Tackling Regulations at Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Companies -Part Three
This is the final part of our three-part series examining various regulations that fast-moving consumer goods companies must consider as part of their manufacturing and distribution process. In our last discussion, we explored past, present, and future regulations affecting the manufacture of medical devices, hazardous ingredients, water and beer serialization, and food and allergens. Today we will focus on tobacco, cosmetics, as well as sustainability initiatives.
Tobacco and e-cigarette products are vulnerable to counterfeiting and diversion, strictly regulated, and subject to taxes. As a result, packaging lines for these products are highly automated and equipped to support track-and-trace requirements and halt illicit trade. Machine vision sensors and systems confirm each pack and higher levels of packaging are coded, collect data to support aggregation and traceability, and record passage through each stop in the supply chain and, ultimately, at point-of-sale.
The EU Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) requires a traceability system that works from point of manufacture to final reseller (the last economic operator before retail) plus tamper-proof security features that are composed of visible and invisible elements and provide evidence of tampering. It took effect for cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco on May 20, 2019. The deadline for all other tobacco products such as RRP (reduced risk products), NGP (next generation products), heated tobacco, snus and chewing tobacco is May 20, 2024. Compliance will necessitate the installation of online printing systems to apply serialized codes and integrated vision sensors or systems to confirm code presence and print quality, capture data for aggregation and traceability, and detect tax stamps.
In Russia, tobacco products have had to comply with marking and tracking regulations since July 1, 2020. Manufacturers must put a serialized DataMatrix code on packs and a linear barcode on cartons. The codes are scanned at each point in the supply chain, and data is transferred electronically to the Chestny ZNAK track-and-trace system. When sold, the cash register transmits sales data to the Chestny ZNAK system.
Many other countries have signed on to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Its goals are to reduce tobacco use worldwide and prevent illicit trade in tobacco products. Regulations are scheduled to take effect in September 2023.
China’s Cosmetic Supervision and Administration Regulation (CSAR) takes effect on May 1, 2022. It requires specific content on the primary package label and the sales packaging box for cosmetic products manufactured or sold in China. This includes any chemical products intended for daily use and applied on any external part of the human body to keep it clean, eliminate unpleasant odor, protect the skin, or improve appearance and beauty.
For primary packages, labels must carry the following terms printed in Chinese characters:
Sales boxes must display the Chinese name of the product in a prominent position, production date and shelf life, production batch number, and expiry date.
Sustainability is generating rising interest especially among the growing number of consumers who prefer to purchase products in sustainable packaging that is recyclable, contains recycled content, and/or is derived from renewable resources. As a result, regulations requiring coding of products and/or packaging are likely to be drafted since coding or marking could assist with identifying material for reuse, recycling, composting, or other end- of-life disposal and support a circular economy.
A foundation for such regulations is already in place with the release of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the EU’s European Green Deal. The March 2020 update of the Circular Economy Action Plan, which is part of the EU’s European Green Deal, calls for tackling packaging and packaging waste.
In addition, new goals were set in 2018 under the European Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste. By December 21, 2025, at least 65% by weight of all packaging waste must be recycled, with a target of recycling 50% of all plastic. Targets rise another 5% in 2030. The 2018 update also requires any member state that does not have an extended producer responsibility scheme to introduce one by January 1, 2025. The objective is to minimize the impact of packaging, to encourage reuse and recycling, and to establish effective systems of quality control and traceability of packaging.
Machine Vision Solutions
The common thread running through all the labeling and coding requirements is the need to confirm presence of required content, verify print quality, code correctness, and aggregation accuracy; collect data; and validate tax stamps. Cognex’s machine vision technology can accomplish any of these tasks on any part, packaging format, or substrate at the highest line speeds, including those found on tobacco, beverage, and dairy lines. It also has the expertise, either in-house or via the network of Cognex Partner Service Integrators, to install, operate, and maintain systems for maximum efficiency at minimum cost.
Cognex’s products and solutions for consumer goods include:
- 2D vision systems combine a library of advanced vision tools with high-speed image acquisition and processing to confirm code presence and print quality and read both alphanumeric codes and barcodes.
- Barcode readers, both handheld and fixed-mount designs, decipher 1D and 2D barcodes to capture information for track- and-trace databases.
- Standards-Based Grading (SBG) verifies print quality.
- Barcode verifiers, both handheld and fixed-mount designs, provide 100% verification of 1D or 2D barcodes and can include Verifier Offline alerts to ensure every code is checked.
- Process Control Metrics (PCM) offer enhanced verification capabilities and confirm readability to ensure maximum read rates and prevent returns and potential rework.
- Vision software identifies patterns, removes noise and clutter, and provides real-time performance and operational analytics to ensure accurate code capture even if the code is damaged. It also analyzes the data.
- AI-based software confirms the presence, print quality, and correctness of alphanumeric codes like the UFI. It provides human-like code readability beyond the capability of standard vision algorithms. This improves read rates and reduces scrap that must be checked or reworked by a human operator.
Vision systems, AI-based technology, and image-based barcode readers can help FMCG companies comply with labeling and coding regulations in any market. Regulations differ by region and country and often focus on protecting consumers from fake, diverted, and potentially dangerous goods, and enabling collection of taxes and customs duties. Compliance typically involves adherence to content requirements and marking products, labels, and/or packaging with alphanumeric codes, barcodes, and/or pictograms. Serialized codes are required if products must be traced and authenticated at every point in the supply chain. Although sometimes preprinted, codes often are printed on the packaging line. Vision systems and sensors, installed on the packaging line and at each point in the supply chain, ensure codes are readable and correct and capture data to track and trace product from manufacturer to consumer.