The way we use labels is changing dramatically.
If you’re involved in logistics, supply chain, or material handling, you’ve probably seen the major industry changes coming down the line the past few years.
From robotics and automation to the Internet of Things (IoT), the ways we produce, package, and distribute products are being radically affected by new processes and technologies.
It’s the same with supplies.
Maybe it’s surprising to hear, but our supplies have been impacted as well.
What are the main changes going on with enterprise labeling?
In a recent article at Barcode.com entitled “2017 Top 5 Trends in Enterprise Labeling,” Josh Roffman, the VP of Product Management at Loftware, highlights some of the main changes they identified in enterprise labeling.
Here’s a brief summary of Roffman’s trends and what they mean for this industry—and labels, of course.
1) Labeling Has Gone Global
As our world becomes more interconnected and international, enterprise labeling is now being looked at globally instead of nationally—or even locally.
Companies are moving towards having standardized labeling across their worldwide operations. By doing so, they resolve different problems that come up like mislabeling, having to reprint labels, and others.
Through standardized labeling, you can unify your font types, troubleshoot your printers, and give all of your label printers their own proprietary default settings…in all your locations across the world.
Companies also are looking into multisite deployment so they can manage their label operations from a centralized perspective, but still have room for local deployment.
2) More Complicated Barcode Labels
“As customer and regulatory requirements increase, companies have been forced to make a record number of label changes and add more and more content to their labels,” Roffman writes.
Consequently, companies are putting more data on their barcode labels like product information or pictograms.
And not only are barcode labels becoming more complicated, but they’re doing so quickly.
In general, customers are driving many of the label changes. To appease their customers, the companies make these changes at a rapid pace, then expect their suppliers to do adjust to these changes at the same pace. This doesn’t always happen, though.
3) Supply Chain Strategies are Bimodal—And Labels are Right in the Thick of Them
There are many ways to approach the supply chain industry. In the past few years, two such modes—or ways—were developed:
- Mode 1: Lean, efficient, and adapted to a linear supply chain
- Mode 2: Agile, reactive, and malleable; designed for a more complex world
To fully adjust to today’s demands, many companies are adapting bimodal supply chain strategies. In a Supply Chain Digital article, Salim Shaikh writes:
“Adopting a bimodal supply chain strategy (by combining Mode 1 and Mode 2) will enable [organizations] to not only deliver a seamless omni-channel experience that accommodates customers’ rapidly changing preferences on pricing, delivery options and service levels, but also meets Wall Street’s rising financial expectations around higher revenues and margins.”
Here’s how labels fit in per Roffman.
Barcodes and serial numbers, when printed, contain and transfer digital data from the system to the products themselves. These labels are used when the product is shipped or transported—often globally. Then these labels will be scanned. Inventory will be tracked. And so forth.
It’s a global cycle, all tied into a digital, bimodal supply chain.
4) Companies are Using Upstream and Downstream Solutions for Labeling
There are two ways that companies are printing labels:
- Downstream: This is when printing is done at the company level and not at the supplier, supply chain, or partner level.
- Upstream: This is when printing instead is done by their suppliers or partners, using what Roffman calls a “shared solution.”
Roffman suggests that companies should use both upstream and downstream solutions for labeling. “When businesses extend labeling to partners and suppliers, they are able to avoid downstream processing errors and eliminate the need for relabeling,” he states.
Also, risks are eliminated, and companies save a lot of money. It’s a win-win situation for all.
5) For Labeling to be Successful, You Need an Uninterrupted Supply Chain, Customized Labeling, and Global Support
With our global economy, many companies use labeling professionals and partners for their labeling operations. They especially look for partners who set up uninterrupted supply chains so things can run smoothly and transparently.
Companies also are seeking support to have customized labeling. As discussed in #2, barcode labels are more variable than ever.
Lastly, they want partners who offer global support for their international supply chain. Whether helping track goods or standardize labels, they’re looking for partners who can help with every aspect of their supply chain.
These are just some of the many trends going on in enterprise labeling and the supply chain industry at large. We expect labeling to continue to change—and we’ll continue to offer you the printers you need to keep up with these changes.
What do you think of these trends? Do you agree? Are there any labeling changes that you’ve seen that we didn’t discuss?