As a manufacturer, it’s possible labels aren’t something you give much thought to—they’re attached to the materials that arrive at your factory, and they identify the products you distribute to customers.
But think again. Used to its full potential, the humble label can help businesses enhance productivity, improve relationships with trading partners, and even solve compliance challenges.
What is manufacturing labeling?
In the manufacturing and logistics ecosystem, labels can (and should!) be found attached to materials, parts, and products, not to mention the cartons, pallets, and shipping containers those items are transported in.
Labels can be attached to an item or container with adhesive or a tag, or printed directly onto an item. They can include relevant data about the product, consumer information (possibly in more than one language), tracking information, QR codes, or barcodes.
An effective label conveys information that helps multiple people in the supply chain understand what they’re dealing with, whether they’re handling the item in a warehouse, factory, distribution center, retail outlet, or the end consumer's home.
Given the powerful impact labels can have, manufacturing labeling (or production labeling) should be treated as a vital tool to be employed during all stages of the manufacturing and distribution process.
Why manufacturing labeling is so important
For a supply chain to function effectively, it’s important that materials, parts, and products can be accurately identified and traced across all stages of the manufacturing and delivery process.
Being able to record the steps along the production journey helps with everything from inventory planning to traceability—a vital capability if, for any reason, a product needs to be recalled.
Effective labeling can speed up production and warehousing processes because items that can be identified quickly and accurately can be processed faster.
Timely and accurate labeling can also improve product quality by enabling any questionable materials or parts to be easily segregated for testing.
If you supply parts to another manufacturer, your service will be considered more valuable if your product is delivered to your customer labeled to their specifications.
In a competitive environment—a place where most manufacturers operate—these types of efficiencies and advantages can make a big difference, and help win customers.
For a number of industries—including food & beverage, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and electronics manufacturing—local and international regulations and standards stipulate labeling requirements.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers, for example, must adhere to strict product serialization regulations, requiring them to generate a unique identifying code for their products which must be printed on the label or packaging prior to distribution.
As a manufacturer, failure to comply with an industry’s specific labeling requirements could see your products banned from sale and could expose your organization to fines and other penalties.
Manufacturing labeling challenges
While an effective labeling strategy can bring significant benefits to a manufacturer’s operations, there are pitfalls to be aware of.
Take all steps to minimize the risk of attaching the wrong label to an item. Mislabeling will disrupt production as staff scramble to fix the problem and check for any downstream impacts such as the wrong items being used or shipped to customers. Nothing erodes a supplier’s credibility like the arrival of products or parts that aren’t what they say they are on the box.
To help avoid mislabeling, print and apply labels as close as possible to where the work is done, and as soon as possible. This means ensuring sufficient label printers are located at key points throughout the factory, warehouse, and other relevant facilities.
To ensure efficiency, labeling shouldn’t compromise line speed, so invest in a printing system that can keep up with the pace of production.
Best practices for an effective manufacturing labeling process
To transform labeling from a necessary evil to a productivity enabler requires the adoption of several best practices.
Data integration between label management solutions and other systems is vital if labeling is to have a significant impact on improving operations. Integrating label printing logic with other processes including sales orders, scheduling, production tracking, and order fulfillment will ensure the “single source of truth”. Integration also helps prevent labeling errors due to incorrect data entry, a common problem when details need to be entered by staff working on the floor.
In addition to investing in an integrated, centralized label management system, ensure the solution you select allows you to edit and create a full range of label layouts. This will enable you to meet customers’ and regulators’ specific labeling requirements, and adapt easily when those requirements change.
Be sure to consider the full range of substrates you are likely to require printing on and choose a solution that can accommodate all those printing needs.
It’s also beneficial to incorporate barcode scanning technology into your manufacturing labeling solution. With mobile scanning devices integrated into your inventory management system, factory and warehouse staff can perform faster and more accurate item identification and counts by scanning labels into the system.
How Tulip can help
Using Tulip, manufacturers are able to seamlessly integrate their labeling processes into their production workflows while ensuring the labels reflect the correct information every time.
As products flow through the facility, Tulip is able to capture all relevant details including materials, ingredients, batch numbers, production dates, and relevant personnel details to make regulatory compliance a seamless part of your production process.
If you’re interested in learning how Tulip can help improve the accuracy and efficiency of your labeling processes, reach out to a member of our team today!
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