The most basic reason for labeling products is to show branding and product information to your customers. However, there can be a lot more riding on a label. A label on a food item shows barcodes with stock-keeping units (SKUs), to allow retailers to monitor product inventories, and dates to ensure products are safe for consumption. These same labels can also allow distribution centers to maintain records so incidents of contamination and illness can be traced back to the source. In essence, accurate and appropriate labeling can be life-saving. Plus, new federal regulations expanding the requirements for tracking both food and pharmaceuticals underline this need for improved barcode readability as well as the need for quick, accurate labeling of products and product cartons. However, this is often more easily made into law than it is put into practice.
In most cases, an automatic label printer and applicator is required to manage the quantities of products to be processed, packaged, and labeled. And without the right system in place, there is room for the process to go awry in any number of ways.
The type of automatic label printer and applicator needed is one that can deal with a wide variety of production environments. Since many production lines specialize in a wide variety of products, it must also be able to adjust to changing circumstances. These challenges, and more, can be managed with the correct automatic label printer and applicator.
The Challenges of Label Application
Automatic label printers and applicators that aren’t set up and maintained correctly are prone to the following mechanical issues:
- Ribbon Breaks: The continuous ribbon that feeds the machines with labels may break and leave the applicator gently tapping or blowing on boxes when they go by instead of labeling them. This can lead to large amounts of unlabeled inventory.
- Label Jams: Automatic label printers and applicators tend to have very tight tolerances of only a few sheets of paper in width. A loose corner may snag on part of the machine and cause the label feed to jam up. This can damage the machine if it continues unchecked and also results in large amounts of unlabeled inventory.
- Incorrect Placement: A label that is skewed or slightly out of place can be a significant problem. Many of the operations in the supply chain are automated and, if barcodes are misaligned, they cannot be properly read.
- Labels Falling Off: A common issue is for labels to fail to adhere to the surface they are applied to for various reasons. This can lead to unlabeled boxes that need to be labeled manually, and fallen labels can create a slip hazard along the production line.
Due to its speed, automated labeling tends to amplify these issues when they occur. The machinery generally isn’t aware that an error is occurring and will continue trying to perform its task even if it is not performing it correctly. Due to the sheer volume of products and packages moving along a production line, these issues can build up into a large-scale problem quite quickly. And without the right equipment, these can also be frequently reoccurring problems.
Production lines for consumer products rarely produce just one kind of product needing only one type of label. They often produce multiple product types that share a final packaging area where they are labeled, or they produce a product under various brand labels. This leads to situations where an automatic label printer and applicator setup was functioning correctly from the start but malfunctions after being reset for a new product type or a new label—delaying shipments and creating problems that can be resolved only through laborious and costly reworking.
Issues that require stopping the line, diagnosing the problem, and then eventually restarting it are often complicated tasks that can be done only by skilled personnel. Furthermore, a simple, more flexible machine can prevent many of these problems in the first place with the added benefit of being something that most workers can easily stop, diagnose, and correct.
Choosing an Automatic Label Printer and Applicator
Ease of communication may be the most critical factor in taking full advantage of your automatic label printer and applicator set up. This means that the mechanisms of the applicator and printer can not only detect an issue and stop it but also provide clear and easy-to-understand diagnostic information. The printer’s ability to communicate with external systems is also important for label setup when products are changed or even just the shipping destinations need to be changed.
An automatic label printer and applicator also needs to pair communicative ability and intuitive input with simple, robust, and flexible mechanical elements. This makes it simpler to set up in the first place and simple to change over for new product types. And, as we know, simple yet robust solutions often prevent errors from happening in the first place. So how can we make production line labeling catastrophes a thing of the past?
EvoLabel® Print and Apply Labeler
The EvoLabel® provides excellent communicative ability through built-in support for PC. This allows the use of system backup and restore points, making software setup for different products and their labeling procedures simple. EvoLabel’s open and defined application programming interface (API) allows external software programs to fully control the print and apply system with XML, Excel, and Excel-compatible formats fully supported. Databases can be stored externally on personal computers or internally on the printer itself.
The EvoLabel’s mechanical features make setting the system up for correct and reliable function easy:
EvoLabel is a simple, compact, and flexible system. It can be fitted with a variety of applicator heads that can handle automatic label printing and application in a wide variety of roles. It’s capable of labeling branded fresh food packaging, applying barcode and lot number labels to cartons, and printing and applying shipping labels to three sides of a shrink-wrapped pallet. It is an automatic label printer and applicator for nearly every role in the supply chain.
In the modern supply chain, customer satisfaction, traceability, and recall management depend on a correctly applied label. It’s a challenge but one with a solution that’s simple and easy to implement. Automatic label printers and applicators do their work best when they use modern technology to make automation simpler, more reliable, and easier for the average worker to manage. EvoLabel is the automatic label printer and applicator that makes it easier to meet next-level production targets with existing production lines.