Few things are as critical to successful logistics and warehousing as clear, accurate labeling. Pallets, boxes, parcels, and bags must all be easily identifiable. And, with the increase in automation in today’s logistics industry coupled with legacy, human-based systems, those labels must be usable by both robots and human beings. This makes it crucial to find the right label, print, and apply (LPA) solution for each business.
Unsure what to look for in an LPA system? Curious what makes one stand out from another? This blog post will explore how to choose the right label, print, and apply system.
What Is LPA Technology?
Before getting too deep into the discussion of how to choose one, it’s important to establish what a label, print, and apply system truly is. While there are many different variations on the market, most of them come down to this: a way to automatically print a label and then apply it to boxes, packages, bags, and even entire pallets of goods.
This turns the old method of manual label creation, printing, and application on its ear, which is a good thing. The manual process was very time-consuming and fraught with errors. With an automated system, labels can be created, printed, and applied in mere seconds, one after the other, which boosts efficiency and speeds productivity.
Where Are Label, Print, and Apply Systems Applicable?
What industries benefit from LPA systems? Any business that must ship or organize large quantities of packages, parcels, or inventory can find benefits with these systems. E-commerce companies, manufacturers, warehouses and distribution centers, drop-shipping companies, and many more fall into this category.
Main Features to Look for When Choosing an LPA System
Every organization has unique needs when it comes to label creation, printing, and application. For instance, some may need to manage barcode creation and application, while others may need labels for media management. Yet others may require QR code creation instead of traditional barcodes.
There are also variances based on the size differences in what’s being labeled. A system that applies labels to shrink-wrapped pallets will need to be set up very differently from one that only handles small boxes and packages. Because of those unique requirements, the features discussed below are highlighted in broad terms – each system should be custom-designed to meet each specific organization’s requirements.
First, any label, print, and apply system should include some important elements. These are:
- Printer applicators
These elements come together to create a complete solution for automated labeling. However, some providers do not include all four elements in their systems. Instead, they offer a base configuration and then ask that customers purchase other elements as “add-ons” despite the fact that they are required for full functionality.
How Configurable Is the System?
Next, decision-makers should ensure that all LPA systems are highly configurable. Flexibility is critical not just to fit an organization’s current needs, but against future changes, too. Business growth, industry evolution, changes in customer preferences – these are all forces that will affect a company’s shipping/receiving and logistics requirements.
An LPA system should be highly configurable so that it can evolve along with the business. Anything less is, ultimately, a waste of time and money. With increased configurability, businesses can future-proof their logistics operations.
Standalone or Integrated
The right label, print, and apply system can also be used as a standalone system, or it can be integrated with an organization’s existing technology. Which is better for a particular business? There is no single answer that applies to all organizations here.
Some businesses will require a standalone label, print, and apply system. Often, these are small businesses without a lot of preexisting technological infrastructure. However, larger companies can also benefit from standalone systems, particularly when the labeling is not required for logistics.
Integrated systems offer the ability to easily connect with existing hardware and software, and can play a central role in speeding data throughout an organization. Integrated systems are most often used by larger businesses, but some smaller firms may also benefit from label, print, and apply solutions that play nice with their existing technology stack.
Compliant with Labeling Requirements
Any label, print, and apply system should be compliant with labeling requirements. That is, many organizations (particularly big-box stores and warehousing solutions) require that labels be of a specific size and style and that they be placed in a specific location on the package. An LPA system should be configurable to ensure compliance, whether that’s a one-off production run or an everyday need. Decision-makers should also determine whether they require an integrated compliance labeling system or a standalone system.
Single or Multiple Labels
It’s important to consider a system’s label creation and application capabilities and then compare them to the organization’s needs. Single label printing and application can speed up processes considerably, but multiple label capabilities can do much more. However, not all organizations will have the same requirements, so it’s important to determine whether single, multiple or the ability to switch from one to the other will be required.
Finally, consider the footprint the system requires. Floorspace is usually at a premium in warehouses and distribution centers, and decision-makers must choose their tools and systems with care and an eye toward how the installation will affect space utilization and flow throughout the environment. It’s important to ensure that any LPA system takes up minimal floor space to maximize usable areas within the environment. However, that smaller footprint should not come at the cost of features or capabilities. It is possible to have a compact LPA that is both capable and feature-rich.
Making a Decision
Choosing the right label, print, and apply solution is not simple and will require both research into what’s available and a deep understanding of the organization’s needs and requirements, as well as how those will change over time. However, it is possible to find a scalable, sustainable LPA system that will improve shipments and increase order success, while growing with the business.