Enterprise labeling is an increasingly critical topic in the electronics manufacturing industry. Organizations are grappling with the complexity of standardizing labels, meeting a breadth of regulations, and creating a seamless interaction between labeled products and the supply chain.
EBN sat down with Mike Thornton, director of technical services & support, at Loftware, a maker of enterprise labeling solutions, to get a handle on the best practices around labeling that have emerged. Thornton has over 25 years management experience in the printing and labeling industries. He serves as an advocate for customers and is responsible for overseeing project management, systems implementations and technical support for enterprise labeling solutions. Thornton works closely with companies to ensure that best practices for running and supporting labeling solutions across their global operations.
EBN: Can you offer support and best practices for global labeling?
Thornton: Mission-critical labeling plays an essential role in today's global, complex, and fast paced business environment. However, to support continuous operations, businesses must be able to rely on 24x7 support for labeling. Also, with the increasing amount of labeling complexity driven by customer and regulatory requirements, it's important to be able to tap into industry specific knowledge and best practices, so that labeling can be both configured and optimized to meet each company's needs. Enterprise Labeling Solutions allow customers to receive tailored service and support direct from the solution manufacturer, ensuring maximum production uptime, reducing the need for costly IT resources and increasing overall supply chain efficiency.
EBN: Why are services an important part of implementing and maintaining an Enterprise Labeling Solution?
Thornton: In order to optimize the capabilities of an Enterprise Labeling Solution, companies should take advantage of the best practices advice and insights and knowledge transfer that can only come from companies that design, develop and implement the software they're using. These companies possess industry-specific knowledge, technical expertise and offer ongoing training and support.
In many situations customers move from home-grown or other 3rd-party systems so implementation and training becomes a critical part of the transition to the new labeling solution. The right services and consulting will ensure that the right components are chosen, the right integrations put in place, the right business rules enacted, and the right data sources identified. Services can also help on an ongoing basis, as a company's labeling needs change and as new market, industry, and regulatory challenges arise. The right set of services will help you optimize the use of an Enterprise Labeling Solution and maximize the benefits you can derive from it.
Another best practice is leveraging services to ensure that the labeling environment is configured to support a company's mission-critical and high volume labeling. Rather than having the customer install and configure the software, a best practices approach calls for the software provider to assist in configuring the labeling environment, which will most often consist of test environment, development environment, and production environments. These multiple environments are important to ensure that the appropriate processes can be followed for system updates as well as ensuring that changes can be properly staged into production environments.
EBN: What role does training play? What makes it vital?
Thornton: Training is a critical step in educating users and administrators on the capabilities and options available to them that can be employed to best meet the labeling requirements for the business. And, getting that training directly from the people who developed the solution offers a real advantage.
There are different types of training for different types of users. It's important training is tailored so that the correct users are being educated on capabilities that are relevant to the job function and that the level of knowledge they receive allows them to get the most out of the solution. Training can range from system administrator training that covers the install, the support, and troubleshooting of the solution to user training that focuses on designing labels and for those configuring systems, adding users, and adding permissions.
Initial training takes place at implementation time so the users know exactly how to use the new system, how to design labels, how to print from it and how to trouble shoot issues. There is also ongoing training provided by the software manufacturer, which assists with the organization's growth. This can take the form of a best practices refresher or training for new employees that need to understand how to best use the solution that is already in place. It's also very important to offer training for new functionality for any new product releases. When a company upgrades and is provided with a lot of new enhancements it's important that they're trained on how to use new capabilities to maximize your business benefit.
Gaining the proper insight and making sure the right people understand individual roles is critical to making sure an Enterprise Labeling Solution is running optimally and that the business is getting the most out of an investment.