Consumer Goods Giant Henkel Gives Packaging a Number
Serialization is one of the major future projects in the consumer goods industry. Each individual package is given its own number. This is suitable for traceability.
Throughout Europe, Henkel Consumer Brands prints an individual number on almost all packaging and bottles of products in the laundry, cleaning, and dishwashing detergents segment. This number, which the company calls a Unique Product Identifier (UPI), is already printed on during production in the form of a 2D code. On this basis, the manufacturer is now developing more and more applications that save costs, especially in production, reports Lebensmittelzeitung.
Serialization at Henkel is a topic in the FMCG industry: Within the framework of GS1, manufacturers and retailers worldwide have committed themselves to marking all consumer units with a two-dimensional ("2D") code instead of the classic EAN barcode starting in 2028 and to be able to read it – this will be either the QR code in accordance with the the GS1 definition or the similar-looking Data Matrix Code. In 2D, many more digits and thus much more information can be accommodated than just the article number GTIN – up to and including the numbering of each individual package.
Henkel uses the Data Matrix Code standardized by GS1 as the carrier for its Unique Product Identifier. The idea for the forward-looking serial number UPI came about when the company was considering how best to implement the EU’s CLP regulation, explains Johannes Holtbrügge, Digital Transformation Manager - at Henkel Consumer Brands. The regulation requires that every article with a potentially hazardous chemical composition be labeled with a 16-digit formulation identifier.
Henkel decided not to place this ident number, which changes with every mixture change, on adhesive labels produced long beforehand, but to print it directly on bottles and packages during production. Since printers had to be installed in the plants for this purpose anyway, the manufacturer applies the Data Matrix Code with the Unique Product Identifier, which can currently only be used internally at Henkel, in one go. “Simultaneous printing opens up some new possibilities for us,” says Holtbrügge.
Henkel labels laundry detergents and household cleaners with the UPI at all of its seven European WPR plants, which together have almost 100 production lines. The company is increasing the benefits of the new technology bit by bit. Production transparency has increased because the UPI can be linked to other data, such as process parameters like fill weight or pressure. This helps with very granular error analysis and optimization. The UPIs are also fed into the Digital Backbone, the central element of Henkel’s digitization of production and supply chains.
In addition, there are smaller increases in efficiency. For example, in product control, filling out a paper form is no longer necessary because employees can capture the 2D code via iPad. “We want to increasingly use the UPI code for other applications,” explains Holtbrügge.
In its factories, Henkel is proving that printing 2D codes and thus serializing individual packages is possible without complications.
If 2D codes spread to FMCG packaging in the near future, it could change a lot. For example, a 2D code can contain the best-before date or a batch number. The code can also link to an online database with much more information via smartphone scan. That is what industry organization GS1 plans to do with its Digital Link system, which is currently under development.
“The combination of 2D code on the package and our GS1 Digital Link gives companies completely new ways to interact with consumers, but also with other links in the supply chain,” explains Ingo Wolters of GS1 Germany.
To note down and register: Coding and marking technology, identification systems and labeling technology will also be exhibition areas at FACHPACK 2024.