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It’s all about the labels but

it's not just all about the labels.

A confusing statement maybe, but like a lot of things in world of operations and IT, quite accurate, but why?

It’s all about the labels……

If your reading this then you’re probably very aware just how important bar codes are to your business. You know they form the vital link between your ERP/WMS systems and the distribution and logistics of your supply chain that get your goods where they need to go when they need to get there. It may be that you are one of the ever increasing amount of suppliers that are being penalised for bar codes that don’t scan and result in rejected pallets and in some cases hefty fines. So you know all about how important the various bar code labels are, how they are used to track and trace the goods that flow in and out of your warehouses and how vital these codes in all their various formats and types are to your specific industry and business.

It’s not just all about the labels……

What you may not be so cognisant about is the “back story” to these vital pieces of data that are produced and deployed by their millions on through business operations globally on a daily basis.

You may even have stopped to think about the complexity of the make up for the physical media that your labels are printed on. You will no doubt know that you need a 4” x 4” label, that’s 100mm x 100mm if you’re lucky enough to be young enough to only remember metric measurements. You probably know whether your media needs to be direct or indirect and how that affects your production costs, or whether the costs of production are secondary to the requirements statutory or otherwise around the type, use, longevity of the bar codes you require. You may even be aware that there are hundreds of different types of adhesives that you could use that effect the “tack” of your label and whether it can be removed easily or not, or stick to certain materials or not, or even void themselves if tampered with. We at Datatrade do, and we can advise you on any or all of the above as well as the making sure that you have a right printer to do the job in the most efficient yet economical way for your business.

Have you ever thought about how you manage the data from your labels and the process’ that go around it?

In the area of retail and logistics there are 2 main ways of creating labels to drive your business operations. As in most things there is a trade-off and in this case its flexibility against “the extra step”.

Often label data will be extracted and encoded directly in your ERP/WMS system and printed directly to your printer. Often viewed as the simplest approach it does however limit your label production, and therefore can limit the flexibility of your business to react to changes that may be stipulated to your labels for any reason in the future. Thermal printers all have their own different language and although many vendors provide emulations it can often be almost but not quite perfect. Unfortunately though in the important world of barcodes labels “almost” doesn’t quite cut it. When was the last time you were happy because a bar code label “almost” read or you could “almost” read all the other bits of data that are on the label? This means that organisations can often be limited to the choice of vendor depending on what their original data output was encoded to back when the system was first installed. Of course changes can be made to the output of these systems but organisations and especially their IT departments or third part support organisations tend to not want to do this for all sorts of reasons. Making such changes to code that in some cases was written many years ago can cause more problems than it fixes. In some cases the knowledge to “how” or “what” exactly to change has been lost. In most, if not all, cases the resource and time to develop the new print routines and the exhaustive testing that has to be done to ensure that any changes are correct means that such work becomes very costly and rarely makes it past a discussion point. This then can become a major brake on strategic drives to replace ageing or even out of spares supported devices and ultimately could cause a complete breakdown in your supply chain.

An alternative to consider when installing a new system or when faced with potentially significant costs in changing your data streams from your ERP/WMS system is to introduce a third party software solution. Such solutions put an extra step in the production of your bar codes but offer a lot more flexibility and can be invaluable if you are required to make constant changes to labelling by customers or in highly regulated markets with very strict rules on the structure and format of your labels.

Any good third party labelling systems allow you to either create labels and their requisite data from scratch within it, or alternately take in your host data either as a batch or as required, format it either on the fly, or using a pre-defined label formats already stored on the printer to print your labels as, and when required. Even if your printer is part of an applicator for example.

The added advantage of this approach is that it enables you to easily make modifications to label formats as they may be required, quickly and easily yet in a managed environment. It reduces your dependency on vendor specific solutions freeing you up to make sure you are purchasing the best products for your needs. Such systems also provide modular and compartmentalised process for the creation, authorising and printing of labels so that you can ensure you have full control of the design and printing process. It provides mechanism’s for central control and quality assurance and most are suitable for rolling out to multi-site installations. Label formats can be designed and modified by users or IT personnel and don’t have to be encoded by application programmers on the mainframe host systems, but controls can be put in place to remove the ability of unauthorised changes. Testing can be discrete and most importantly you don’t have to change or effect in any way the data coming from your host. By taking the time to implement such a solution within your business you are providing a platform to design, develop, deploy and manage, all elements of your labelling requirements no matter if they are simple pallet labels through to consumer labelling for everyday goods or high value items. Putting in that “extra step” removes dependencies’ on host systems and will provide future cost savings by making any required changes to label formats easier, simpler and therefore cheaper to implement.

For further information please: Contact datatrade


Managed print services – MPS Datatrade have a complete range of managed printer services and solutions for all impact and thermal printers. With fully comprehensive packages that be financed over 3/5 years, demonstrating significant cost savings over a traditional purchase and after market support model.

Remote Print Service Using our remote printer engineer – Reg the virtual printer engineer, Datatrade can ensure maximum uptime and cost savings for your remote mobile printers.

Auto ID Services We offer a comprehensive range of service from the supply and support of new as well as legacy equipment. Even if the manufacturer has discontinued the unit or it has been rebranded. We can also supply a complete range of accessories for all makes and model of barcode scanners such as screen protectors, styluses, batteries and wrist straps.

Audit and discovery Our pre-sales engineers will undertake a full site audit to find / recommend the best printer solutions to meet your supply chain delivery requirements.

Repair We demonstrate an extremely high level of technical expertise and service for a wide range of Printer and Auto ID Products. We can repair onsite or in our workshop. We can also select and help install printers and Auto ID equipment for our customers. We can offer a fully managed Return to Base (RTB) service solution for smaller devices such as Barcode scanners, Hand Held Terminals and mobile printers.

Maintenance Datatrade offer a flexible approach to maintenance and can tailor a contract to suit your needs.

Hardware We can supply printers, printheads, print servers as well as all major brands of barcode scanner and hand held equipment… For further information on finding the right print solution for your business please use our Hardware Selector or for Auto ID enquiries contact us using the details below.

Media and Consumables We fully understand the importance of ensuring that the correct media and consumable’s are used in mission critical printers to ensure perfect print quality and enhance the life of your printer asset so we provide a large range of media and consumables for all manufacturers.

In addition to supplying these items, we will also work with you to ensure you are using the correct product for quality and cost effectiveness.

For further information please Ring +44(0)1604 66-66-01 or email us.
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Datatrade > Documents & Discussion > Thought Leadership > It’s all about the labels but