16th July 2020
Anyone that works in the car industry, or is passionate about car care, will recognise Autoglym as a trusted, premium car care brand. Established in 1965, their award-winning products are distributed and sold worldwide, and they’ve earned two Royal Warrants along the way.
The company operates from its factory in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, where it produces a wide range of quality car care products for bodywork, wheels and interiors. Like many other successful brands with a long heritage, they’ve seen a great deal of change over the years, adapting and introducing new technology in order to remain lean and efficient.
While the Autoglym brand is easily recognisable on the shelf, the in-house process of batch coding products is fundamental for global distribution and traceability. However, when the company looked more closely at this process, it was proving costly and inefficient.
Identifying how to polish up the coding process
Autoglym products come in a range of types and sizes including cans, jars and most notably, plastic bottles. Their products are shipped all over the world and, by nature of the product, they are used in ‘wet’ or harsh environments, so product labels need to be robust.
The primary product brand label is consistent for each product type, therefore requiring little intervention on the production line. However, on the bottles, the batch number and ‘best before’ codes are applied using a separate label because the information is constantly changing.
Traditionally, the batch and date code labels were printed and applied to the bottle by hand using a ticket gun, requiring additional labour and slowing down production. There was also a concern that this small, additional label may not always endure harsh environments - they needed to find a more reliable and cost-effective way of coding each bottle.
Setting out the scope of needs
When Autoglym approached Rotech, they explained that they needed to improve the way that codes were being applied to products, but they didn’t know how all of the issues could be addressed.
Rotech Sales Manager, Steve Ryan said “Autoglym were manually applying codes to 2.5 litre and 5 litre plastic bottles, printing black text in both standard English as well as Chinese characters for their Asian market. They needed to find an automated solution that was quicker, more reliable and more cost-efficient – one that would not interrupt the conveyor line. Importantly, the solution needed to be durable, to avoid any potential issues with the labels becoming damaged by moisture, and to prevent them from being removed”.
Coding that will stand the test of grime
Having surveyed the production process in detail, Rotech proposed a very simple but effective direct printing solution, one that could easily be fitted to the side of the existing conveyor and would fully automate the coding process.
The Integra Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) printer was chosen because it is small, compact and ideal for integrating into small spaces or onto conveyor lines.
Capable of producing high quality prints on just about all surfaces, the high-speed printer automatically prints batch numbers and date codes directly onto the chosen position on each bottle as it passes the printer. And, being fully adjustable, the height of the printer can be quickly positioned to print on each bottle size.
Thermal Inkjet technology is clean and reliable and requires no maintenance. The printing technology uses thermal energy to expel ink through a nozzle and onto a substrate, leaving a highly durable print that will endure even wet environments.
Each simple ‘click-in, click-out’ ink cartridge can print up to 400,000 clear, high-quality prints (up to 600dpi) – no mess and low consumable costs. They also now have the added benefit of being able to switch from black to red ink on specific products by simply swapping cartridges.
The required data is set through the iDesign format creation software. This allows Autoglym to create and edit their batch numbers, dates and times and line numbers, and switch to Chinese characters as required.
Results that shine
Since installing the Integra printer, Autoglym has seen cost savings of around 33% on the coding process.
“Since installing the new printer, we’ve increased output by a third and no longer need any additional labour to label bottles” said Autoglym Project Manager, Damien McKenzie. “The printer is so simple and effective – it sits neatly on the conveyor and requires little intervention, other than changing the settings on the software. This single printer has solved all of our previous issues and delivered some significant cost savings”.
Autoglym is a British manufacturing success story and a shining example of how to survive change by constantly innovating and adapting. Through the use of simple yet powerful printing technology, they have turned an unreliable and costly coding process into one that has increased efficiency and capacity, and eliminated unnecessary costs.