New Supply Chain Labeling: Complex & Demanding

As manufacturers continue to focus on global growth strategies, the complexity associated with continuously improving business processes—including labeling—is a bigger challenge than ever before. Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and increased automation on every level of manufacturing is demanding higher accuracy and increased speed, prompting industry experts to describe the way goods must be distributed from now on as the “new” supply chain.

Source: Loftware

Source: Loftware

Excellence in labeling has always provided a competitive advantage in the business of manufacturing, but today the amount of critical data that needs to be printed on a barcode label far surpasses what was considered to be sufficient in the past. From identification to grouping, shipping, locating, and tracking products that flow upstream and downstream in the supply chain, there is a great deal of information, often in multiple languages, that needs to be included on a “simple” label. Changing customer label requirements and even, in some cases, shifting regional standards and regulatory information need to be included.

In fact, in the current manufacturing environment, labels are far from “simple.” Global manufactur­ers are beginning to understand that labeling solutions need to accommodate an increased level of complexity, whether in creating a 1D or 2D symbologies, by including languages, regulatory information, pictograms, lot and batch number, brand information, and more. The question is, what is the best strategy for accommodating this level of labeling complexity in the global supply chain?

The cost of not reassessing the demands of “new” supply chain labeling can be high. Mislabeling, inefficient offline labeling processes, a myriad of redundant and unnecessary label designs, and poor integration of multiple labeling data sources can add up to wasted labor resources, customer fines, returns, delayed shipments, and even loss of business.

A robust labeling solution needs to include flexible label design that can be scaled and managed seamlessly at multiple locations, integrate with a variety of enterprise applications in order to account for countless label permutations, and automate the movement of labels seamlessly from test to production. The most comprehensive enterprise-wide solution serving the entire supply chain is one which promotes the best allocation of resources for IT, operators, warehousing personnel, global locations, customers, and ultimately, for all the participants in the supply chain.

Utilizing Enterprise Labeling Solutions can enable companies to address complex labeling challenges while improving efficiency, accuracy, and speed, as well as delivery time and cost savings. Overall, labeling quality improvements can dramatically improve a manufacturer's competitive edge in the global marketplace.  Next week, we'll take a closer look at enterprise labeling and some of the reasons a shared strategy can  improve and optimize the flow of goods across the global supply chain.

Editor's Note: Greg Graham, manufacturing industry specialist (Southern Region), Loftware, and Justin Ward, manufacturing industry specialist (Northern Region), Loftware, were additional authors on this blog.

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