From supply and manufacturing to distribution and shipping, the label is an essential part of any successful supply chain. What might look like a simple series of laminations to the untrained eye actually represents a complex design process and a key component of business success. With a vast variety of material, environmental and industry-specific factors at play, no application is the same. This is why a standard “peel-and-stick” label may not always be the best fit for your unique business needs—and use of the wrong solution can often lead to wasted time, lost profits and unhappy customers.
When looking for a labeling solution, most businesses forget to consider the complexity of their needs and wind up taking the wrong first step. Many buyers capitalize on the ability to quickly and inexpensively purchase almost anything online today, and they turn first to the internet for labels, ribbons, printers and other consumables accessories. But what happens when that label won’t adhere to your product or falls off during shipping? When the ink fades in a hot environment and the label becomes unreadable? Or when your label doesn’t meet compliance standards?
High Costs of the Wrong Label
Take a look at a product manufacturer, for example, that ships and supplies its goods to a large retail store. The supplier purchases the wrong type of shipping labels online, which then fall off during transport, leading to an entire pallet of lost products. The manufacturer has not only lost money on the goods themselves, but it also sees sales drop—since the product is not available for consumers to purchase.
Alternately, a faulty label may not scan properly or have the longevity that compliance mandates. In these cases, the retailer may send products back and issue heavy chargeback fees to the supplier. The manufacturer’s operations are interrupted, as they scramble to reship the product and cover additional time, labor and shipping costs. If the manufacturer does nothing to solve these labeling issues, the company also risks losing its relationship with the retailer. What may have seemed like an easy and cost-effective label purchase has now resulted in greater expenses and a disrupted supply chain.
Instead of playing the guessing game by buying online, businesses facing labeling challenges should turn to an experienced labeling and consumables consultant. These professionals have years of experience working with, recommending and selling labels for a wide range of industries and unique applications. But not every consultant can provide the same level of expert analysis and customization. Businesses should be wary of value-added providers that claim to offer tailored solutions but, in reality, are simply reselling the same standard labels easily found on the internet. With so many consultants in the marketplace, how can you find the right consultant for your labeling needs?
Businesses should start by reaching out to the label’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and explaining their challenges. The OEM can then recommend a trusted consumables consultant based on the industry, geography and application.
The right consumables consultant will take a holistic look at your situation and analyze what your business is trying to accomplish. The process begins with in-depth interviewing with the customer to understand label requirements and identify all the different variables to formulate the right solution. Many of these may have never crossed your mind but are integral to the right label choice. These factors include:
- Substrates: With so many materials out there, finding a label that will reliably stick to your product or package’s surface can be one of the most difficult challenges. Every substrate is unique and requires different types of labels and adhesives. Your consultant can identify the right formula to ensure your label sticks.
- Environmental Conditions: Your consultant will analyze possible exposure to extreme conditions, such as extreme temperatures or humidity, which can affect your label’s integrity. A label that functions well in cold storage, for example, is not going be the right choice for transportation in hot, humid environments.
- Longevity: How long does your label need to last? Where is it going? How is it being used? Whether your label needs to last five days or five years, these are all questions your consumables consultant will consider, in order to determine which materials will provide the greatest durability for your application.
The right labeling consultant also possesses the engineering capabilities, lab-testing resources and design expertise to help you turn a custom label concept into reality. After working together to complete an initial design that is functional, compliant and visually appealing, your consultant will create a prototype and identify any unique application factors. From there, the experts will collaborate with a label manufacturer and its chemists to formulate the correct adhesives and materials. After a period of sampling and testing, your custom label will not only be functional and durable, but also unique to your business.
Newest Trends in Technology
As technology continually evolves, a consumables expert can also help your business stay on top of new trends and products for improved efficiency. There are several new innovations in labeling that are can improve processes, to save businesses time and money. These include:
- Long-term thermal direct label: These labels are generated by creating an image on chemically treated stock through heat application, instead of using ribbons. While traditional thermal direct labels are easy and cost-efficient, they have limited durability. For example, when exposed to a hot environment, the label images will quickly fade. With new advances, OEMs are now offering long-term thermal direct labels that can last at least two years, in almost any environment, without the traditional problems. This advancement opens up the cost-effective thermal direct solution to a wider variety of applications.
- Thinner label liner: Labeling manufactures are increasingly able to utilize thinner silicon liners in their label designs. While liners have traditionally been thick to prevent tearing during the printing process, experts have developed sturdy, thinner liners to reduce the costs and add more labels per roll. For example, a standard 4×6 roll can now hold 50% more labels. The roll’s weight is also decreased, leading to lower shipping costs.
- RFID: Although radio frequency identification (RFID) has been around for years, this technology continues to develop faster than any other in the labeling space. New antennas and chips for RFID label inlays offer more capabilities than ever before, for greater efficiency. Chips, for example, are gaining memory capability without gaining in size, and antennas are adding gain for greater distance. Soon, inks will have the capability to transmit radio frequencies, allowing you to print the barcode and RFID inlays onto the label. Your consultant can support your business in adopting and optimizing the latest in these evolving track-and -trace solutions.
Whether you are in need an RDIF tag for inventory traceability, a barcode label for frozen foods or a durable shipping solution, turning to a labeling expert will save you time, money and frustration. By working with a partner that truly understand your unique challenges, you will get the right label the first time, while staying ahead of the competition with latest technology. WMHS