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Tackling the ‘8 Wastes of Lean’ in Coding and Marking with Industry 4.0

Andy Barrett highlights how manufacturers can combine Lean Manufacturing and Industry 4.0, and utilise automation, integration, and cloud connectivity, to reduce manufacturing waste and improve productivity

Lean Manufacturing is anything but new. The concept, which emphasises the value in minimising unnecessary manufacturing waste to reduce complexity and cost, has its roots in the early automotive manufacturing systems of Henry Ford, and later, the Toyota Production System of the 1950s.

A lot has changed in the past 70 years, however, and Industry 4.0 has lent a new suite of tools to aid manufacturers to embrace Lean Manufacturing principles in the modern era.

The 8 Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing highlights eight forms of waste that occur within manufacturing operations:

  1. Defects

  2. Overproduction

  3. Waiting

  4. Non-Utilised Talent

  5. Transportation

  6. Inventory

  7. Motion

  8. Extra Processing

A Lean Manufacturing model advocates optimising processes by eliminating these eight wastes – allowing manufacturers to focus on value-added production processes.


Products that have been incorrectly coded are a huge cause of unnecessary manufacturing waste – costing manufacturers significant time and money to correct.

Often driven by legislative requirements, product coding and marking is a small, but vital step within manufacturing operations, which, if overlooked, can be a significant cause of defects. As a final step in the manufacturing process, any errors caused by coding and marking amplify the waste, detracting the value that was added in every step that preceded it.

Mistakes in product coding include incorrect information printed onto final products; issues with code quality, often caused by errors elsewhere on a production line, which can lead to illegible, incomplete, or missing codes; and incorrect code placement, including misaligned or misplaced codes.

Coding automation solutions have been developed to help eliminate or greatly reduce the risk of incorrect codes, by limiting manual data entry. By utilising coding automation software, manufacturers can reduce the need for manual data entry by enabling printers to automatically populate label templates based on a central database or integrate with an existing MES or ERP system to create codes based on existing production orders.

The risk of defects due to incorrect codes, poor print quality, or misplaced/misaligned codes, can be further reduced by establishing a code validation system to ensure that all information on product labels is present, correct, and readable. Integrated cameras and vision inspection systems can be set up to work alongside coding and marking systems to check codes and automatically remove incorrectly coded items from the line. Systems can also be set up to keep a count of all rejected codes and alert a production manager when a certain threshold has been reached. If desired, it’s also possible for systems to intervene and stop a line until an issue can be rectified.


Another cause of production line waste is producing more of a product than is needed to fulfil production quotas. Excess produce needs to be stored until it can be used, necessitating warehouse space, reducing the available shelf life to the end consumer, and increasing the chance of products spoiling before they can be sold.

Such overproduction is often caused by loss of faith, which manufacturers can overcome by eliminating defects in production. From a coding and marking perspective, eliminating the main causes of coding errors can help reinstate trust in production systems and reduce costs that result from overproducing.


Waiting for the previous step in a process to complete is another significant cause of manufacturing waste; one which is also inextricably tied to overproduction. On busy manufacturing lines, every second counts – particularly in industries with slim profit margins. Manufacturers that rely on manual processes to stop production lines, and initiate product changeovers, will find themselves at risk of excess waste in the form of waiting.

However, coding automation software helps address this form of waste by utilising information from production orders to work out ahead of time how much of a product is required, and set up an automatic product count, linked to an alert system, to notify a system operative to initiate a stop as soon as a required production volume is achieved.

The same system can be used to allow production staff to plan and prepare for a product changeover ahead of time, streamlining the changeover process and reducing downtime between product runs.

Non-utilised talent

Lean Manufacturing principles advocate a culture of continuous improvement. One of the surest ways to encourage this is by automating routine tasks to free up non- or under-utilised talent on production lines, and ensure an engaged, optimised workforce.

Working with a provider who can offer bespoke training alongside products and solutions is key to ensuring that production personnel are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve the print quality, reliability, and efficiency, that modern production lines demand.


Excessive transport, movement, and handling of items can be yet another key cause of manufacturing waste – in coding and marking, unnecessary transportation of products can often be linked back to product defects.

When a defect occurs in the coding and marking of a product, the best possible outcome is reworking – by unpackaging the product and sending it back through the production line to be reprocessed and repacked – all at an additional cost to the manufacturer. Unfortunately, in some industries where there is a high risk of spoilage and contamination (e.g. dairy), this may not be an option.

Product waste in this regard will often incur an additional cost to remove, and properly dispose of wasted products – adding additional transport waste to the mix. Fortunately, manufacturers can easily avoid this type of transportation waste by ensuring that their coding and marking systems are optimised to avoid defects.


Wasteful manufacturing processes inevitably lead to excess inventory in the form of product ingredients. Manufacturers who regularly overproduce will need to have excess stock in place to keep up with their overproduction – it’s a vicious cycle that is wasteful and inefficient in terms of cash flow.

As we’ve seen, product defects (including coding) are the main cause of overproduction. By utilising coding automation solutions to avoid defects, manufacturers can mitigate the need to stock excess ingredients. With a streamlined, automated production line, manufacturers need only to hold the stock that is needed to fulfil production orders.


If transportation waste occurs in the unnecessary movement of products from one location to another, motion can be understood as the unnecessary movement of people. Industry 4.0 has revealed greater opportunities to reduce motion requirements than ever before.

Again, coding automation comes into play, offering manufacturers the opportunity to centralise all label management rather than relying on production operatives to move between different pieces of machinery to manually access or enter information.

Cloud communications can also be utilised to avoid unnecessary motion and provide a remote overview of how different parts of a production line are working, giving manufacturers access to real-time information on printer performance and production metrics from anywhere in the world.

Extra processing

Coding automation, by definition, helps to remove extra processing waste – by automating manual tasks and streamlining production processes.

Traditional manufacturing methods require manual processes in place to ensure that the right data is created and printed onto the right product. When creating a batch code, for example, a production operative would need to follow a procedure to create the data, and ensure that it is correctly printed, this would involve:

  1. Creating the batch code using a production order, date, location, etc.

  2. Manually entering the code into the printer

  3. Checking the final product to ensure that the code printed is correct and legible

With Industry 4.0 all these manual processes can be eliminated.

Automated coding solutions provide manufacturers with the ability to create batch, product, and date codes, and populate label templates based on existing production orders, while automatic vision systems can be used to verify product information.

In this way, the manual process of creating, entering, and checking codes can all be effectively eliminated.


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