Labels enable product tracking throughout the supply chain, issue warnings about food allergens or chemical contents, and maintain compliance with various industry regulations. The labeling solutions you choose for your business are just as important as the printing equipment you are using to create barcode labels and tags. Together, labeling software and printing hardware work in concert to simplify printing and increase efficiency on the plant or warehouse floor, providing your operation the benefit of improved workflows, maximized productivity and increased cost savings. When laying the best foundation for enterprise labeling, here’s what your operation needs to know.
What is Barcode Printing and How does it Relate to Enterprise Labeling?
Barcodes use different combinations of bars and spaces to encode characters into a readable symbol, while RFID uses radio frequency to track items. Barcode printing produces barcode labels and encodes RFID tags for a variety of industries and applications.
The goal of barcode printing is to produce barcodes and labels that are readable, accurate, and tag/document items effectively, such as:
- Product labeling (serialized labels)
- Shipping labels and packing slips
- Inventory barcoding labels
- Medical lab specimens
Your operation counts on barcode printing equipment to produce scannable codes which not only track products but meet industry compliance regulations. A label that is improperly printed can’t be accurately tracked, scanned, or accounted for, which is why it’s so important that printing solutions are reliable, with high print speeds and clear image quality. Not only will these factors increase accuracy, but they reduce downtime and enhance productivity.
The act of enterprise labeling focuses on connecting the labeling process and related equipment with business processes in order to provide direct integration with applications linked to label data. When done well, this integration is essential for maximizing supply chain efficiency. Enterprise labeling is the foundation for continuity, consistency, and compliance across your operation. And like any foundation, without the right tools used to lay the foundation, it could crumble.
Buying the Right Printing Solution Hardware: What You Should Know
Laying the foundation for successful enterprise labeling means building a good solution from the ground up. This starts with the hardware. Buy the right hardware on the front end, and you’ll have all the tools you need in place to have your barcodes accepted. It’s important to understand the difference between various hardware printing solutions built to meet the needs of printing environments:
Desktop barcode printers
These ergonomically-designed printers are best suited for low to medium barcode printing volumes. They occupy little real estate for a small footprint, and though they don’t have the printing speeds of industrial printers, this may not matter for the type of application in which desktop barcode printers will be used. More economic, these are for those with limited space and limited budgets.
Industrial barcode printers
When desktop printers won’t adequately cover your needs, an industrial barcode printer may be a better option. These powerful printers are perfect for high-volume applications where labels must be printed quickly, clearly, and one right after the other. The rugged design allows them to withstand the rigors of a harsh industrial environment, leading to a longer lifespan and a greater return.
These printers come equipped for a variety of printing styles. Don’t short change yourself with a printer that can only print one type of label, like a thermal-only printer. An industrial printer is a significant investment, so it’s worth it to pay more to have more capabilities. Industrial printers typically offer a higher dpi and have expanded precision printing capabilities to print on labels less than one quarter inch high.
The integrated capabilities of industrial printers continue to grow. To help protect against unreadable labels, the Honeywell PX940 industrial barcode printer has integrated barcode verification. This makes verifying that labels are 100% accurate and 100% scannable by industry standards. Verifying labels provides the data to protect warehouse operations from fines and charge backs for unscannable labels.
Color label printers
Sometimes, your printing operations serve a specific, unchanging purpose. Perhaps you only print labels for one use or for one client. If you can use a single template that won’t need to be changed, pre-printed labels are ideal. You can have one template pre-printed with all of the static information on it, and then essentially fill in the blanks with your color label printer.
Another in-house alternative is available for operations that utilize a variety of templates, which may be subject to change. Some color label printers allows you to print color labels on-demand in a single pass. They virtually eliminate the two-step process, as well as the inventory process for stocking many different types of labels.
Print and apply systems
These systems improve labeling speed and efficiency by providing a truly automated label printing process. They generate labels and automatically apply them directly to the products they are labeling as the items pass by on conveyor belts.
With print-and-apply labeling solutions, you are not just automating the printing process, but the application process as well. These solutions increase labeling efficiencies, but they go further, also working to effectively increase accuracy.
