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Case study: Madura Tea improves carton barcoding

Supplier: Matthews Australasia
26 May, 2010

Installing the Matthews Intelligent Identification Avery ALX 720 on-line Label Printer Applicators (LPA's) has significantly improved barcode labelling efficiency, thus throughput, at Madura Tea Estates' modern tea-packing facilities in northern NSW.

Key facts:

  • Madura needed to improve coding on shipping cartons with increased production.
  • 2 ALX 720 Label Printer Applicators were installed.
  • Need for manual operation was eliminated.
  • Simple on-line control of print and application processes.
  • Tailored printer design and installation to suit Madura's operation.
  • Bar codes printed at high speed.

Madura Tea Estates, Australia’s first sub-tropical tea plantation, pioneered Australian green tea production in the 1980s. 

As one of Australia's top locally owned and operated tea companies, Madura blends and packages more than 24 tea styles in loose leaf, teabag and silk infusers.

As production increased, Madura looked to improve coding on shipping cartons, and installed 2 ALX 720 Label Printer Applicators from Matthews Intelligent Identification.

Madura's engineering and maintenance manager, Brad Clinch, says the new machines have greatly improved the way in which bar code labels are applied to Madura's shipping cartons.

"We used to use an off-line 'print and apply' system. It did the job, but it needed an operator. Installing the ALX 720 on-line print and apply units at the end of each of our 'non-enveloped' teabag packing lines, has vastly improved labelling efficiency." 

In the factory area where Madura produces non-enveloped teabags, 3 packing machines operate at 450 bags per minute each. Trays of 50 teabags are conveyed through to foil over-wrappers to seal in the flavour, and automatically inserted into packs on horizontal carton erectors. The cartons are then hand packed into shelf-ready outer shipper cartons and manually fed into carton tapers, which exit onto the Matthews labellers.

"We often have 3 packing machines feeding down one line, which means the ALX 720s are labelling 27 cartons a minute - which they do with absolute ease." 

Tailored installation for Madura operation
Brad says working with the Matthews team, Madura set up the LPAs to best suit their operation.

"Originally, the LPAs were to be mounted on frames placed beside the conveyors, but we wanted the print and apply heads to be installed directly on the conveyor frames, so they are integral to, rather than separate from, the frames. We also wanted the entire frames mounted on castors, so we can easily swap the printers between the lines."

Brad says he was pleased and impressed with how closely Mark Dingley, manager of Matthews Identification Systems Group, and senior project manager Greg Wiggins worked with him until the modifications were to his complete satisfaction.

"The ALX 720 printer applicators have been a valuable addition to our packaging lines, and full marks to Matthews for their commitment to redesigning them to meet our needs."

Matthews' Mark Dingley says the ALX 720 system is ideal for manufacturers like Madura, where labels need to carry a large volume of variable information, such as batch and lot numbers, bar codes and date of manufacture. "It prints and applies up to 400 labels a minute with absolute precision," Mark says, "and it can attach labels to the top, side or even the underside of products and packaging.

"Another great feature from a marketing point of view for Madura is that the Near Edge printhead runs at a top speed of 300mm/second, with 300 dpi resolution. This means that that very small fonts and graphics can be printed extremely quickly, yet still with razor sharp clarity."

Easy to use
Brad says Madura's operators have also found the equipment very easy to use.

"The operator panels have clear LED displays, and controlling all the printing and application processes is very simple."

He says Madura decided to go with Matthews because they felt confident of receiving good quality, reliability and after-sales service. "And we made the right choice," Brad says.

"David Alexander, who is our main contact at Matthews, is highly regarded at Madura Tea Estates."

Originally published on the Matthews blog