In an increasingly connected world, where high-quality products must be delivered faster and to more markets, legacy approaches to labelling, with manual processes and disparate printing solutions simply don’t cut it. Labelling must be digitised, standardised and integrated with your manufacturing and logistics systems. Not only will this improve quality and responsiveness, it will also simultaneously reduce costs — and that’s a rare combination of benefits that manufacturers cannot afford to ignore. 

When it comes to designing, managing and deploying labels, manufacturers face complex challenges. In most industries, each product’s labels need to be traceable, compliant and transparent – not just within country but also across borders. This leads to huge challenges with the sheer volumes of labels generated, all of which need to be consistent, from your company’s departments to your suppliers, customers and consumers. How can quality, accuracy and productivity be assured when there are so many stakeholders and so many label variations?

It remains common for each factory and distribution centre to have its own labelling software alongside a host of different label printers. This can clearly lead to inconsistencies but the costs associated with managing and running such a disparate system can also be exorbitant.

Imagine if a customer requests a change to one of your shipment labels. With a decentralised system, inaccuracies can be common in such a scenario. Such inaccuracies lead to mislabelling and can also result in quality degradation, both of which can undermine your customer satisfaction and your brand, and increase the risk of non-compliance and delivery and shipping delays.

Moreover, having to use highly-paid employees to change your label templates, especially when printer command scripting is required, is both time-consuming and expensive. With multiple labelling processes and systems across your organisation, further latency and costs are introduced.

Digitalising labelling

Digitally transforming your labelling offers a way to centralise and keep control of your labelling processes, regardless of location. It doesn’t matter if the labels are needed for the factory or your distribution centre; they can be produced, changed or updated from a browser and accessed, whenever and wherever they are needed. The digital transformation of labelling enables companies to accurately print from a single source of truth for their labelling. 

A modernised, centralised labelling system can enhance your agility and quality, reduce costs and promote better supply chain collaboration.

  • Improved agility

Change requests and new label templates can be created to support new products and new customers without requiring a high level of expertise. A label management solution can digitise and automate processes, ensuring that even business users without advanced IT skills can design  labels quickly.

  • Improved quality

With a centralised solution, labels can be printed to a uniform standard — essential for maintaining compliance and brand consistency. Additionally, customers benefit from consistency in terms of formatting and quality. 

Storing only one version of each template centrally ensures consistency and brings the added benefit of only needing to integrate with your MES or ERP solution once for master data – this means lower IT cost and significantly reduced likelihood of human error. Added to this, security concerns can be addressed with multiple levels of role-based security.

  • Enhanced collaboration

Centralised control allows you to be more collaborative with supply chain partners. As labels are easy-to-create and share, you can encourage suppliers to use a standardised format, shared through a cloud-based label management system. 

  • Cost reduction

One way centralising labelling reduces costs is by eliminating the need for manual effort. Enterprises often have thousands of individual label files spread across their facilities, including many duplicates, to serve the same customer. Centralisation eliminates duplicate files, saving costs associated with maintaining them, as well as reducing mislabelling and associated recalls which in and of themselves can be costly. 

  • Streamlined quality assurance

Modern label management systems have effectively digitised the quality assurance process, removing manual quality control. This means there’s a reduced labour cost, less risk of error and changes can be made and approved more quickly.

Scoping the question

To determine if your organisation could benefit from a centralised, digital label management system, it is useful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do we update labels as an organisation and how much time is spent on this?
  • Do you need to ask IT to make changes?
  • How long do you have to wait for IT to make changes?
  • How much does IT charge for label change requests?
  • How effective is your quality assurance process?
  • How many people are involved in creating, updating and printing labels?
  • How many software applications do we use to produce these?
  • How often does mislabelling occur and what are the consequences?
  • Could we improve customer satisfaction or respond to compliance requirements more easily with a centralised solution?

While these questions will need to be tailored to your business, they provide a useful starting point when analysing your current situation. To compete in an increasingly challenging environment, manufacturers must take advantage of new technologies to respond faster as well as reduce costs wherever possible. Improved agility, increased productivity and better quality management are just a few of the gains that manufacturers are experiencing by digitally transforming their labelling. Digitisation of labelling can help manufacturers be more competitive and can introduce many benefits beyond what meets the eye at first sight.