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30 October 2014

AstralPool Makes a Big Splash with an Automated Labelling Solution from Peacock Bros. and Intermec by Honeywell.

Massive time savings of 60-70% in label printing

AstralPool is a leading international brand in the swimming pool and spa industry, manufacturing and supplying a complete range of equipment extending from pool pumps, pool cleaners, pool filters to pool heating. Their products are distributed in over 170 countries and available at more than 100 sales offices and branches located across 30 countries.

At AstralPool’s Noble Park manufacturing location in Melbourne, Victoria, 3,500 line items and a total of around 2.6 million finished goods and components are shipped out to approximately 4,000 customers nationally and internationally.

“Over the past five years with growth of around 20% per year, AstralPool’s manufacturing and distribution centre was looking for a technology solution that could significantly boost the efficiency of our product and packaging labelling process. Specifically, we wanted to invest in a modern labelling system that could significantly cut the amount of time spent printing labels, offer the flexibility to meet the varying labelling requirements of our international and local customers and reduce waste,” said Brendan Butler, Production Manufacturing Manager, AstralPool.

A Dated System Struggling to Stay Afloat

From the conception of AstralPool’s Noble Park location in the 1990’s up until 2012, the labelling software system was run from a desktop computer connected to a printer which was managed by the production planner. This saw the production planner printing up to 5,000 labels per day prior to the products actually being produced.

Considering AstraPool Noble Park’s strong growth over the past ten years and the amount of products manufactured doubling and tripling, it is little surprise that the number of labels needed to identify these products has sky-rocketed. The database containing all the different label templates required for each customer had in turn been increasing. In recent years this left the production planner with a complex maze to navigate each day when it came time to print off all the required labels.

Aside from the huge difficulties locating the right label to print in the system, another issue for the production planner was that labels were printed in bulk. The production planner would print what they judged to be enough labels for the entire day, rather than waste time having to re-navigate through the database over and over. During the day changes in production and label details often led to fluctuations in the number of labels needed, subsequently wasting labels or further time printing more labels.

The main catalyst for change eventually came when AstralPool’s labels were no longer approved for all the markets that they sold into around the world. This predominantly applied to the U.S market, which began requiring that labels adhered to UL Standards for Safety, the labelling standards introduced in the European market as well as the Australian Gas Association requirements.

Filtering the Problems Out

Driven by the need to source a new labelling solution to meet the UL Standards, which will likely require them to add another labelling supplier to an already long list, AstralPool decided it was time for a system overhaul.

“AstralPool contacted Peacock Bros. and explained their desire to find and integrate a new technology solution that would allow them to have one labelling system that could generate a range of labels suitable for all their different customer requirements,” said Neil Crump, Peacock Brothers Managing Director.

Following consideration of AstralPool’s key requirements for the new label printing technology solution of increased flexibility, label printing productivity as well as efficiency, it became clear the best option was the PM43 from Intermec by Honeywell. The Smart Printer fitted all the requirements; the PM43 could operate in a completely stand-alone operation due to the unique Fingerprint program from Intermec by Honeywell, which allows the product database to easily be updated, it was a rugged industrial printer suited to the factory floor and it had a reliably fast print speed for as-required label printing.

“Since moving to one autonomous technology solution for label printing, we’ve already seen a return on investment through massive time savings of 60-70% in our label printing.”
— Brendan Butler, AstralPool, Production Manufacturing Manager

The Intermec by Honeywell PM43 is remotely managed with a locally stored easy to manage database with all of AstralPool’s different label templates to meet worldwide customer standards, as well as incorporated logo graphics and part information provided by other companies for OEM products.

It is easy and fast to make repairs to the printers, such as replacing print heads and rollers, in the factory without the need for any tools. The result is significantly lower repair costs compared to the more common situation in which repairs would come associated with the high costs of calling someone out to replace parts or mailing the whole printer back to a service centre. But the most significant saving comes with the avoidance of printer down time, which causes disruption to labelling of products and packages and subsequently causes delays in product delivery to customers.

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AstralPool Makes a Big Splash with an Automated Labelling Solution from Peacock Bros. and Intermec by Honeywell.