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Off-Line vs. In-Line Inspection: Risk Mitigation to Avoid Printing Errors

Source: GlobalVision
Off-Line vs. In-Line Inspection

Earlier this year, food manufacturer Kent Quality Foods, Inc. recalled over 300,000 pounds of meat, due to a labeling error in its products’ ingredients.1 Specifically, the company’s ready-to-eat hot dogs and sausage included soy, which was not listed on the label, putting those with soy allergies at serious risk.

In another labeling error in 2018, Pfizer issued a voluntary recall of a flavor of liquid Children’s Advil, due to a potentially dangerous dosing error on its packaging.2 Specifically, the dosage cup included in the packaging was listed with measurements in teaspoons, but the label on the bottle was marked in milliliters. As a result, the safety of the vulnerable pediatric population for that medication was put in jeopardy. These are just two examples of what can go wrong if a company does not have rigorous quality control of print, labeling, and packaging processes.

The traditional, real-time approach of in-line print inspection systems is one way to prevent these and other dangerous, costly errors. The technology, used to analyze every component in a print run and detect defects, registration issues, and mechanical and operator errors, requires a sample from early in the run to be used as the Master and as a baseline for the rest of the job. This can be risky, though, as the Master file is the only one that has been approved by the customer. Therefore, if there is an error in the transferred file, then all components compared against it will be wrong too, and the responsibility—and associated costs—of fixing any spoilage falls on the shoulders of the printer.

To prevent this, another option is available in off-line inspection software. With off-line inspection, printing components are removed from the line throughout the run and scanned into the system, where the software can compare them against the original Master file. It will check for typos, artwork consistencies, and, if used from the beginning, any pre-press human errors. As opposed to in-line inspection, which requires one camera or device for each printing press, one off-line inspection software license can be used to analyze components from multiple presses.

For those companies with smaller budgets, off-line inspection software can be used as a reliable and affordable single inspection system. However, even companies confident in their current in-line inspection system should consider off-line, as automated systems do not let you proactively prevent errors or notify you of them during the printing process. To realize how offline inspection software can help you avoid costly recalls, you must understand how it can help safeguard your printing and labeling process by complementing the value of in-line inspection.