Maximize Product Value via Effective Labeling

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Today, in our fast paced supply chains, a label can be worth as much or more than the product, itself. 

Customers count on labels to communicate accurately about the identity and quantity of parts you deliver, as well has help them fit your products into their downstream manufacturing and assembly. And delivering the wrong label at the right time—or the right label at the wrong time—can jeopardize your credibility as a vendor.

At the same time, labeling is becoming increasingly complex. There may be special logic involved with individual piece labeling (IPL) to satisfy customer or regulatory requirements. Or you may need to manage color/option sequenced shipping for individual vehicles (ILVS) in transportation industries.

This is why manufacturers must treat labeling as a critical aspect of the production process. From raw materials through work in process to finished goods ready to ship, using modern information and operations technology helps take the complexity out of assuring accurate labeling.

For manufacturers to be consistently successful in identifying parts, products, containers and even pallets for shipping, the labeling process should be based on three principles:

Capture key product, quantity, lot and container data once and then use it to correctly label raw materials, components, and manufactured goods as they flow through shipping to operations to customers.

Create a system for utilizing bar-code printing and scanning to tightly control labeling and work hand-in-glove with warehouse management to minimize inventory tracking costs, increase accuracy, and improve cash flow.

Maintain timely and accurate labeling to assure consistent quality while segregating and containing questionable parts and scrap. This is very useful if customers inquire about product traceability, since they can reference lot or serial numbers from labels on containers when submitting questions to your customer service team.

Beyond these core principles, there are a number of best practices you can adopt to eliminate mistakes and ensure accuracy.

  • First, build mistake-proofing into the process for set up to run jobs, or for work orders to make or prepare products for shipment. Confirm the work order number and product identification to be run, then check that the correct tooling, raw materials, components, packaging and containers, and approved operators are present. Next, print a test product or container label, and confirm that it is the format specified by engineering.
  • Second, print and applylabels to parts or containers as close as possible to where the work is done — ideally line-side and in real time. This requires having enough label printers to locate them close to the equipment producing parts throughout the plant.
  • Third, tightly integrate printing logic into your sales order, scheduling, production tracking and order fulfillment systems to minimize the risk of manual errors arising from using separate printing software to create labels. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can assist in this effort.
  • Fourth, have the ability to create and edit the label format layout and content so your team can adjust them over time as customer, industry, or regulatory requirements change. Additionally, keep a master file of customer label requirements under document change control for your team to reference.
  • Finally, leverage bar code technology to ensure quick and accurate identification and counts of parts by scanning labels with mobile devices tied to your inventory management system for spot counts and regular cycle counts. Also consider upgrading to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and labels to understand the identity of the container, packaging or product, as well as incorporate dynamic, active “e-paper” displays that can be read visually by humans or bar code scanners. Doing so will help minimize the risk of inventory loss while maximizing the ability of your labels to provide timely accurate information.

Ed Potoczak

Ed Potoczak, Director of Industry Relations at IQMS Manufacturing ERP and MES, has more than 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry. He is currently a Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) Americas board member and participating in the Smart Manufacturing working group. Formerly an ERP consultant at the Oakstone Group and Plante Moran, Ed has also held positions as a…

http://www.iqms.com

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