Reduce costs and your carbon footprint – print your labels in-house.
For most companies, the traditional way of producing labelling for products and packaging materials has been to devise a generic label design, perhaps with some detail differences dependent on the type of container to which the label is to be affixed, estimate the volumes of printed label which will be required and simply sub-contract the printed work to an outside provider. While this approach may be sensible for some types of high volume, long-run production where the labelling is unlikely to change over a run of several thousands of units, it can cause more problems than it solves for smaller production runs or for firms where production batches are sold in separate markets.
Why keep your branding in-house?
It’s becoming more common for smaller companies, especially those with a more “boutique” approach to production and marketing – such as these craft micro-brewing specialists which were the subject of a recent Guardian newspaper article - to keep label production in-house using a modern, high quality, purpose designed label printer.
Let’s be clear; we’re not dealing with a standard desktop-compatible laser or inkjet machine here. These pieces of kit are significantly more sophisticated, with the more up-market versions capable of producing product-specific labels at speeds of up to 170mm/sec equating to around 5,000-7,000 product labels per hour depending on size.
But can an investment of this nature really save money in the long term, let alone represent a positive environmental statement? A number of firms believe it can and have been prepared to invest the capital to prove it. There are at least five sound business reasons for making such an investment.
- Printing labels just in time. This means that not only are you not paying over the odds for an outside contractor to print labels on your behalf, with the attendant mark-up in price and shipping costs, you are also largely eliminating the need to spend money up-front producing a stock of labels which may end up being wasted if you’ve over-estimated requirements. By the same token, just-in-time production in-house means that you’ll never run out of your stock of labels leading to production downtime and potentially expensive re-ordering.
- Flexibility to change. With batch ordering of externally produced labels, you’re either locked in to using up the batch or faced with a need to write-off existing stocks for any changes in production such as minor changes to ingredients, changes in legal requirements or simply a shift in corporate marketing focus. Producing labels in-house eliminates this barrier to innovation as well as the waste that may be caused.
- Make the most of your packaging. It’s not just product containers that need labelling. Producing packaging with accurate and attractive labelling helps with warehousing staff’s order-picking, illustrates to customers and retailers the contents of packaging for larger items, so reducing point-of-sale waiting times and even turns your packaging and shipping containers into effective low-cost advertising.
- Links to production line. The more sophisticated industrial label printers are computer-linked to your production line, allowing labelling to be completely synchronised with the physical production process, incorporating batch information and numerical identification, barcoding data or other specific production details. This, again, reduces waste and over-production while ensuring that your products are labelled as they roll off the line. It also becomes a simple matter to change the label to suit, for example, a production run for export or to accommodate minor changes in label requirements.
- Horses for courses. Clearly, not every manufacturing company will require the fastest, most sophisticated machine available. Many suppliers and manufacturers, such as QuickLabel Systems, for example, produce a range of label printers, from the high speed, high volume machines to smaller desk-top variants for manufacturers specialising in smaller production runs. It’s usually possible to lease your machine too, giving an opportunity to try the technology before committing to buy and reducing the need for intensive capital investment.
In terms of the overall flexibility, reduction in unit cost and virtual elimination of waste, in-house label printing is one of the smartest investments for small manufacturing companies, both in terms of their own corporate bottom line and, ultimately, for the wider environment too.