By Gary Paulin and Mark Lusky
Beverage manufacturers projecting future consumer demand in light of a changed world must make sure their present supply chain is as close to bullet-proof as possible. Ability to be nimble in a “new normal” environment will be more critical than ever before. Custom Labels are obviously a key part of making product available on-demand.
As recent events have demonstrated, the rules of the road have changed, at least for the time being. Using overseas companies for label printing may prove balky and uncertain. Even complex domestic supply chains involving outsourced printing and fulfillment present potentially daunting challenges. Shipping challenges factor heavily into the overall equation as well.
In short, a reliable supply chain with the fewest moving parts possible is the number one key to get high-quality labels quickly and at the most cost-effective price.
Beverage manufacturers wanting to double-down on quality, price and on-time assurances are well advised to review the following checklist for label printing, fulfillment and delivery. If present providers aren’t able to meet these criteria, look for a custom label printer that can.
- Check supply chain strength. The more a custom label printer controls operations under its own roof, the better. Printers that outsource printing, fulfillment or any other element of the process (except shipping itself), are more likely to be experiencing communication breakdowns, delays and quality challenges. In the present environment, it’s become far more difficult in time-sensitive and quality-control situations to use overseas providers because of the logistics involved. And, if there’s a problem with label quality, product manufacturers can find themselves up a creek without a paddle.
One way to assess is current performance-based intel. Is it pretty much business as usual, consistent with processes and performance pre-COVID-19? Is there one area that has experienced problems, and if so, what can be done to remediate it? As far as shipping, there obviously are some elements that can be beyond anyone’s control (short of developing your own delivery company). The key is to ensure that “on-time” is the rule, not exception.
- Check into the current printer’s workforce stability. Workforce disruption, including layoffs/turnover, low morale and lagging productivity can be very damaging. Is your current custom label printer workforce staying stable and productive? If so, that’s likely a positive sign of what’s to come. If it isn’t, it’s time to ask hard questions to see if/how the printer intends to keep everything moving smoothly. If the situation seems unstable, consider looking for another provider.
- Determine present printer “what if” plans. As events of the last few months have shown, there are unforeseen issues and problems that can constitute worst-case scenarios. Does your label printer have contingency plans in place for a variety of “what if” scenarios? If so, what are they? And, when problems arise, are the protocols in place going to give beverage product manufacturers confidence in their ability to solve them? A solid history of stellar customer service is one standard indicator of future performance. Effective customer service teams are accustomed to responsive problem-solving.
- Run test scenarios of potential coming situations. Product manufacturers and their label printers should strategize ahead of time how to handle what may come down the road. For example, pent-up demand may greatly expand the number of labels needed going forward. Custom digital label printers, already accustomed to just-in-time ordering and fulfillment, should be able to provide clear and insightful solutions based on a variety of hypothetical scenarios.
- Determine if the printer will discuss terms. Key to building loyalty and longevity is willingness and ability of the label printer to tailor payment and other terms to present needs. Is the printer demanding fulfillment of existing agreements or contracts versus having a discussion to find mutually-agreeable solutions? Does your current printer seem “too willing” to drop price substantially and offer extraordinary service in return for quick cash in the door? If so, that could be a sign of impending printer shutdown or reduction in quality. In essence, there is a sweetspot between stubborn insistence on business as usual and being overly accommodating. As in most areas of life, the best outcomes likely will be achieved somewhere in the middle.
These are extraordinary times. Beverage manufacturers should look for custom label printing solutions that go to extraordinary lengths to meet the challenges.
About the Authors:
Gary Paulin is Director of Sales and Client Services at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.