Evan Thomas and his team at a large, global food manufacturer make a lot of dough — enough so that 800 machines are cranking out the dough to feed the nation’s hunger for pizza, bread sticks and quesadillas. With all that dough, these machines need to be washed down every night to ensure cleanliness and safe operation. Planning for all that maintenance is a big job and signs and labels play an important “role” for Thomas, who prints off thousands of labels for the lines and machines, correctly marking them for safety and lock out/tag out purposes.
“I use these signs all over the facility — in washdown areas, hot environments such as boiler rooms, ovens and smokehouses, in cold freezers and outside on the roof and other outbuildings,” he said.
It’s not surprising that Thomas’ employer is a big believer in safety and communications. Labeling facilitates these important safety messages. But regardless of size, food manufacturers all have important safety communications needs. We’ve outlined three manufacturers who are tackling this challenge with varying budgets and resources. There are four basic options for labeling your food manufacturing facility:
Have your sign shop create your signage
Sign shops create super durable metal signs that will last for decades, but the results may be slow, expensive and you can’t fix mistakes.
Order signage from a catalog
Perfect for generic exit and entrance signs. The down side? You have to buy 20-30 to get a price break and you might have to wait weeks for delivery.
Very industrial-looking. But they’re time-consuming, labor intensive and expensive because you have to buy stencils for each message and size of text, paint colors and tools including paint, sprayer, cleaner and tape.
Do it yourself with a labeling system
Onsite, do-it-yourself labeling systems provide users the greatest degree of customization for creating site-specific signage. Yes, there’s an initial financial outlay for purchasing a labeling system. But the best labeling systems include labeling software and access to thousands of OSHA, NFPA and other important symbols and graphics. Labeling systems are compatible with a wide range of printing supplies for thousands of labeling applications — from applying markers and tags to pipes and valves, to wrapping ¼-inch wires and cables with identifying numbers to generating sequential barcode labels used by pickers in warehouses and distribution centers. Labeling system manufacturers have created labeling supplies which withstand exposure to oils, gases, and the intense heat and cold found in food manufacturing facilities.
What to look for from a labeling system manufacturer?
- Supplies for all types of environments
- Labels with various adhesive properties including permanent, repositionable and non-adhesive
- Labeling systems with fast print speeds and templates
At his 800 employee, 600,000-square foot facility, Thomas explains more about his labeling applications:
“We use our labeling system to clearly mark the lockout/ tagout points on each machine. The large assortment of colors and vinyl and thermal transfer inks makes them very useful on almost any surface. We even have some super tack ones that we use in the freezer plus the glow-in-the dark ones to outline the flooring areas if the power should ever go out.”
Many companies have reported that when using a labeling system, they’ve been able to take a previously four-hour job and trim it down to 20 minutes.
“The big help is the software and the symbols. Wide format labeling systems are used to help us keep our facility safe for our contractors, our people and non-regulars who come to our facility.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Eugene, Oregon’s Wildtime Foods. Their plant manager spends about $100 on generic signage a year for required government notices such as minimum wage, exit, fire extinguisher and other safety signage. Also, signs identifying where both finished products and raw materials are stored are used — particularly important in an organic food business to clearly segregate organic and non-organic raw materials.
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between no-cost, low-volume and low-cost, high-volume is Ardella’s Foods of Carson, California, under the direction of its plant manager. A USDA-approved facility, Ardella’s Foods has no budget for printing. They do it all in-house with a printer and a laminating machine — everything including Spanish/English signs advising workers on good manufacturing practices, food safety and personal safety.
Ardella’s Foods takes visual communications seriously with color-coded signage for identifying clean and soiled tools, employee areas of responsibility, evacuation routes, and machine identification.
This in-house ability gives Ardella’s Foods great creative freedom and a more personal touch than purchasing signs and labels from outside sources.
Each of these printing methods has advantages and disadvantages. If your need is really simple, you’re probably in good shape if you order your signage from a catalog. But if you have more complex communications challenges, a labeling system will be a tool you’ll use every day.
Jack Rubinger of Graphic Products, has more than 20 years of experience contributing to trade and business publications including Dairy Foods, Food Manufacturing, and Industry Week. Graphic Products is a leading industrial safety and labeling system manufacturer whose customers include Tyson Foods and Kroger Foods. For more information, contact [email protected], call 1.800.788.5572, x3024 or visit www.GraphicProducts.com.