Labels may not be seen as glamorous but actually, they can be the first thing we look at when we are choosing which product to buy. They provide us will all sorts of necessary information such as what we can expect to find in the box or package,the instructions for using the product as well as its price. But that’s not all— some products may need to contain warnings or more explicit instructions as in the case of pharmaceuticals. In other words, the label is an extremely important and informative part of any product.
And it’s not just the consumer who benefits from labeling. They are an important part of the marketing process. A consistent, well-crafted label adds identification to products, making them stand out as easily recognizable brands. Indeed, hand painted labels were used to sell exclusive goods as far back as the 1700s.
And not to forget manufacturing, logistics and the supply chain. On an automated production line, a label is a vital component of the assembly process. In addition, any goods moving in and out of factories, to distribution centers or customer sites, need to be identified and tracked during all stages of their journey. In essence, a label must enable a product to be traceable, compliant and identifiable. This is something which the Auto ID Channel is well versed about. However, guaranteeing the best solution for each individual business is not devoid of challenges.
Certain technologies such as the ink jet printer and barcodes have revolutionized label management. However, maintaining accurate, up-to-date labels can still be a time-consuming,costly and complex process. Each industry has its own particular challenges but maintaining compliance, quality and accuracy is a vast undertaking for any organization.Managing the huge amount of data generated, ensuring the correct procedures are followed for label updates, and ensuring that the technology works can be hugely resource intensive.
For example, the fashion retailers need to get merchandise onto the shop floor as quickly as possible — often this will include items that have been previously purchased and then returned to store. Having the means to produce and re-ticket labels quickly and accurately is critical. The longer garments remain in the warehouse, the bigger the risk they will be ‘out of fashion’ by the time they reach stores. However, stores often find themselves in a situation where their existing technology comprises of standalone label printers which may not be connected to a central database and could be very different from the printers in another store. These issues can result in inconsistencies as well as slower turnaround times — all leading to increased costs and reduced competitiveness.
The food and beverage industry faces some unique challenges of its own where failing to produce accurate labels can have dire consequences, in terms of health and well-being. Additionally, consumer expectations are changing as are regulations and legislation. Increasingly, today’s shoppers want to know information about any additives and how the product has been manufactured, bred or transported to satisfy their sustainability responsibilities. This results in the industry needing to manage huge amounts of information on the label as well as having the ability to quickly and easily adapt as legislation and compliance rules change.
The pharmaceutical industry is also hugely regulated and one where safety standards are essential. Errors due to inaccurate labeling can cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. And increased compliance in recent years has resulted in a 65% increase in drug recalls— 50% of the pharmaceutical recalls are due to errors in product labeling or packaging artwork. Maintaining accuracy and accountability are hugely important to the industry when the impact of getting it wrong is so costly.
In manufacturing, labeling is frequently considered a background process that doesn’t get any attention until it causes a problem. As a result, barcode and RFID labeling practices and software have become dated and many enterprises are failing to keep pace with changing business needs. Also, it is common for each distribution center, factory, or other facility within an enterprise to produce its own labels for shipments, inventory control, and other processes. Maintaining a system that supports a multitude of label templates increases inconsistencies, and as a result, this can lead to customer dissatisfaction and confusion.
By no means do the above examples address all the challenges across all industries. However, they will share many of the same issues and with every challenge, the bottom line is always affected.
Challenges in the channel
Many label management solutions are sold through a channel model, but this also poses some challenges for the resellers, VARs, integrators and distributors themselves. For many years, partners have been faced with falling margins on both hardware and software platforms. In terms of label management solutions,investing in the required expertise to both sell and support these solutions doesn’t always make sense when they are based on proprietary and niche technology. Often partners are not compensated for their expertise and with no guarantees of repeat business, it may not represent a viable sales channel for some partners.
However, when there is an opportunity to add value to customers’ businesses and aid them to achieve agility and cost reductions within their labeling process, the channel can play an essential and integral part. Digitizing the labeling process is one of these opportunities.
Digital transformation of the labeling process
Digital transformation is a term which the channel hears all the time. But, it can mean different things to different people depending on the industry being addressed and the solutions being implemented. However, the core principles remain the same regardless of the situation — it’s about digitizing processes and infrastructure and using technology to optimize productivity and efficiency.
In terms of label management, it essentially means moving all the processes to the cloud so that data can be stored, changed and approved in a central location.This makes it easier to share label designs across all areas of a business,regardless of location, while ensuring that all changes to the label are tracked and saved in a central place.
Having a standardized and controlled method for producing labels throughout the entire organization automates the quality assurance process which leads to higher quality labels and makes the design and printing process much quicker. Human error is also removed, and every label has an audit trail which details changes made, by whom and when. This ensures both traceability and compliance.
Legacy labeling systems can be complex and the whole process often falls to the remit of IT. A digitized or “in the cloud” label management system makes the user interface more intuitive meaning that those who need to can access the system in a more timely manner, saving costs and eliminating downtime.
Additionally,the most intelligent systems can integrate with a variety of hardware and applications. For instance, the software can work with a variety of printers, regardless of manufacturer, reducing costs and leading to a more seamless implementation.
Realizing the benefits with a channel model
Specifying and implementing a cloud based as-a-service label management system is an ideal way for the channel to introduce the benefits of reduced label errors, reduced costs, improved agility and less downtime, to name a few, to its customer base.
In addition, a cloud-based system can be sold as a subscription service meaning that customers do not have to find funds from capex, and partners are also protected from the contracts and negotiations involved around any large upfront costs. In addition, the channel is also assured of recurring revenue. Having an as-a-service model has additional benefits of a lower cost of ownership and the customer can be ensured that the solution is scalable and future proofed,reducing the burden on partners without compromising on customer satisfaction.
The benefits of digitally transforming the labeling process are very clear to the end user. However, it is important that the channel partners with the right provider who shares the same goals of achieving incremental and profitable business and delivering this in a professional and effective manner.
The reseller landscape is very competitive but partnering with a provider who respects the channel value-add and has a partner program to support and reward its accredited partners is the way to go.
For more information on the new partnership program visit www.nicelabel.com/partners/partner-program.