Clearmark earns its Zebra service stripes

Making good on its zero downtime customer promise, coding and labelling specialist Clearmark Solutions – widely known for supplying ICE print equipment - is now recognised as an official Zebra Technologies Partner.

Awarded ‘Registered Reseller and Printer Repair Specialist’ status by the pioneering global print company, the addition of Zebra’s off-line printers, all fully compatible with the CLARiSUITE suite of software products that incorporates CLARiSOFT label design software and CLARiNET networking software used across all ICE printers, gives food and drink processors of all sizes more coding options and a way of monitoring Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

A familiar site in UK food and drink production facilities, the thermal transfer Zebra desktop printer is synonymous with efficiency, functionality and enhanced productivity. Delivering best-in-class offline print speeds, production facilities that have migrated to more advanced real-time online coding systems, for example Clearmark’s transformative ICE Vulcan print and apply labeller, continue to depend on this reliable printer mainstay as a shrewd coding and labelling buffer.

As time is the ultimate commodity in fast paced manufacturing environments, having a printer backup alleviates the most common tech-related frustrations, safeguarding against downtime and providing extra on-demand print capacity to flex to seasonal promotions, limited edition runs and bespoke product campaigns, noted Clearmark’s Gemma Butlin.

The aftercare manager expanded: “Given that downtime can have such a detrimental impact on businesses of allZeb sizes, having an offline Zebra printer that’s completely aligned to a company’s online real-time coding system will always be beneficial to a manufacturers’ disaster recovery strategy. As well as adding additional print capacity to cope with seasonal peaks, they also guarantee a continuous workflow when online printers are undergoing maintenance, consumable changeovers or repairs.”

Compatible solutions for SMEs

For the UK’s 6,700 micro, small and medium sized food and drink enterprises and the estimated 40,000 artisan businesses operating in the sector, a Zebra desktop printer provides a robust and flexible start-up coding machine.

As a sector specialist, Clearmark can help to introduce efficient labelling systems at the earliest phase of an SMEs development, yet offer the opportunity to upgrade to a compatible online print system when growth and retailer Codes of Practice (COP) warrant it. Sharing familiar software across the entire Zebra and ICE range is a unique benefit of this new partnership emphasises Clearmark’s marketing manager Charlotte McCormick. Ms McCormick said: “Labelling isn’t confined to the large processors. For the expansive SME market it is just as critical. The ‘artisan’ label conveys a personal message to consumers that products have been prepared with care. Being able to showcase this detail using a Zebra printer to create batch and case labels, means that when SMEs scale up to an online printer the brand messaging, quality and format is consistent.”

Because the labelling software is exactly the same, files can easily be converted to an online printer with no business interruption. Ensuring the vibrant graphics and crisp typography match from one printer to the next.

Championing both company’s solution-focused ethos, Clearmark set out at the start of the partnership to create a mobile print station enabling manufacturers to easily move their Zebra printer around the factory. “Understanding the production environment, the practical solutions that make customers’ life easier and delivering user-friendly options underpins this likeminded collaboration,” said Ms McCormick.

A natural extension

The ability to offer a complete suite of products and service, including full access to Clearmark’s proven engineering expertise and technical support, even to the existing Zebra printer and consumables customer base, only serves to fortify Zebra’s strong global infrastructure. “Across this partnership we are replicating our industry-leading processes that are proven to be successful. Delivering a seamless experience at every customer touchpoint,” added Ms Butlin.

Repairs, guidance, troubleshooting and design support all fall within the support contracts that each manufacturer has in place. Zebra champions have been fully trained within the Nottingham-based service and tech support teams enabling Clearmark to mirror the service levels they are renowned for delivering.

The ability to access CLARiSOFT drag and drop label design software and CLARiNET networking software (used across the ICE product range), via the Zebra printer and customer’s IT infrastructure enables food and drink operatives to react instantly to any changes required. “The simplicity and compatibility of CLARiSUITE reduces operative errors. Additionally, the integrated coding software links ICE, Zebra and native printers in real-time to standardise factory processes and synchronise up to 99 printers to enhance traceability,” said Ms Butlin.

With an 80 percent remote first-time fix rate, Clearmark has extended its free online tech support to all Zebra desktop print customers. Aligned to the company’s pride and passion values, no request is off limits. The support team can assist with label design and upload to a customer’s server. So should there be a major IT issue, the Clearmark team can create labels remotely using CLARiSUITE and with CLARiSOFT/Net the job can be added to the Zebra via RS232 or network TCP/IP to deliver whatever support is needed to switch to offline Zebra printers and keep production flowing. For customers without the CLARiSUITE software, jobs can be created using Zebra’s own design software and a USB can be used to add jobs to the printer.  Every call request is documented, followed up and closed.

According to experts at the International Society of Automation, every factory loses at least five percent of its productivity as a result of downtime. Some as much as 20 percent. Ms McCormick concluded: “Downtime is one of the biggest challenges facing food and beverage manufacturers and there are many cost and productivity implications. Being able to switch between and ICE online and Zebra offline printer provides a critical and economical safeguard to maintain labelling continuity.”