moves around a warehouse, or production line, can meet these requirements and eliminate these risks.

Real-time visibility and accurate information of product whereabouts and contents in logistics is one of the key ways to control inventory and to keep suppliers and customers confident that there product is safe and of the quality required.

The ability to identify and recall products before they reach consumers in a not-fit-for purpose state can be crucial to a business and its reputation.

Manage and confirming inventory at multiple points across its journey offers a number of benefits. It helps protect customers and give them peace of mind that their product consistently complies with legal and quality requirements.

One common way that organisations keep track of their product is by using barcodes. Barcodes are machine readable symbols that store identifying data about a package or item. These symbols are then read by a scanner and they are decoded, recorded and processed for a variety of uses.

In recent years, different forms of barcodes have been developed, most recently the 2D (two-dimensional) barcode has advanced the market as part of Industry 4.0.

“Industry 4.0 is all about information, if we can provide information to a central control system then we can make a decision based on that data,” Darryl Blackeby, Product Sales Manager, ifm efector says.

A 2D (two-dimensional) barcode is usually a square or rectangular pattern. It is able to encode large amounts of data. A further added benefit is if one of more cells are damaged, the code is still readable. A QR code is an example of 2D barcode and as Darryl explains it offers more than just product identity.

“Take a food plant for example, all product needs to be labelled correctly and if something is misidentified it could be detrimental if someone has an allergy and it has the wrong label on it,” Darryl says.

For Darryl, product identification at multiple points across a process is more and more common. “There are a number of benefits to having this kind of information ­– you can decide where a product goes next on a line, you can check which components were used in a particular product or batch, you can control the flow of products or you can ensure that the correct product is in the correct packaging,” he says.

Ifm efector, a sensor, networking and control systems provider has developed a barcode reader that offers the ability to read 1D and 2D barcodes in one reader.

The O2I500 multi-code readers boast an extremely simple set up process. “It’s very user friendly, it does not require a programmer or IT professional to get it up and running. It has what we refer to as a one-button teach which makes it very easy to configure,” Darryl explains.

The ifm-designed Teach App software allows the user to configure the basic sensor settings using a smartphone app. “The reader reliably detects 1D and 2D codes, and the teach button allows the reader to process a new code very quickly,” Darryl says.

This means that if a small changeover of stock is required, a user does not need to involve complex computers or IT professionals they can simply reprogram the reader with their smart phone.

“You can re-teach it. If a user has the app on their smart phone they can reprogram it in a matter of seconds,” Darryl says. The award-winning Vision Assistant software is available to configure the multi-code reader for more complex applications, and a USB port is integrated for additional application storage and backup.

In addition, the ifm O2I500 multi-code reader offers a four times higher resolution for reliable reading results and a ten times faster evaluation time. Several images can be captured very quickly with different exposure time and the reader is able to recognise codes with variable characteristics or if they are deviating in colour.

An added benefit for logistics providers is that the data that the reader captures can easily be integrated into a SAP or ERP system. “Sometimes this is quite difficult to set up but the embedded agent in our multi-code readers simplifies the programming,” Darryl says.

For Darryl, one of the main components of Industry 4.0 is controlling the supply chain and ensuring that everything is accounted for and compliant. The multi-code readers allow materials to be scanned at multiple points and data to be fed back to ensure that customers and consumers have the peace of mind that the product has not been contaminated or tampered with and its quality is never compromised.