When to consider print and apply
Print and apply labeling solutions are vital for some applications. If your operation is running into labeling errors frequently, especially if they are causing missed deadlines, chargebacks, and expensive returns processing, you may want to consider these solutions. Or, if your labeling operations are not as fast or efficient as you need them to be, you may also want to look into them. Depending on your operating costs, they could even reduce the cost of consumables, as roll sizes and ribbons are larger and more cost-effective.
Print engines eliminate interruptions in mission-critical print-and-apply applications. They are designed to make your print-and-apply systems easier to use, integrate, and service. Features include quick-change rollers that can be exchanged in minutes, and modular drive systems that simplify maintenance and reduce downtime. These are ideal for powering print-and-apply systems in high-volume applications.
All About Mobile Printing and Mobile Printing Carts
Mobile label printers
Mobile label printers are all about efficiency. They allow your workers to print the labels they need right then and there while on the job. Rather than requiring workers to walk to and from the printer over and over again, mobile label printers allow you to generate the labels you need instantly, leading to significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.
Mobile printers can be configured to mount on a forklift or other material handling equipment, and there are many options for mounting accessories provided by printer manufacturers. The limitation with mobile printers is that the vast majority are designed for direct thermal technology and thus are not ideal for some industry labeling applications.
Mobile printing carts
Mobile printer carts are designed to be compact and portable to hold otherwise stationary printing solutions like industrial printers, laser printers, or both, as well as a computer workstation to power to it. They are designed to accommodate a variety of configurations and devices, and can be outfitted with accessories like scanners, scales, and additional devices. These carts are designed to streamline the on-demand label printing process, and essentially act as mobile workstations for processes like inventory management, order-picking, weighing, scanning, and product testing.
Mobilizing your printing process offers many benefits, like the ability to label anywhere with reliable connectivity and a long battery life, or the ability to cut out time-wasting steps like walking back and forth from the printer. You can even take printing operations outside of the facility if needed.
Remote Printer Management
IT managers expect the same level of manageability for a printer pool as is able to be achieved with current remote mobile computer management solutions. However, existing mobile device management and enterprise mobility management tools can only provide control for a small subset of printer features. Remote printer management provides the centralized control of networked printers while providing the visibility into the network that can reveal opportunities for optimization and efficiency.
There are a variety of software tools that enable your operation to manage your printer fleet from a single, central location anywhere around the globe. Zebra Printer Profile Manager Enterprise provides remote management for all Zebra Link-OS networked printers, which is nearly all of the Zebra models on the market today. Users have a complete view of their Zebra printers and remote access to all printer features, allowing the ability to easily discover printers on the network, check printer status, and find, fix, and resolve most printer problems – all from a central interface.
What to Know about Barcode Labeling Integration with Back-End Systems Before You Buy
It’s not just the devices you need to consider—it’s the software. If you need to create different label templates for each customer and their needs, you’ll need to ensure you choose the right software and the right provider who can help you integrate that software with business processes.
If you are ready to automate your printing process and produce labels that meet all necessary regulations, while maintaining full control, enterprise labeling solutions are for you. This software simplifies printing, allowing you to create, modify, and automate your labels and labeling operations.
When integrating barcode labeling solutions with other business process software, keep in mind that standardized labeling solution will eliminate fragmented systems, and increase productivity by automating printing processes. It can be challenging to navigate through this implementation processes, so make sure to take the time to select a partner with masterful experience in supply chain applications and proven success integrating business software and enterprise label printing environments.
Printing Supplies and Printer Repair
The labeling solutions you choose for your business are just as important as the printers themselves. Not all media can be mixed, and some printers can only use certain materials, so you want to be absolutely sure that you are selecting the highest-quality materials and the right ones for your printers.
If you lack the expertise required to choose the right labels with absolute certainty, work with a reputable provider that has the knowledge and expertise to guide you to the right solution. They can let you know which printers, materials, and solutions would best meet the individual needs of your operation, and can help maximize efficiency every step of the way.
It’s also critical to ensure that any repairs and servicing is done by a reputable, certified repair specialist. Oftentimes, this can be your provider. A good provider will be dedicated to more than just making a sale—they will be invested in securing the future of your business. They do this not just by providing the right technology, but comprehensive life-cycle support plans to ensure your investment is protected.