Logging ink consumption and exchanging barrels at the dispenser

Inks for spot colours take a complex route through the print workflow, being blended together, with small amounts of leftovers frequently returned from the press as well.

That’s why, for packaging and label converters that regularly blend spot colours, ink inventory control depends on record-keeping at multiple points in the workflow – and dedicated ink management software is the key to efficiency.

In the previous blog, we explored how software simplifies record-keeping at the first two of those stages:

  • the point of purchasing
  • booking-in of new inks to the store room

Why automated inventory control in the ink room matters

Now let us look at the third point of record-keeping: connecting and disconnecting barrels of inks at the dispenser.

When an ink barrel is connected or filled, two internal ink stocks must be updated at the same time: the inventories booked into the warehouse are reduced, while the machine stocks in the ink room go up. Automated record-keeping at this point answers both the need for real-time stock visibility and ink batch traceability – without the burden of paperwork.

Advanced Ink Logistics: inventory control with traceability

GSE’s Advanced logistics software module has a program that does exactly this. It provides:

  • a continuous log of all ink barrels – past and present – that have been connected to the ink dispenser.
  • the dates when each barrel was connected and disconnected, making it possible to link every ink ingredient mixed for a spot colour print job, to a specific batch
  • the current stock levels (in KG) of each barrel connected to the ink dispenser
  • a fast, clean means exchanging connected barrels, through a simple activation / deactivation procedure

Operating the software is straightforward and avoids the need to enter any ink inventory data more than once.

GSE Ink manager – Barrel levels


The program tells the user exactly how much of each colour is available for immediate dispensing. Graphic displays with a pictogram of ink dispenser configuration clearly communicate the stock levels of each connected base ink, making it easy to plan for a barrel exchange.

Steps for a barrel exchange at the ink dispenser

The first step is to safely remove the empty barrel from the ink dispenser. When instructed, the software automatically deactivates the pump, so the operator can perform a clean barrel exchange, without ink spillage.

Once the new base ink is physically connected to the dispenser, the operator updates its status in the software by keying in the container’s unique identification number, or by scanning its barcode label. The software now recognizes the barrel’s new status and location. Automatically, the weight and value data of the newly connected ink are added to the dispenser’s inventory records – while being simultaneously deducted from the warehouse inventory.

The software offers the option to transfer any ink remaining in the disconnected barrel to the new container. Many printers prefer to pour the last few kilos of leftover ink into the new barrel, and the records for the new barrel can be updated accordingly.

And finally, with the records updated, the barrel exchange is complete and the software automatically activates the pump and circulates the ink, allowing the new barrel of ink to be used at the dispenser.

Easy ink batch tracking and real-time stock visibility

The barrel exchange program has extensive sorting and filtering options, so the user can search through a historical database to track down specific batches, or check connection dates.

Practical tips for a smooth barrel exchange

  • It is important to exchange the barrel before it has reached its minimal content, to prevent air getting sucked into the system. Sucked air may cause unwanted drying of ink or irregular dispensing behavior (like splashing). The software warns the user when a barrel has reached its minimum content level – to discourage dispensing at critically low levels. Alternatively, the software can be configured to make it impossible to dispense a component which has reached its minimum content level.
  • We recommend the barrel contents are stirred before connection to the dispenser.
  • When you exchange a barrel, it is important to prevent air contamination, ink leakage and drying of inks. Before you connect the new barrel, check if the sealing rings in the barrel connections are intact, and clean the connections with a cloth.
  • When you want to transfer any ink remaining in the disconnected barrel to the new container, make sure the transferred ink is clean and of good quality (e.g. no hard particles, debris or deviating viscosity). This will extend the lifetime of the dispensing valves and pumps.
  • Immediately after the new barrel is connected, circulate the inks a few minutes to assure a proper homogeneity.

Simplifying stocktaking and traceability for spot colour printers

Automatically recording barrel exchanges at the dispenser makes ink inventory control easier and more efficient for spot colour printers:

  • It ensures accurate real-time stock level information – at the dispenser and in storage
  • Ink inventory changes are made with minimal administration, reduced employee time
  • Periodic stocktaking exercises are less costly and completed faster
  • Reduced risk of error
  • Easy tracing of ink ingredients in spot colour mixes back to ink batches – and forwards from the barrel to the customer’s order.

The complete solution for controlling spot colour ink inventories

With automated record-keeping in place at the point of purchasing, the booking-in of inks at the warehouse, and the connection of barrels at the ink dispenser, the packaging printer can manage ‘virgin’ inks from the supplier to the moment they are blended – in essence, the purpose of GSE’s Advanced logistics module.

If you combine this with the GSE Return ink management module – for returning leftover inks to the warehouse or clustering them into a base colour for direct dispensing – the printer has the complete solution for controlling ink inventories for spot colours throughout the workflow. And that makes it possible to know, on-demand and in real-time, how much ink is available for production and what’s on order – for better production planning and forecasting.