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2015's Top Trends in Enterprise Labeling

Labeling has become a mission-critical component in the supply chain as businesses expand globally.

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Labeling has become a mission-critical component in the supply chain as businesses expand globally. Here’s a look at four major trends driving enterprise labeling.

Standardizing enables labeling consistency, and dramatically streamlines maintenance and oversight, while offering the control to make rapid label changes throughout the supply chain.

There are three important drivers behind the push to standardize:

Providing Simplified Maintenance and Deployment: Offering the ability to centralize and deploy a standard labeling solution provides a wide range of benefits. Rather than manage multiple systems, this standardized approach enables companies to streamline maintenance while support­ing enterprise-wide labeling changes. In addition to reducing cost and simplifying maintenance, having a single, scalable solution facilitates expansion to new global locations.

Ensuring Labeling Consistency: By taking a standardized approach, companies can ensure that a common set of labels, centralized applications and data sources are used across the supply chain. Also, ensuring consis­tency helps support compliance with brand standards that rely on labels to help businesses differenti­ate their products, build relationships and maintain customer’s trust regardless of where in the world labels are printed.

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Supporting Business Continuity: Both natural and man-made disasters can have a significant impact on a company’s supply chain and ultimately result in substantial financial consequences. Just as companies might shift production from one facility to another, a standardized approach to labeling allows them to rapidly shift label production in the same manner. By standardizing on a central labeling solution, compa­nies can leverage the data and labels needed to keep the supply chain flowing and minimize the impact during a disruption.

Certified integration to the sources of truth for label data allows compa­nies to automate labeling processes directly from enterprise applications while ensuring label data accuracy. This approach reduces the need to maintain countless permutations of labels, enabling configurable business logic to trigger labeling and empower companies to quickly re­spond to evolving regulatory, language, region­al, business and customer specific requirements.

Customer responsiveness in labeling typically centers on meeting the following expectations:

Integration with Business Systems is Imperative: Integration models that support the seamless exchange of data and eliminate the need for manual processes allow companies to maintain their existing systems and user interactions, while automat­ing their labeling processes and improving overall efficiency. Although on-demand printing of labels is still important for many businesses, integrating label­ing with enterprise applications and existing business processes is a best practice for labeling in today’s global supply chain.

Meeting Customer and Regulatory Require­ments: More than ever customers are imposing labeling requirements including unique formats, barcodes, logos, languages, and data attributes. Also, new standards and regulations are dictating which requirements need to be applied to labels to meet compliance. Companies are seeking the capability to meet a wide range of variable labeling requirements without forcing an overwhelming amount of manual oversight. Without the ability to meet these customer requirements, businesses are faced with costly and time-consuming relabeling, increasing fines, customer dissatisfaction and loss of business.

Allowing Rapid Label Changes: Busi­nesses must be able to respond in a timely fashion to a wide range of customer and regulatory demands. Without the ability to streamline label changes, companies will be confronted with missed delivery dates, hefty fines and dissatisfied customers. Configu­rable business logic allows business users to quickly and easily support new requirements, enabling label formatting and content to be changed dynamically.

To ensure an effective supply chain strategy, companies must consider how labeling intersects all levels of their supply chain. This is especially true with evolving demands such as globalization of manufacturing, safety and quality of prod­ucts, shorter lead-times, lean business environ­ments, and changing market dynamics.

There are three important considerations behind label­ing intersecting the supply chain:

Increasing Supply Chain Collaboration: Supply chain collaboration aligns processes to stream­line business, allowing global companies to reduce costs and add value to partners throughout the supply chain. Collaboration allows suppliers and business partners to work together to define their requirements for labeling. This allows business partners to deliver compliant labels that are specifically designed to have the attributes, data content, formatting and symbologies needed to improve efficiency, expand productivity, increase com­petitive advantage and meet customer demands.

Extending Labeling for Business Partners and Suppliers: Collaboration allows businesses connected within the supply chain to work together and extend access to labeling solutions. To engage in true collaboration, businesses must provide centralized control, allowing partners access to essential label­ing capability, while ensuring that data needed for labeling is made securely accessible for label printing. This approach safeguards label accuracy and ensures adherence to corporate and brand standards.

Reducing Occurrences of Mislabeling and Relabeling: Mislabeling can mean a lack of compliance and result in loss of business, costly fines or returns due to downstream processing errors. At the same time, the need to re-label can cause operational efficiency delays and downstream processing costs.

Technology continues to revolutionize the way companies conduct business and execute business processes. Cloud-based computing offers endless possibilities for outsourcing applications and computing infrastructure, enabling companies to concentrate on core competencies.

Three important considerations behind this trend are:

Accessing Browser-Based Labeling: Companies seeking global deployment for labeling are utilizing browser-based applications, which can dramatically reduce the burden of installing and maintaining labeling systems. These applications allow companies to enable users with instant access to functionality, and provide security over labeling visibility and access, all while offer­ing streamlined management of global operations.

Implementing Cloud-Based Technology: Many companies are moving their IT infrastructures to the Cloud to streamline their on-demand provisioning of software, hardware, and data as a service. Com­panies are either looking to integrate labeling with existing Cloud-based systems or for solutions that can be part of the adoption of this deployment model. The Cloud model provides flexibility to scale, eliminates the need for extensive disaster recovery plans and provides automatic software updates. Business users embracing this new technology will need labeling solutions to work with and potentially be deployed in the Cloud.

Labeling Meets the Internet of Things (IoT): A growing trend across multiple industries, IoT impacts how businesses communicate and connect. The opportunity to monitor and manage an entire network of devices, sensors, and other components provides untapped opportunities for a wide range of solutions including labeling. As companies are imple­menting their IoT initiatives they are looking to rely on their labeling solutions to manage global printer networks, update device settings, send print requests and monitor status.

Josh Roffman is Vice President of Marketing and Product Management at Loftware, a global market leader in Enterprise Labeling Solutions.