Barcoding Technology Streamlines Packaging Needs

Barcoding is the gold standard for traceability and data collection, and this technology also enables companies to gain supply chain and operational efficiencies.

How to Choose the Right Solutions to Improve the Speed and Accuracy of Package Movement

By Jessica Bernardo, Senior Product Marketing Manager Barcode and Label Print Solutions for Toshiba America Business Solutions

We finally made it through the worst of the pandemic shutdown; now comes the after effects of the recovering economy and global pressures that require us to steady the ship and navigate a new course.

Today’s supply chain bares economic challenges.  Inventory is hard to control.  Uncertainty exists surrounding purchase order fulfillment delays and component lead times.  Therefore, the need for speed and accuracy of package movement is paramount.

When facing such challenges – now more than ever – you must understand exactly what your company requires to run efficiently and effectively.  Barcoding technology is one key area for gaining supply chain efficiencies and has long been the gold standard for trackability and data collection while also enabling flexibility for multiple areas of operation.

It is highly accurate, easy to use and commonly deployed for automatic identification.  Barcoding allows for the continuous collection of data to preview inventory status whether you are receiving packages and shipping in a distribution center or planning product builds at the manufacturing site. You’ll know at any given moment what is arriving on your dock and what will leave.

Every business requires labels to track, count and price as well as ensure the safe use of their products. A base analysis of the environments and conditions that your company operates under is paramount.

Identifying the right barcoding technology

Since barcoding technology is integral to the success of weathering this economic storm, what should you look for in today’s solutions?  Whether it’s retail, logistics, hospitality, shipping, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, or manufacturing – every business requires labels to track, count and price as well as ensure the safe use of their products.  A base analysis of the environments and conditions that your company operates under is paramount.

First, assess the environment and operations where the labels will be in use.  This informs your decision on the type of barcode print technology and labels to use.  Labels need to be legible to the human eye or scanner so size and clarity will be important.

Just as importantly, labels need to stay on the goods and remain legible through a variety of conditions such as weather, friction and chemical processes.

The need for speed and accuracy of package movement information is paramount, and barcode technology optimizes supply chain management.

Choosing the right label printer

Considering the range of technologies and options, it’s also essential to choose the right label printer. Getting it right will lead to a rapid return on investment. Getting it wrong can be a costly mistake.

There are two types of print technology used for labels: thermal transfer and thermal direct.  As the names imply, both use heat to create the printed information, but they do so in separate ways.

Thermal transfer technology transfers ink from a ribbon to paper using heat. The thermal transfer process produces a crisp printed image that is very stable and long-lasting.  Because the image is made with and absorbs ink it effectively becomes part of the label stock and won’t rub off, fade or smudge. Thermal transfer is therefore ideal for labels that need to last a long time while enduring harsh conditions or processes.

Direct thermal printing does not use ink and therefore has no ribbon. It instead utilizes thermal paper featuring a leuco dye coating, which changes color when heated.  Direct thermal printers also produce a crisp image and because they use no ribbon or ink, are lighter, less expensive and easier to operate.

Portable printers, ideal for offsite printing, all use direct thermal technology which is very cost-effective for creating shorter-term use labels. So, the type of print technology you choose will depend on what you are labeling and why.  Where you will most efficiently apply labels physically within your supply chain environment will also help dictate printer selection.  Mobile printers, for example, allow untethered mobility for workers to move to the best location in the facility at a moment’s notice.

Selecting the best label

Also, consider the use of the label.  Specifically, the tag’s expected shelf life and treatment while remembering that the primary goal of a label is to remain legible. Selecting labels for a specific purpose is now a trend helping drive organizational efficiency.

The requirement for multiple solutions to include more than one label in or on a package is a common requirement. Thermal printers make shipping labels, while laser printers produce packing lists.

To drive even greater efficiencies, organizations may now consolidate two labels into one.

Taking it a step further and selecting a liner-less label dramatically reduces the resources to place a label on a package and has the added benefit of greater sustainability through the elimination of the wasteful liner.  Combining two labels into one furthermore optimizes hardware use and personnel, effectively doing two labels at once with one printer.  All factors will drive the speed and accuracy to further help navigate today’s challenges.

About the Author

Jessica Bernardo is a senior product marketing manager of barcode and label print solutions for Toshiba America Business Solutions. If you’re seeking more insight into the numerous benefits barcoding technology fulfills for supply chain and logistics operations, please send an email to Jessica.Bernardo@tabs.toshiba.com.  For more information, visit www.business.toshiba.com

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