Laser Automation offers the ability of preventing counterfeiting and diversion of product. In this article, we will explore how laser marking/etching can be used for this purpose and what benefits are provided to manufacturers, consumers, and regulatory officials. This function of automation allows WLSC to continue our mission of reducing manufacturing expenses, providing protection to consumers and manufactures, and providing eco-friendly green manufacturing environments through the use of laser system automation.
Why Use Laser Automation for Preventing Counterfeiting
Preventing counterfeiting and product diversion is a major problem for brand name products. This also possesses a problem for other products where excess profits can be achieved by diverting items outside the normal distribution chain. An example of this is when a WLSC customer experienced product diversion from authorized selling agent. This selling agent sold to a different territory where higher prices could be charged. In this case, as with all diversion cases where products are removed from the defined channels, higher profits are available. This is due to either higher profit margins (increased sales price) in the diverted region vs the authorized region, or from increased sales volume achieved by the ability to sell more product as result of the diversion. End users are often unaware the unauthorized sales are taking place. The consumer might find the purchase of these products attractive as the unauthorized seller is not subject to pricing polices set by the manufacture, and they do not need to charge higher prices due to non-existent promotion and advertising costs. The process costs the authorized factory sellers to loose volume and profit. This causes complete disruption to the manufactures sales efforts, potentially putting distributors and resellers out of business, and ultimately costing consumers more money while making products unavailable or scarce in certain geographic areas. Laser Automation offers an excellent solution to this problem as explained later in this article.
Advantages of Laser Automation to Prevent Counterfeiting
Hand in hand with the issues and problems associated to diversion of product are the issues and problems associated with counterfeiting. High end brands and products, that might not be at the higher end of purchase price but is sought after, is subject to counterfeiting. This issue represents a major problem to manufactures and consumers as both ends of the product manufacture and sales cycle are defrauded. This can cause the manufactures loss of reputation, decreased sales, loss of profits, and potentially complete destruction of brands. This is due to the cheap low quality goods that replace the ‘real thing’. Then consumers stop purchasing the brands completely. Consumers are damaged by paying premium prices for inferior counterfeited products and not having use of a desired item. This issue is even more complex and dangerous when it occurs with medical or pharmaceutical products. Consumers can experience potentially serious health complications from counterfeited products that are not properly manufactured. Laser Automation does offer excellent solutions to these issues as explained later in this article.
Laser Automation by use of Indelible Product Marking
Mechanical laser etching and scribing systems sometimes completely destroy the product. Sometimes they cannot be used at all or the product is not completely destroyed. Automation can damage product and significantly increase scrap rates, while requiring secondary manufacturing process to check for a catch damage to the product. This sharply increases manufacturing costs; therefore, ultimately increasing consumer costs. Only automation using the most current available laser technology (meaning both hardware and software) can offer effectively ongoing flexible solutions for issues started with indelible product marking. With automation the laser light is absorbed into the product creating a permanent marking. This marking cannot be removed without actual destruction of the product; however, this would be obvious to all consumers and thus render the altered product unsalable. Let’s explore the other advantages and features of systems automation:
- Finally, both the ink systems and mechanical systems might not allow the manufacture to mark the product in the ideal location or with the ideal size to resolve the exact concerns and provide ultimate protection to manufactures and consumers.
- There are a limited number of ways to mark products both general industrial products, medical, and pharmaceutical products. Ink printing either with ink ‘spitters’ or ink pad printing and contact etching with scribers or sharpened blades are alternatives to marking systems. These alternatives may not be attractive or desirable for several reasons; inks and pad printing introduce chemicals and other elements to the products potentially causing contamination. They require cleaning and maintenance, introducing more chemicals and solvents potentially damaging the environment. They can be removed, allowing the products to be altered, diluted, diverted and resold to an inspecting public thereby damaging consumers and manufactures alike.
Laser Automaton for Precise and Consistent Placement of Marking
When Laser Automation is the high precision of the Galvo Head the laser etching or laser marking is placed in the exact same location with accuracy of .00047 inches 12µm (micron or micro meters) or better. One of the methods for protecting products against counterfeiting and diversion is to have a trained eye (warranty or product security expert\ department) looking for the mark or etching which verifies a product is legitimate or authentic. In these cases, it is important to have the marking located in the same place and with the same appearance each and every time. Integrated systems are the best way to assure this takes place as mechanical scribing & ink printing systems are subject to change of location and marking appearance.
Laser Automation using Unlimited Variety of Marking or Etching:
- Vision system can read bar codes on travelers or other areas of the product. Then the system can send that data to the laser for printing. A second machine vision system can then verity that the proper laser marking has been placed on the product and order the acceptance or rejection of the part.
- Production controls systems can send binary single to the laser system automation. Then automatically selecting the correct making file to be printed on the product these changes to marking files occur in micro-seconds.
- Production schedules can be downloaded to the Laser Automation systems via CSV file. Therefore, the entire days production is scheduled and tied to specific marking file. The system polls the proper folder or file [IE: CSV file] and marks the proper message on the product.
- The laser marking system is driven by vector based files which can be imported, exported, and changed in Nano seconds, as products change or marking requirements are altered.
- Properly integrated systems provide the best, fastest, least expensive, and most reliable method of protecting products and consumers.
When preventing counterfeit or diversion of product, we want all products to be marked regardless of SKU, product ID, or information required for the authentication mark which may differ from product to product. Ideally we want one single system that can provide the product authentication code without change over, stopping production lines to retool, and that can accept input regarding the final mark from various sources. Integrated systems are the ideal tools to achieve all these goals.
Laser Automation from WLSC
WLSC was established in Phoenix, Arizona in 1986. For 32 years, We have been providing laser system automation to our customers across a wide range of industries. The WLSC offices and manufacturing facility now located in Gilbert, AZ. We offers systems in the 266nm, 355nm, 532nm, YAG/Fiber, and Co2 platforms and in powers from 10w to 500w. WLSC maintains a full applications and testing lab and can work with your products to qualify the correct laser system for your operation. At Worldwide Laser we know lasers and look forward to hearing from you.
Examples of Diversion Protection by WLSC
The business of WLSC is to work with our customers to resolve manufacturing problems and issues via laser system automation. One WLSC customer was experiencing significantly declining sales in several key markets, creating threats to the profitability of long time sales channel partners. Additionally, they causing displacement the WLSC’s customer number one sales position in those markets. Our customer suspected product was being diverted away from the intended sales areas to other geographic locations, so higher margins and increased profits could be experienced by the sales agents in the diverted marked. WLSC created an automation system which generated 50 million unique serial numbers. The system was randomly feed the serial number (randomly so no person or operation could anticipate which serial number were issued in what order), which were printed on the products. A data base recorded the serial numbers and tied these individual packets to a box and then pallets, recording which serial number and in which boxes and on which pallets were designed for delivery to a specific geographic location. Later, after these laser marked products were disturbed field auditors sent by the manufacture to store location recorded the serial number. This allowed products in the store allowing tracing to determine in the products were in fact being sold in the designed and intended location or if they have been diverted. For those items found to be diverted the source of the product diversion was identified and corrected. An example of WLSC working with customers to solve business issues via Laser Automation.