Whether you’re a tire manufacturer, distributor, or warehouser, companies within the tire industry are consistently asking us how they can better manage their tire tread labeling process. When we dig a bit deeper though, what we actually discover is that specifically, the goal is often centered around making the elements associated to a manual labeling process more accurate and consistent.
4 tread labeling inconsistencies solved by automation
- Physical space
- Brand presentation
It will come as no surprise that when handling a process like labeling in a manual way, the only thing that remains constant are the variables. It is a simple fact that humans cannot apply labels at a constant speed, or without error- making it difficult to forecast, plan, or ramp operations. An obvious way to tighten up the controls is to replace the manual process with that of automation, which is exactly what we propose as the solution to inconsistencies.
Tire tread labeling automation to be specific.
And with the decision to replace a manual task with an automated one comes a host of improvements that positively affect the consistency of your process. Four to be exact.
Holidays, vacations, restroom breaks, sick time, and the simple fact that no human can maintain a perfectly consistent application speed minute after minute, shift after shift all equate to inconsistencies as it relates to true throughput levels. Most tire manufacturers we’ve encountered who are relying on manual labor for the application of tread labels are measuring their labeling throughput as a range. Particular shifts, specific employees, the rate at which errors are made, and the number of label changeovers to accommodate specific products can all be factors that dramatically affect the label output accomplished via manual labor.
No doubt that the more variables one has to account for, the less accurate an estimated throughput expectation becomes. Further It can become difficult to keep up with the already-determined throughput speeds of aligned workflows that are utilizing automation. A manual process can make planning for expected throughput and growth a challenge to manage. By shifting your manual process to that of an automated one, you’ll tighten controls on throughput, and know exactly how many tires can be labeled per minute, hour, shift, or year. This improvement will enable for better planning and decision making, and easier ramp-ups.
Beyond the difficulties associated with throughput planning that come as a result of manual tread label automation, are the challenges associated with the actual speeds themselves. We have found that the average human needs anywhere between 5 and 10 seconds to peel and apply a label to a tire. Aside from the simple variance within that range (10 seconds is double that of 5!), is the simple math that proves any given employee will only be labeling 12 tires per minute – and that’s if they’re really efficient!
Compare those throughput speeds to that of an automated system like Chromaffix, which can apply a tread label to a tire every 2.5 seconds, and the pure speed at which you’re able to accomplish the same task can be nearly doubled, if not tripled. Depending on the throughput of your current workflow system, and the future demands to accommodate growth, manual application of tread labels to tires simply may not be a feasible strategy.
2. Physical space
Manual application of tread labels to tires typically requires an incredible amount of label stock to be kept in inventory. In fact, when conducing site audits, it is not uncommon at all for our field engineering team to see multiple pallets of pre-printed labels simply sitting, waiting to be utilized. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this approach, keeping this quantity of labels on-hand does tie up not only budget dollars, but physical space in inventory. It also is unlikely to be consistent all the time; meaning that from day to day, the quantity of inventory allocated to label materials may drastically change.
Pallets full of labels can also be hard to manage, especially if they vary based on specific brand of product. The administrative effort needed to ensure the appropriate labels are both in stock and properly delivered to specific workstations can be monumental. Worse yet is running out of labels altogether and ceasing manufacturing as a result, leading to a whole different set of challenges and inconsistencies.
Beyond the supply of labels, the physical space needed for people to actually apply labels can also be inconsistent. Variables like throughput can have a dramatic effect on how many people are required for the application of labels. In an already tight manufacturing environment, adding another employee to a shift to help label may not even be feasible as a result of either safety or space.
When aiming for a lean process based on continuous improvement, it can be hard to plan for the space that additional people will occupy. An automated system however, is fixed as it relates to the amount of real estate it requires, making operational planning much easier. An automated tread labeling system like Chromaffix can consume as little as 6.37 cubic feet. What’s more though than just the potential space savings is the consistency in knowing exactly how much of your workflow will need to be allocated to the task of labeling, hence making lean processes and future planning exercises more achievable.
3. Brand presentation
It is no secret that tire manufacturers in today’s competitive landscape are utilizing every opportunity possible for brand differentiation. As the only marketing element on the tire at the point of retailing (with the exception of the brand printed on the sidewall or course), the tread label becomes a prime opportunity for global brands to visually differentiate themselves amongst competitive products.
