In today’s globalized trade economy, well-made labels are indispensable. When shipping, labels provide essential information such as shipping destination, shipping origin, package weight, and barcodes that are scanned along every step in the supply chain. With these labels applied, packages can reliably reach their destinations, and in the event of a recall, can be traced and withdrawn from the market with ease.
Similarly, barcodes on product labels perform the same tracing actions and power part of the overall retail process, while other label markings such as ingredients, product uses, expiration dates, and manufacturer information satisfy industry standards and federal regulations.
For industrial manufacturers with high-volume, diverse product lines, these labels can widely vary and hours can be spent to apply them by hand. Accordingly, many businesses invest in an automatic print and apply labeler to streamline this process and eliminate the possibility of human error. In the past, these labelers were largely stand-alone and ran on separate software from other parts of production. However, more of today’s companies are choosing to integrate these systems into their operations to improve efficiency.
In this article, we will explore how an integrated labeling system differs from a conventional multi-application layout and outline the major benefits provided by choosing an integrated option.
An Integrated Labeling System vs. a Multi-Application Layout
System integration is defined by connectivity. Within an integrated system, each software application and piece of hardware is linked together for collective functionality. As workplaces have become more digitized in recent decades, system integration has been adopted by companies to enable seamless operation and maximize efficiency. Integrated labeling systems deliver these benefits by connecting the company’s IT system directly with the labeling solution.
This labeling integration can be completed in three ways:
- Programming Integration Method: The user’s entire system is altered to fully incorporate the labeling solution as part of the IT structure. The programming integration method enables the highest level of intercommunication but also requires the most resources to build.
- Non-Programmed (Middleware) Integration Method: The non-programmed approach utilizes software to connect the existing operating system, database, and applications with the labeling system. Through this middleware connection, the labeling solution can monitor and gather information from the IT system, streamlining the label-making process.
- Integrated Direct Printing Method: A label design program is used as a middleman between the IT system and the printer. Information can be pulled from the IT system into the design program where the user can create and store any number of templates before exporting them to the printer. This option is the simplest to implement but limits intercommunication, and in the event of a system change, must be completely reset.
The alternative to these options is an unintegrated print and apply labeler. All information must be manually placed into the machine’s computer so that the user can import them into custom label templates. This is a time-consuming process that is prone to human error, especially considering scenarios in which new regulations/standards are released that require label changes on a broad scale.
By choosing an integrated system, you can eliminate these issues and obtain the host of benefits outlined in our next section.
Three Advantages of Choosing an Integrated Labeling System
For years, the term “integrated systems” has been a buzzword in many industries—and for good reason. Companies that developed in the digital age have displayed a tendency to accumulate technology for the specific needs of different departments. In many instances, this tech accumulation occurs without a thought towards overall system architecture, causing many of these machines to be incompatible with one another. Navigating these disparate systems to find the right information or perform the correct function can be an enormous drain on productivity and cause many downstream problems.
Integrated labeling systems solve these problems by ensuring that all data can be shared across the system, yielding the following advantages:
Reduced Labor Steps
With a smaller-scale company, it makes sense that a single person can be in charge of developing labels and applying them to packaging. However, as a company grows and production volume increases, these tasks become exponentially more time-consuming and error-prone. Through centralizing your system, you can industrialize label creation and application to reduce the overall number of labor steps, thus improving efficiency.
Simpler System Use
The more disparate systems that a company has, the more complex its overall IT network becomes. Legacy systems become mixed with new applications, creating an inflated IT infrastructure that requires high maintenance costs and long training sessions to teach employees how to manage it.
Conversely, integrated systems are built for simplicity. Different data sources and machines are designed to work in harmony with one another through a centralized interface. The resulting system is less prone to errors and far more user friendly.
Satisfied Requirements for Now and for the Future
To ensure that your products can legally be sold, you need to meet the regulations both posed by your supply channels and the federal government. When these rules change over the years, your labels must reflect the new requirements so you can avoid fines, recalls, and other negative consequences.
In many cases, integrated labeling systems operate by automatically gathering information from the other systems, adapting it to fit a label template, and printing it onto the appropriate surface. The deep interconnectivity of these systems enables users to take existing information and easily modify it to meet new requirements. With an unintegrated printer, these labels each need to be hand-changed, taking a large amount of time and effort.
Improve Your Manufacturing Line with an Integrated Labeling System
For smaller operations, labeling is a short process that only takes a couple of hours a day to do by hand. With industrial operations, this nonintegrated configuration can pose a host of problems. High-volume output means more time is required for labeling, and a manual approach greatly increases the chance of human error, especially when regulations and industry standards change.
To fortify your operation and to meet the evolving needs of your industry, consider adopting an integrated labeling system. Through centralizing your IT infrastructure with the help of a professional systems integrator, you can maximize efficiency by reducing labor steps and costs, simplifying system usage, and improving operational flexibility. Furthermore, scanners can be added to verify label placement and also provide a means for tracking products. With an integrated labeler, you can improve your current line and be prepared for what tomorrow brings.