What is OCR Optical Character Recognition?

by | EPIC Machine Vision

Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is a way to automate quality assurance inspections for labels and packaging. At much higher speeds than the human eye, OCR systems can read and analyze various alpha-numeric information on product packages, including:

  • Artwork
  • 2D barcodes
  • Expiration dates and other similar codes
  • Allergen and ingredient information


In as little as 30 milliseconds, cameras can take an image of a label or package and compare it against a database of ideal images or correct codes to verify things like:

  • Correct and complete (not cutoff) ingredient/allergen information on products
  • Correct product label verification to the SKU being run on the line
  • Misprint or unreadable (untraceable) print identification which can cause traceability issues
  • Expiration date verification to ensure expiration and best buy dates are correct
  • Typo or incorrect printer configurations that can also lead to misprinting or untraceable packages

Depending on the challenges you face, OCR inspections can significantly improve your operations by:

  • Eliminating or drastically reduce labeling and date-coding waste by catching mistakes within 10 products or less
  • Enabling easier FDA compliance (CFR Part 21) by logging data automatically on every product
  • Improving product traceability throughout your distribution network by ensuring codes and labels are readable and traceable
  • Ensuring compliance with import/export regulations through verification of correct labeling and dating
  • Improving brand reputation and reduce risk of recalls by ensuring all products leave with the correct label
  • Improving line speeds by removing QA bottlenecks

In the Video: 99.7% of Date-Code Mistakes Caught and Traceability Improved with Multi-Point OCR Inspection

A high speed OCR inspection uses two different inspections to verify expiration dates and 2D matrix codes on snack canisters. An overhead camera inspects expiration dates on the tops of canisters at line speeds up to 1,000 cans per minute, rejecting incorrect or unreadable canisters off the line for recycling. A second set of three cameras inspects the side of canisters for 2D matrix codes, ensuring products are coded correctly and trackable through all distribution partners.

This particular solution works for various size packages, fonts, and line rates, and be easy for line operators to install and use. It was rolled out across 15 lines at several plants across the clients portfolio.

You can read the full case study here.

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