When utilizing manual application for labeling of tread labels, again, the inconsistencies become a challenge. As we discussed above, it is likely that a human is moving at a pace that lags behind the workflow from which the tire came from & is moving to next within a larger process. This means that there likely isn’t time for an employee to make the effort to apply the tread label in a perfectly straight orientation on every tire, every time. Labels that are applied off-center may not initially appear to be problematic, but when stacked side-by-side on retailers shelves, the eye of the consumer quickly notices the messy label placement, often leading to perceptions of brand or dealer unprofessionalism.
An automated tread labeling system like Chromaffix ensures consistency related to label placement accuracy. Additionally, an automated system can adjust the height at which the label is applied to account for various sizes of tires, which also ensures labels are placed in the center of the tire, and in a straight fashion. A roller arm works to press the label onto the surface, to ensure that a.) it sticks, and b.) it remains clean. Even if wearing gloves, manually pressing the label into place can leave dirt marks or other residues on the label, which again, negatively affects the brand.
Beyond the placement accuracy of labels, lies yet another inconsistency that challenges brand representation: what is actually printed on the label. Legislative requirements associated with safety features like wet grip and fuel consumption may be a requirement depending on your location. These elements are difficult to manage in-house through pre-printed label stock and manual application, but with an automated tread labeling system, such information is able to be printed on-demand, and applied to the corresponding tire, all within a matter of seconds, greatly reducing any inconsistencies or potential liability issues related to consumer trust.
Finally, automated tread labeling utilized partially preprinted labels that colorfully represent the brand. When working with a partner like Computype, this means that your brand, logo, and other product-specific information can be preprinted onto labels to ensure colors and fonts align with brand standards. The preprinting of these labels handled by professionals as opposed to on-demand within your manufacturing process, not only reduces errors and waste, but ensures consistent output in terms of both scale and brand standard accuracy.
Speaking of errors and waste, it is almost a guarantee that both will exist with manual label application. If a label is misplaced, applied to the wrong tire, wrongly printed, or simply dropped on a dirty floor, you’ve not only thrown money away, but have also negatively affected the consistencies of associated processes like throughput. Replacing a manual process with that of automation essentially locks down the controls as only 1 label is printed and presented at a time, virtually removing the inconsistencies that come as a result of human error.
But where costs are the highest and most inconsistent as it relates to the manual label process come in the form of labor. Assuming a labor rate of $21 per hour per employee, and manual label application speeds of 10 seconds per tire, a manufacturing plant producing (and hence having to label) ten million tires per year could easily incur annual labor costs upwards of $700,000 just associated with manual tread labeling. Add on to that the labels themselves, any insurance claims, work not accomplished as a result of unplanned vacations, sick time, or turnover, and that figure only increases.
To take it one step further, its important to consider the costs that may result from labeling errors. Believe it or not, we have heard horror stories of mislabeled tires making their way to retailers before the error was caught- which can result in unplanned fright costs, sales lost, and irreparable damage to brand credibility.
Relying on a manual tread labeling process creates inconsistencies related to cost and expense. There are simply too many factors to attempt to manage or plan for to be fully efficient, effective, or economical.
An automated tread labeling system for an organization manufacturing ten million tires per year can prove full ROI in less than 1 year’s time. What’s more, is that it provides the opportunity to reduce, or virtually eliminate cost consistencies. On-site service is planned in advance, to ensure the system is fully functioning as it should be, and service contracts can be flexible to account for things like spare parts and additional support. Engineered to operate around the clock, a system like Chromaffix is intended to fully replace a manual tread labeling process, and as a result, remove any associated inconsistencies. Budgetary planning and forecasting will be more accurate when you aren’t having to factor in costs associated with human error.
So, with fewer unplanned expenses, less waste, more reliable throughput, and a better branding strategy, automated tire tread labeling systems far surpass manual processes as it relates to the issue of consistency. What’s more, making the shift from manual to automated labeling isn’t as cumbersome or expensive as you might think. We have clients that, even with highly customizable units, are up and running in less than six months.
When thinking through future plans, continuous improvement strategies, or the shift towards Industry 4.0, it is important to take a good look at any existing parts of your workflow that are heavily reliant on manual labor. As we’ve discussed, its virtually impossible to accurately plan, scale operations, or avoid errors when humans are responsible for critical elements within any given process.