You already know why vulcanized barcode labels are a good idea: tracking the tires through your WIP processes is critical in ensuring an accurate manufacturing trail. Without it, tracking each unique tire becomes extremely difficult and time consuming. So you know why you need it- but then the question becomes: ‘What is the best, most efficient way to securely apply vulcanized barcode labels to tires?’
Luckily, there are several different options, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The decision on how to best apply tire bead labels to your tires will likely depend on which stage of manufacturing that your process dictates origination. Bead barcodes can be applied to rubber pre or post mold. How the label is applied will also depend on variables like the structure of your manufacturing work cells, throughput, and accessibility to manual labor.
If we boil it all down, there are really two different strategies for efficient and accurate barcode label application to tires: manual or automatic application. Both of these methods have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, so we've broken them down for you.
1. Manual Application of Barcode Labels to Tires:
It should come as no surprise that manual application of vulcanized barcode labels remains one of the most common methods utilized in tire manufacturing. Typically this method consists of contracting with a label supplier who can provide you with pre-printed, sequentially numbered barcode labels, which your staff will then use to hand apply to tires. Let’s review the advantages and limitations associated with applying labels to the tire bead by hand:
a.) Advantages of manual application:
- No need to justify or invest in capital equipment dedicated to labeling
- Unless you’re printing the barcodes yourself, you really don’t have a need for any labeling supplies, other than the stock of preprinted barcodes. This can save space, inventory, and budget
- Relying on manual labor provides the flexibility to alter processes or test new methods without having to reprogram or adjust settings on equipment
b.) Limitations of manual application:
- Placement accuracy of the barcode label itself is not guaranteed when applying them by hand. If your barcodes need to be in a specific orientation or location on the rubber for later automated scanning, hand placement could potentially cause bottlenecks later
- Consistency of throughput is not guaranteed. It takes the average human approximately 3-9 seconds to remove a barcode label from the release liner and apply to a product. While that range might not sound wide, adding or losing seconds on every tire within an 8-hour manufacturing shift can easily add up to inconsistent productivity, making scheduling and planning difficult
- Integration with other equipment, or planning for future workflows can also be a challenge when relying on manual labor for specific elements throughout a larger manufacturing process
- The risk of repetitive strain injuries is real. Employing people to perform a repetitive, tedious task shift after shift- especially in the case of label application as it involves muscles in the hand and wrist- can lead to repetitive strain injuries that your organization is then liable for.
- The cost of errors can be monumental. If a tire doesn’t have a unique identity that can be traced back to its origin, quality concerns quickly rise. Especially if a tire makes its way all the way through your manufacturing process only to be rejected at the point of testing, an honest human mistake either misplacing a label or forgetting a label can cause large quality concerns and lost profitability. Simply put, without the barcode label, a tire doesn’t have an identity throughout manufacturing.
A lot of tire manufacturing facilities are still relying on manual labor for the application of their barcode labels. While this method has its limitations, for the most part it does accomplish the task at hand.
2. Automated Application of Vulcanized Tire Barcode Labels
There are many global tire manufacturing facilities that have implemented automated barcode label applicators into their workflows for streamlined application of barcode labels to rubber.
This method also typically relies on receiving pre-printed barcode labels and loading them into the label applicator. Designed to keep pace with production, tire barcode label applicators can be installed directly into your lines at varying stages depending on your process, and work to automatically dispense and apply the barcodes free of human intervention.
a.) Advantages of automated barcode label application:
- Label placement accuracy is consistent, every time. There will be no wonky labels, making downstream scanning easy and efficient
- Throughput is consistent. The consistently associated with throughput speeds makes scheduling and production planning both easier and more accurate.
- Throughput is improved. On top of being more consistent from a planning standpoint, barcode label automation also allows for higher throughput rates that keep pace with production speeds. This eliminates bottlenecks and allows for easier ramp ups based on production volumes.
- Reliability is improved. Relying on manual labor means that you are sometimes forced to work around the real life challenges of vacation schedules, sick time, or work-related injuries.
- Physical space is constant. The fewer people that have to physically move around at any point of a manufacturing process typically equates to fewer accidents and safety concerns. Beyond that, the amount of space a label applicator accounts for is a constant element, also making for easier planning when designing or upgrading a workflow.
- Barcode label applicators are flexible in that they can be installed directly into your workflow, making for an easily adaptable solution for your already-functioning production lines.
b.) Limitations of automated barcode label application:
- Initial investment of barcode label application equipment is necessary. While automatic barcode label applicators tend to be economically feasible and do prove fast ROI, there is the initial capital justification and investment that needs to occur prior to purchase.
- While a good solutions provider will offer service and maintenance contracts, the need for machinery upkeep does exist with the investment of capital equipment like label applicators. While typically fairly simple to care for and manage, there should be someone on staff who has a basic understanding of how to care for and repair equipment, in the rare instance of an unexpected issue.
- Generally speaking, most suppliers require that vulcanized barcode labels and equipment come from a single source. While not necessarily a drawback, it is a consideration when determining who will supply your automated barcode labeling systems. Be sure that the same provider also has depth in their ability to supply sequentially numbered barcode labels that will withstand your process.
Not ready to fully invest in automatic label applicators, but interested in learning how to improve the manual barcode label application process? There are label dispensers for that!
Label dispensers aren’t technically ‘automation’, as they don’t replace the manual task of actually applying the label to the rubber. What they do help with, is the facilitation of peeling the label from its release liner, which can be the trickiest part of manual label application.
A label dispenser takes pre-printed barcode labels, peels the label from the release liner and presents the label to the operator, ready to simply grab and place. This ‘middle of the road’ solution can remove seconds of time associated with the labeling of each and every tire. Responsible for rewinding the liner, label dispensers also keep the work cell tidy and free of waste. Dispensers are a low cost means of improving upon a manual barcode label application strategy.
Choosing the best tire barcode label application method to suit your process is a decision that shouldn’t be made without first considering the bigger manufacturing picture. Barcode labels are critical in ensuring each tire maintains an identity throughout manufacturing, making the application process equally as important. If you’re experiencing challenges in tracking tires throughout the process, or are considering upgrading your existing barcoding strategy, know that there a lot of options, each of which should be weighed against your challenges and goals.
To learn more about partnering to design a bead label applicator for your process, check out our service page.
Or, if you need some advice on your current processes schedule a free consultation with one of our label pros!