Today, there are a variety of factors impacting supply chain strategy and ultimately labeling processes. Therefore, it’s important to take a close look at what changes are driving today’s trends in labeling, which has become a mission-critical component in the supply chain as businesses continue to expand globally.
Growing customer demands and evolving regulatory requirements are just a couple of the trends which have been identified based on input from over 500 supply chain professionals, from a wide range of leading global companies, in a recent Enterprise Labeling Trends Survey.
1. Business are standardizing labeling for consistency and efficiency
As business continues to expand globally, companies are recognizing the benefits of standardizing their labeling across global supply chains. Standardizing enables labeling consistency, and dramatically streamlines maintenance and oversight, while offering the control to make rapid label changes throughout the supply chain. This standardized approach also helps global companies ensure business continuity in the face of disaster and empowers them to meet complex, global and high volume labeling demands.
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There are three important drivers behind the push to standardize:
- Providing simplified maintenance and deployment: Offering the ability to centralize and deploy a standard labeling solution provides a wide range of benefits. Rather than manage multiple different systems, this standardized approach enables companies to streamline maintenance while supporting enterprise-wide labeling changes. In addition to reducing cost and simplifying maintenance, having a single, scalable solution facilitates expansion to new global locations.
- Ensuring labeling consistency: As businesses extend their reach across the global supply chain, it’s critical they maintain labeling consistency across multiple markets and regions. By taking a standardized approach, companies can ensure that a common set of labels, centralized applications and data sources are used across the supply chain. Also, ensuring consistency helps support compliance with brand standards which can rely on labels to help businesses differentiate their products, build relationships and maintain customer’s trust regardless of where in the world labels are printed.
- Supporting business continuity: Both natural and man-made disasters can have a significant impact on a company’s supply chain and ultimately result in substantial financial consequences. Just as companies might shift production from one facility to another, a standardized approach to labeling allows them to rapidly shift label production in the same manner. By standardizing on a central labeling solution, companies can leverage the data and labels needed to keep the supply chain flowing and minimize the impact during a disruption.
2. Integrated, dynamic labeling is essential
Today’s labeling needs to be both dynamic and data-driven to meet evolving customer and regulatory standards. Customers’ labeling requirements are more demanding and variable than ever and businesses failing to meet those requirements in a timely fashion find themselves with dissatisfied customers that are likely to turn to competitors. However, certified integration to the sources of truth for label data allows companies to automate labeling processes directly from enterprise applications while ensuring label data accuracy. This approach reduces the need to maintain countless permutations of labels, enabling configurable business logic to trigger labeling and empower companies to quickly respond to evolving regulatory, language, regional, business and customer specific requirements.
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Customer responsiveness in labeling typically centers on meeting the following expectations:
- Integration with business systems is imperative: Integration models which support the seamless exchange of data and eliminate the need for manual processes allow companies to maintain their existing systems and user interactions, while automating their labeling processes and improving overall efficiency. Although on-demand printing of labels is still important for many businesses, integrating labeling with enterprise applications and existing business processes is a best practice for labeling in today’s global supply chain.
- Meeting customer and regulatory requirements: More than ever customers are imposing labeling requirements including unique formats, barcodes, logos, languages, and data attributes. Also, new standards and regulations are dictating which requirements need to be applied to labels to meet compliance. Companies are seeking the capability to meet a wide range of variable labeling requirements without forcing an overwhelming amount of manual oversight. Without the ability to meet these customer requirements, businesses are faced with costly and time-consuming relabeling, increasing fines, customer dissatisfaction and loss of business.
- Allowing rapid label changes: Today businesses must be able to respond in a timely fashion to a wide range of customer and regulatory demands. Without the ability to streamline label changes, companies will be confronted with missed delivery dates, hefty fines and dissatisfied customers. Configurable business logic allows business users to quickly and easily support new requirements, enabling label formatting and content to be changed dynamically.
3. Labeling intersects the supply chain at all levels
Labeling has become a significant consideration for supply chain activities that span from upstream production to downstream distribution and delivery of finished goods. To ensure an effective supply chain strategy, companies must consider how labeling intersects all levels of their supply chain. This is especially true with evolving demands such as globalization of manufacturing, safety and quality of products, shorter lead-times, lean business environments, and changing market dynamics. By adopting this mindset businesses are able to become more responsive and efficient throughout their supply chain.
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There are three important considerations behind labeling intersecting the supply chain:
- Increasing supply chain collaboration: Supply chain collaboration aligns processes to streamline business, allowing global companies to reduce costs and add value to partners throughout the supply chain. Collaboration allows suppliers and business partners to work together to define their requirements for labeling. This allows business partners to deliver compliant labels that are specifically designed to have the attributes, data content, formatting and symbologies needed to improve efficiency, expand productivity, increase competitive advantage and meet customer demands.
- Extending labeling for business partners and suppliers: Collaboration allows businesses connected within the supply chain to work together and extend access to labeling solutions. To engage in true collaboration, businesses must provide centralized control, allowing partners access to essential labeling capability, while ensuring that data needed for labeling is made securely accessible for label printing. This approach safeguards label accuracy and ensures adherence to corporate and brand standards.
- Reducing occurrences of mislabeling and relabeling: Adhering to standards and business requirements so that all goods are properly labeled is imperative in successfully moving product throughout the supply chain. If not, mislabeling can mean a lack of compliance and result in loss of business, costly fines or returns due to downstream processing errors. At the same time, the need to re-label can cause operational efficiency delays and downstream processing costs. However, implementing a common approach to labeling can offer consistency and minimize the need for redundant labeling processes.
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