Navigating Supply Chain Challenges in 2024

The Role of Coding and Marking Solutions

By Josh Roffman, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Loftware

Consumer and regulatory demands have placed end-to-end traceability at the heart of modern supply chain management. © Aunging – stock.adobe.com

The supply chain is poised to face a multitude of challenges in 2024, including geopolitical uncertainties, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), evolving regulations and a looming recession threat. These factors pose significant obstacles to the adaptability, resilience and financial prosperity of companies of all sizes, underscoring the importance of future-proofing operations now.

Raising the profile of marking and coding solutions – why are they important in 2024?

When it comes to manufacturing, the adoption of marking and coding devices has become widespread. Leveraging laser and spray technologies to print on almost any surface, these devices are an effective means to disseminate crucial information, including variable data such as expiration dates, serialization codes, barcodes, expiration dates, and batch numbers to both consumers and supply chain professionals.

Marking and coding systems, once characterized by ‘closed-looped systems’ with disparate purpose-built software requiring manual operation, are now becoming connected, integrated, and controlled by unified labeling systems. This is especially important for industries like food & beverage, consumer products, and life sciences where more products, shorter runs, and faster turnarounds are critical. In fact, according to our annual “Top 5 Trends” research, 91% of businesses reported seeing an advantage of using a single platform to support thermal transfer type labeling, as well as direct marking and coding.

The call for greater supply chain transparency

Consumer and regulatory demands have placed end-to-end traceability at the heart of modern supply chain management. For instance, consumers wish to understand where and how a product has been sourced and manufactured. Some product packaging now features sustainability credentials, offering transparent details about sustainable sourcing, recyclability, and environmental impact. There is a clear expectation that deliveries be tracked accurately from warehouse to doorstep, not least to trace the climate impact of operations but also to ensure timely delivery.

In conjunction with consumer demand for transparency, regulations around this theme have skyrocketed, reshaping the way companies can operate throughout their supply chains. One of the most pivotal to supply chain success, the Digital Product Passport (DPP) was designed to be a method of digitally recording product information, in particular the traceability of the product and its components across the entire supply chain.

Providing consumers with in-depth information about a product’s origin and manufacturing processes, DPP plays a crucial role in influencing purchasing decisions. Moreover, the integration of DPPs is essential in tackling challenges related to both consumer preferences and regulatory compliance. From a product perspective, there are many categories that will eventually be required to include a DPP on their goods. This encompasses a range of items such as batteries, apparel, electronics, and construction materials, among others. On a per-product basis, the Digital Product Passport will impact virtually every participant in the supply chain, encompassing manufacturers, distributors, and consumers.

This emphasis on visibility renders coding and marking essential for every player operating in today’s supply chain. Coding and marking technology is uniquely positioned to communicate and capture the necessary information, and can serve as the physical interface to a digital hub of crucial information.

Today’s global supply chain requires innovation

Businesses are looking to expand their digital transformation programs to optimize costs and gain a competitive advantage as they look ahead to 2024 and beyond. As part of this, manufacturers are seeking an all-in-one digital ecosystem that can bring products to market quickly, efficiently, and more competitively. Within this context, marking and coding is emerging as a crucial technology for modern businesses.

Over the last few years, the labeling, marking and coding space has experienced a notable shift. These systems, which used to be “closed-loop” with distinct and purpose-specific software components that demanded manual operation, have progressed significantly. Today, they can seamlessly integrate with, and be managed by, intelligent systems as part of a drive toward a “one size fits all” intelligent factory operation.

The use of standardized and centralized cloud-based platforms for all labeling and supply chain printing is only becoming more vital in today’s business landscape. The benefits of automation and digitization are clear, including increased efficiency, the elimination of unplanned downtime, a drastic reduction in label errors, and valuable time and cost savings. That is why companies today are seeking this type of solution; one that can meet the full scope of their requirements for bringing products to market quickly, efficiently, and more competitively.

A word to business leaders

During another year with anticipated supply chain disruption, firms must embrace innovation and use all the tools available to automate processes and improve supply chain visibility. Embracing a new and innovative way to drive coding and marking solutions is no longer an option but a necessity for business leaders looking to maintain competitiveness and agility in today’s dynamic manufacturing landscape.

About the Author

Josh Roffman is Loftware’s executive vice president of marketing. Learn more at www.loftware.com/solutions/print-technologies and register to download the report,  “2024 Top Trends In Labeling and Packaging” at https://www.loftware.com/resources/reports/2023/top-5-trends-2024

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