Quality product packaging is an essential part of commerce. It keeps the product safe, both during transit and while on the shelf, displays required information—such as product title, manufacturer location, and date of expiration—and boosts overall brand recognition. Despite its clear importance, make no mistake that product packaging can also be quite expensive. Accordingly, companies must optimize their packaging process if they hope to maximize profitability.
While every company has its unique packaging needs to account for, several strategies exist that can help reduce costs in the packaging process and ensure proper label application, thus increasing efficiency. In this guide, we will explore how to reduce the cost of packaging by following these three key strategies.
1. Accelerate the Packaging Process with Automated Labeling
Many smaller companies rely on applying labels to their merchandise by hand. A common scenario involves using a desktop printer to create stick-on labels that display information such as product title, barcode, expiration date, etc. These printers are affordable and easy to use, so many companies continue to use them even as the business’s output volume increases.
However, this manual style of labeling is prone to issues that become more prominent as the business scales up and diversifies its product line. The most notable problems include:
- Inefficient use of time: Every product label needs to be designed and printed before the application can begin. And, applying labels by hand can take hours to complete, depending on volume. When considering that some employees, and entire shifts, may be dedicated to completing this task, it becomes obvious that this time could be better spent on other things.
- High potential for human error: Hand labeling opens the door to a variety of possible errors. For instance, labels can be applied to an incorrect product, applied in a manner that makes the barcode unscannable (i.e., there’s a crease or air bubble in the code), or not applied in accordance with shipping regulations. These errors take time to rectify, may incur fines, and may cause further issues along the supply chain if they aren’t caught in time.
- High supply costs: Printing out labels requires the operator to pay for label rolls, ink, and printer maintenance costs. If you are using a printer not intended for your production volume, you may be frequently paying for repairs and losing valuable uptime as the printer is down for repairs. Consequently, you run the risk of not being able to create enough labels for that production run. The more individual labels that need to be printed, the higher the price. Additionally, if an error is discovered on a printed roll, all of the labels need to be discarded—effectively throwing money away.
For smaller operations, investing in a thermal inkjet (TIJ) printer to directly print onto the product is a simple and effective way to minimize these issues. TIJ printers, like those in the Anser series, are affordable and come as either mountable assembly line devices or handheld machines, easily fitting into many different manufacturing setups. With a TIJ printer, no adhesive labels need to be printed or applied, which accelerates the product marking process and saves money. Instead of applying a label, the TIJ printer will print the label information directly onto the packaging.
However, TIJ printers are not well suited to larger operations with continuously moving lines. For something like this, you will want to use a print and apply labeler like the EvoLabel. This is a very sophisticated machine that can handle the printing and application of labels, thus removing a lot of the potential for human error.
2. Increase Efficiency with an Integrated System
For companies that are already using printers in their operation but are still wondering how to reduce the cost of packaging, integrating the system can make the process quicker, more efficient, and much easier to troubleshoot if anything goes wrong.
Integrated systems are defined by interconnectivity, with all pieces of software and hardware linking together for seamless functionality. Using an integrated system allows operators to access different data sources and machines through a centralized interface. In the event a label needs to be altered to meet a new regulation or correct an error, the alterations are made enterprise-wide, saving you time and allowing a broad level of control.
Conversely, a nonintegrated system utilizes printers or print and apply labelers that are disconnected from any IT system. To create a label, all of the information must be manually typed into the machine’s computer, with no importation possibilities. All functions need to be initiated by an operator standing at the machine, preventing them from accomplishing other tasks. For larger companies, integration starts to become essential.
Finally, if sweeping label changes need to be made in a nonintegrated system, every label must be selected and altered one-by-one—a process that can take hours and is prone to error. With an integrated system, you can maximize the uptime of your production line, more easily satisfy label regulations, and avoid supply chain issues by greatly reducing human error.
3. Eliminate Rework with Reliable Peripherals
When label codes are not correctly applied, it can cause supply chain disruptions, inventory issues, and may result in fines from retailers or government agencies. While utilizing high-quality machines to apply labels will understandably reduce these instances, mistakes are still inevitable. Fortunately, peripherals can help reduce these errors as much as possible.
Peripherals are external tools that help your printer operate at a more effective level and they come in a variety of forms for different purposes. Using these devices in conjunction with the printer on your production line can automatically discover errors and help ensure successful label or code application. Here are a few key peripherals to know about:
- Encoder: Helpful for operations that regularly adjust the speed of their production lines, encoders enable printers or labelers to identify the speed of the line and adjust the print speed accordingly. Even with speed changes mid-print, encoders allow accurate positioning and clean marking.
- Photo-eye: Also known as photoelectric sensors, photo-eyes are used to accurately detect a product’s presence. Photo-eyes emit light to a receiver and when this light is interrupted, the printer knows to code the product that is present. By using light to detect products, photo-eyes enable extremely quick coding response times and reliable product detection. These devices are especially helpful to those encoding clear products, as generic product sensors often have trouble identifying transparent objects.
- Vision system: These are sophisticated camera-based systems that automatically identify that all characters are present and legible on a label. Vision systems eliminate the need for time-consuming quality checks and guarantee that the label will include all of the information required by the distributor.
- Barcode reader: Barcodes are useless if they are not printed properly. Per their name, barcode readers scan barcodes to make sure that they have been suitably printed. Barcode readers are much simpler than vision systems and they only are able to scan and check for barcode readability.
With the help of these peripherals and these other strategies, you can ensure that your product lines satisfy distributor requirements and avoid any costly fines associated with improper labeling.
We Know How to Reduce the Cost of Packaging
Packaging is an essential part of commerce, but it doesn’t have to have your budget hemorrhaging money. By optimizing your production line to maximize efficiency, OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), and eliminate downtime from mistakes, you can benefit from overall savings (e.g., a reduced cost of ownership and increased profitability).
With over three decades of experience, the experts at InkJet, Inc. can provide you with the guidance you need to keep successfully growing your business.
For more information on how to reduce the cost of packaging, or any other questions related to printers and ink, contact InkJet, Inc. online or by phone at (800) 280-3245. Our expert team is ready with answers.