Commentary | Supply Chain Perspectives

Empower Users to Create and Update Labels for Supply Chain Efficiency

Tags: Logistics I.T., Warehousing, Supply Chain Management, Visibility

Lori Thorp is Product Manager, Loftware, 603-766-3630

The single most important aspect of label design is the ability to convey the correct information, to the correct audience, in a consistent and concise manner. The two keywords here are “correct” and “consistent.” When labels are inaccurate or information is out of date, serious breakdowns in the supply chain can occur. This is often very costly in financial terms, but can also damage customer relationships and even the corporate brand.

Consistency is valuable in terms of branding as companies want to present a common face to the market. At the same time, ensuring labeling consistency is critical in terms of supporting efficiency up and down the supply chain.

Global companies often struggle with inconsistent label designs across different locations and facilities, which contribute to labeling inconsistency and results in more time and energy required to create and update labels.

Allowing Business Users to Manage Label Design

Companies are relying on labeling solutions to provide business users the flexibility to create and update labels to meet evolving requirements to improve customer responsiveness while eliminating dependencies on scarce IT resources. To further aid in the labeling process they are leveraging What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) design and browser-based capabilities, enabling business users to streamline the labeling process.

Implementing an enterprise labeling solution empowers business users, reduces the use of costly IT resources, and improves the speed and efficiency of the label design process.

Business users are the closest to the labeling process and are on the frontlines, interacting with customers and managing the business’ labeling requirements. When business users need to rely on IT for label design creation and updates, they must first make sure resources are available and then make sure that they truly understand the business requirements.

When business users own the label design process, they don’t have to wait for IT resources and at the same time are able to remove a layer of translation to achieve the required label design. When there is a last-minute change to customer-specific labeling requirements, such as use of a different label format or symbology, a business user can make that change without waiting for IT or a release window. When the business user has the capability to enact changes independently, without requiring service from IT, they’re able to reduce time and cost in the labeling process, boosting supply chain efficiency and improving customer responsiveness.

The Role of IT in Label Design

IT plays a critical role in the labeling process. Its job is to provide the labeling system with the data it needs, when it’s needed. Having IT manage the data is imperative. IT needs to identify and maintain the integration points with the ERP system or other enterprise applications or repositories that connect with the labeling solution. 

Beyond being the keeper and integrator of the data, IT’s role in label design is essential, ensuring access, security, and connectivity. But in terms of an actual direct role with respect to designing labels, the best practice is for IT to cede control over label creation and maintenance to the business.

Best Practices for Allowing Rapid Label Change

The need to make rapid label changes is one of the major reasons for empowering business users to manage label design. However, while you want to empower business users, you also want to ensure consistency and validation for the labeling process. Best practices include implementing a plan that dictates what the process is for making changes so that they are not made on the fly.

Best practices involve defining roles, providing proper access control, and maintaining a sound workflow process. This means ensuring that the right people have the right access at the right time and that individual roles are clearly defined so that anyone involved in the label process fully understands exactly what they need to do and when.

Versioning can also be implemented to ensure tight control over which versions of labels are being updated and which ones are production ready and can be implemented in a live production environment. It also provides an import mechanism to maintain a comprehensive audit of which version of a label was printed historically, which is vital when events like recalls occur.

Designing Labels to Meet supply chain requirements

Define an approach to include all of the key stakeholders involved in your labeling process. In addition to representing various departments and roles, it is also important to consider geographic and language requirements based on the regions where production, distribution, and consumption take place.

Factor in supply chain activities. What information needs to be provided, at which junctures, as goods move through the supply chain? Can all that information be contained in one label, or are there points where unique, stand-alone labels are required? The most important consideration here is making sure that all of the stakeholders involved are providing input. Utilizing an enterprise labeling approach offers best practices for maintaining these brand standards and responding to evolving business requirements.






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