In old days, labeling was simple. The manufacturer just pasted a piece of paper on packaging with the name of the product. It was simple quick and differentiated one product from another, which had the same packaging. However, today a label is a complex piece of product in itself. Branding, styling, technical information, the regulatory requirement etc must all fit on that little piece of paper, consistently. The complexities in labeling process are increasing at such a fast pace that they are baffling the manufacturers. The amount of critical data that needs to be printed even on a simple barcode label is much more than ever before. The supply chain information such as identification, grouping, shipping, tracking information, the product information such as Name, contents, branding, manufacturer information etc, the regulatory information such as production and expiry dates, ingredients, usage instructions, product warnings, all need to be printed often in a multilingual setting. Today due to its complexity the skill and expertise in manufacturing labeling itself can provide a business edge to the process. That’s because the problems in manufacture labeling can have cascading effects down the whole supply chain. Let’s take a look at few challenges faced by manufacturing labeling industry.
Key Challenges faced by the manufacturing industry.
- Incorrect labeling There is too much information to be printed in too little space. A lot of this information such as lot number, batch numbers, manufacturing and expiry dates are dynamic in nature. Different variants of same products also have slightly different labeling requirements. With so much going on the shop floor, labeling is not the top priority on production floor manager’s mind who has specific job runs to manage. This means labeling is often working with incorrect data. More than 90% of print jobs are interrupted to reprint the labels due to incorrect data from the client. On average more than 5% of labels are rejected due to incorrect information. This in turns holds up the manufacturing line and causes delay down the chain. In some extreme cases where errors are caught late, just before shipping, the losses due to hold up in the supply chain can be huge. A well-defined process for label design approval and for communicating dynamic labeling data (dates, lot number, the number of labels required) can significantly reduce the incorrect label printing, and reduce the losses attributable to it.
- Complex customer requirements. Businesses depend on multiple customers and each customer has different requirement for labeling. Failure to meet those requirements can result in fines, deductions or charge backs. Sometimes these fines can be more than the order value itself. Managing varied requirements, including the dynamic data from each customer is truly a complicated juggling process. One way to avoid this problem is to use checklists of the requirements for every label printing job run. The checklist will have all the information required to run the labeling job and should be approved by the customer. A second internal review stage should be added to ensure all data is correct and as per customer requirement. Automated systems should be used to capture the labeling requirements and data. These systems can reduce the typos and missing information that can lead to rejection of a complete lot of labels.
- Multi lingual support. With increasing globalization, products are sold and consumed in many markets at the same time. This means that the labels need to be printed in multiple languages. This requirement presents its own challenges. The first challenge is in deciding the number of languages to be printed. While it may be sufficient to use the most popular languages across the world, some specific markets need to have labels in their own language only. The second challenge is fitting the required information in all the chosen languages on the same label. Repeating information in different language means there is less space for each language which means the font size is reduced. Smaller font size may render text unreadable, beating the purpose of printing the information. The printer must find a fine balance so that all information is printed in smallest of space and yet comfortably readable. The most important challenge is getting the translation correct. The incorrect translation may incur heavy legal liabilities for the seller and in turn for the labeler. Here too a strong well-defined process to work with translations and designs can help. Obtaining customer’s approval for language translation and other design aspects can reduce the labeller’s liability.
- Disaster recovery plans. Most of the business have disaster recovery plans. However very few consider labeling in their business continuity plans. Labeling is a critical point in the supply The business won’t sell the products without the labels and labels cannot be printed if disaster has stuck the label manufacturing. The supply chain can come to the grinding halt because there is no recovery or continuity plan for labeling.
The label is the face of the brand. This the final point where the brand gets the chance to interact with the customer before he accesses the product. This is where the brand gets to make its most impact. Today’s customer is detail oriented. He can identify small differences and inconsistencies. This means brand consistency is crucial is labeling. The labels can be made to meet different regional or regulatory requirements but they must convey the same brand image on every individual unit. After all the product label is the final and most important touch point between the brand and the customer.