DSM Coating Resins and DSM Composite Resins, two Business Groups of DSM, faced a major challenge in labeling its products. The groups together referred to as the Resins group, with manufacturing facilities in Western Europe, the United States and the Far East, did not have a centralized labeling system for printing standardized Risk & Safety information for the resins that it produced.
The situation was complicated by the requirement to have Risk & Safety information printed in local language on labels for each jurisdiction that shipped materials passed through. Failure to comply could cause dangerous situations and result in fines.
Bert Hofsink, DSM Resins Team Leader, turned to GraphicALL systems b.v for a solution. GraphicALL recommended TEKLYNX’® SENTINEL™ Print Management solution, coupled with CODESOFT® label printing software. This approach would collect label information through an SAP IDoc, apply the proper instructions in the required languages, and send the information to the appropriate label printer.
DSM Coating Resins, Headquartered in the Netherlands, and DSM Composite Resins, headquartered in Switzerland, are part of DSM, a €8 billion company based in The Netherlands, which produces life science products, performance materials and industrial chemicals. DSM’s two business groups, DSM Coating Resins and DSM Composite Resins, make raw materials for the paint industry, as well as resins for use in technology and transportation, e.g. polyester boats. Together, they have 13 plants, including facilities in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as in Illinois, North Carolina and Georgia in the United States. They also have manufacturing in the Far East.
Many of the materials that DSM Resins produces require Risk & Safety (R&S) information, which means that product-specific labels must be affixed to every container. The printing volume is high. DSM Resins prints production, shipment, raw materials and air transport, as well as various other labels for small sample quantities and to meet customer- or country-specific requirements.
The company ships product in 200kg drums, 1,000-liter shipping containers and in tank loads. It also uses special containers for samples and to meet customer requirements. Shipping labels must accurately reflect the contents, as well as the R&S information, in the appropriate language(s) for every country that the container will pass through. DSM Resins prints about 700 print jobs each day that average 30-40 labels per print run and can range up to 200 labels. It drives about 30 printers at its 13 locations and maintains about 40 different label designs.
Company moves to centralized label management
Previously, the labeling was managed on a local level with each plant responsible for developing or adapting label wording and ensuring that R&S labels in the correct languages were affixed to the containers.
Commented Bert Hofsink, DSM Resins Team Leader, "What we used to have was 13 production plants that were using all kinds of applications to get safety data maintained locally. It was a messy situation and we even did get penalties from local authorities in some cases because the information was not up to date.
"Labeling is considered a business-critical application at DSM. Because it takes place at the end of the supply chain, any technical disturbance rapidly causes delays in transports. No labels mean no trucks leaving the plant!"
The company decided to centralize all of the labeling and drive it from its SAP Enterprise Resource Planning system located at its central hosting site in The Netherlands. Label design and administration for driving all of the label printing at every manufacturing plant would be managed by the Central SAP Application Management group. The actual material safety data would be controlled from one place by a Central Data Management department.
Hofsink contacted GraphicALL systems b.v, a Netherlands-based systems integrator, which recommended TEKLYNX® SENTINEL™ print management software. The new approach would take advantage of SAP’s IDoc document standard for electronic document exchange and co-locate TEKLYNX’ SENTINEL print management system at the central hosting site.
SAP IDoc feeds SENTINEL
About half of the overall project involved developing custom-built software for the SAP system. The company started by categorizing all of the R&S information so that it could create IDocs, small text files that would include references that SENTINEL could use to retrieve the correct information.
For instance, a Risk phrase may be defined in the SAP IDoc as R1 or R13; Safety information is similarly categorized with an S identifier; the language is defined as EN (English), NL (Dutch), SP (Spanish), etc.; and a local printer code is assigned based on the location of the requester.
The SAP system sends the IDoc information via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to the central labeling server. The "inbound IDocs" directory is monitored by SENTINEL. SENTINEL processes the data in the target file immediately. Using the shorthand references in the IDoc, SENTINEL looks up the actual text phrases and warning signs that are stored on the SAP system and retrieves the proper phrases in the required languages.
"On the label server, we have a database with all of the languages and all of the safety information where the actual text is available to be put on the label. Similarly, the safety symbols are stored on the label server. If a symbol code is found in the IDoc, SENTINEL picks up the corresponding graphical image and inserts it on the label," said Hofsink.
Now, an operator in any DSM Resins plant in Europe or the U.S. simply fills in a standard SAP screen on his or her local terminal, which is connected to the company’s Wide Area Network (WAN). For example in shipping, the operator selects the list of open deliveries. SAP calculates per-delivery line the needed number of labels. Based on the safety information of the material in the delivery, it also offers the appropriate label type, such as "ADR Class 3," or "Non-ADR." All the operator has to do is select the lines and press the "Print" button.
At that moment, an IDoc is being created by SAP. All relevant info, such as material code and name, batch number, customer "Ship To" address, number of labels, which label type, which printer, etc., is retrieved from the SAP database. The IDoc is sent to the SENTINEL server. SENTINEL selects the proper R&S phrases, language(s), and customer information, based on the IDoc. SENTINEL then uses TEKLYNX’ CODESOFT® label design and printing software to select the appropriate label design and insert the text into the label. The complete, formatted label is then sent over the WAN directly to the designated printer at the local site.
For instance, an operator in Italy who is shipping product to Poland selects the product that is being shipped, the quantity, the container size, the mode of transportation, the destination address, etc. The SAP system creates an IDoc. SENTINEL uses the data in the IDoc to select the languages (Italian, German, and Polish) and sends the appropriate R&S information in all three languages for the single label. The operator is instructed which label stock to use and the fully-formatted labels appear on the designated printer – all in a matter of seconds.
"The user thinks he is printing a label. What is actually happening is that he is starting a complete IDoc process between SAP and SENTINEL. The user only has to deal with SAP, and TEKLYNX SENTINEL is the 'black box' in the background. This 'black box' approach is really working well. Instead of asking the operator to learn another application, we focused on a tailor-made, easy-to-use SAP front-end solution, letting the technique do the actual work," explained Hofsink.
In order to make the operator selection process easier and more efficient, the user is presented with a site-specific menu that has customized default selections. The default selections can be overridden by the operator, as necessary. For instance, the default language for The Netherlands plants is Dutch; in the U.S., it is English. The menu also presents only the products that are manufactured in that plant.
A complete mirror of the label server is also installed. This backup server can take over the labeling process within minutes, should the first server fail. Each site also has at least two printers. This assures 7x24 availability.
Part of the development project was to establish a well-defined maintenance and update process that is managed by the Central SAP Application Management group. A user can issue a request if a new label is required. The new label is developed on a test server that is capable of running simulations with SAP data to check that both the content and the design are okay. Then the label is sent to the requestor; finally, a change control board reviews the new design. Once approved, it is released to production and made available to all of the 13 facilities.
"The TEKLYNX system has been in place for about two years now. It proved to be reliable and maintenance is really easy. For us, the real benefits are the streamlining of the labeling process on the sites, saving us lots of time there, and the excellent central control over label designs and data content," said Hofsink.
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