How do different labelling technologies stack up? Which should you choose for your products and packaging line? To help you navigate through the options, read our one-stop guide to labelling technologies.
Labelling technologies have come leaps and bounds in the past few years, especially as automation has ramped up. While the end goal of labelling remains the same – to code, mark and identify products – today’s labelling technologies offer much more than this. In fact, if you want it to, your labelling solution can help you improve efficiencies to create a lean business.
However, not all labelling technologies are created equal. So, whether you’re thinking of investing in labelling equipment for the first time or need to upgrade, it pays to understand the types of labelling solutions and how they will fit into your business.
To help, here’s our one-stop guide to labelling technologies:
1) LABEL PRINTER APPLICATOR (LPA)
Label Printer Applicators (LPAs) print information onto pressure-sensitive labels and then automatically apply those labels onto a product. They are also called “print and apply” solutions.
On automated production lines, LPAs are typically installed at, or immediately after, the pallet stretch wrap station. The LPA can then be integrated with a stretch wrapper to apply an SSCC label on each fork entry side of the pallet. An unattended scanner can be used to automatically read each carton barcode so that the LPA can print the appropriate pallet label. (Find out more about compliant SSCC labelling and you can also download this free whitepaper, which discusses SSCC label problems and looks at how to resolve them it’s – a very simple fix for anyone who palletises product to send to customers.)
They can also apply barcode labels onto cartons along with data captured from other systems within your business, such as Matthews’ iDSnet software solution.
- Applying variable human-readable and barcode information to cartons, pallets and also some primary products
- Labelling a variety of substrates, such as plastics, metal (including steel) and timber
- Printing and applying RFID Smart Labels
- High volumes of labels with variable barcodes, product information or graphics
Streamline label printing and application process: This is arguably the biggest benefit of LPAs, as they provide the opportunity to drive efficiencies in the line. LPAs are highly versatile and can automatically apply labels at high speeds of up to 70 labels per minute, depending on your application.
Excellent print quality: Today’s LPAs are capable of printing high resolution, high quality information, such as barcodes, graphics, large and small text, logos, 2D codes and linear 1D codes, and they can achieve this at high speeds. This means barcode labels and pallet labels (SSCC labels) are fully compliant with strict GS1 and retailer quality standards, minimising the risk of your stock being rejected by from retailers.
Easy to use: Today’s LPAs come with integrated software so the machine can be easily programmed without a PC on the production line. This is ideal for logic programming, such as dates. Also, they tend to be designed so that operators can easily see how to change labels and ribbons, resulting in less downtime. For example, the Matthews A-Series features on-board software and a colour touchscreen to make easy work of printer control and message editing.
Integrate with the production line: Some LPAs, such as Matthews A-Series, can be fully networked using software integration allowing easier label design, format changes, quick product changeovers and real-time line status monitoring. Because they are integrated with other line technologies, your automated solutions work as one, driving efficiency to new heights. It also opens the door for better Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) reporting. (Find out here what OEE is and then see if you’re making these common mistakes with OEE.)
Cost-effective: This is especially so if you have various SKUs. By printing on demand, you can apply labels to generic cartons instead of holding an inventory of various pre-printed cartons. Plus, inline printers have a small footprint on the production line. (Read this blog for more pros and cons of pre-printed cartons).
TECHNOLOGY EXAMPLE: The Matthews A-Series Label Printer Applicator can be fully networked using software integration allowing easier label design, format changes, quick product changeovers and real-time line status monitoring. The Matthews A-Series was a ‘Best New Product’ finalist at the APPMA Awards 2015 and is especially designed for more uptime and easy operation.
Thinking about getting a Label Printer Applicator? Read our full technology review of LPAs.
2) LABEL APPLICATOR (LA)
If your labels are printed and ready to go, you need a cost-effective and efficient way to apply them to your cartons – which is where Label Applicators (LAs) come in.
LAs are automated labelling systems that apply pre-printed pressure-sensitive labels onto (typically) primary products with flat surfaces. Without the print technology of Label Printer Applicators, LAs tend to be the perfect cost-effective alternative to the manual “slap-and-ship”, especially for barcoding.
Label Applicators have been around for about 40 years and have become ever more versatile to meet the needs of today’s businesses. For example, they can now apply multiple labels at higher speeds. And because they are precise in where they place the label, LAs give products a professional finish.
- Applying pre-printed barcode labels onto cartons and trays
- Applying labels to flat, tapers and round surfaces, g. ingredient lists, nutritional panels, general product information
- Applying promotional or marketing labels onto pre-labelled retail packs
Flexible technology: Used for human and machine-readable information, label applicators provide flexibility to suit your business. They can be used for a variety of applications, including the application of labels to flat, tapered or round surfaces.
Precise finish: Use a label applicator to apply labels precisely to give your product a professional finish.
Apply multiple labels at higher speeds: LAs have the capacity to apply multiple labels even at high line speeds, making them the ideal alternative to manual label application.
TECHNOLOGY EXAMPLE: The Novexx ALS 30X features high speed application and perfect apply accuracy, making it the optimum solution for labelling high product volumes in demanding environments.
3) INLINE LABELLING SYSTEMS
An inline labelling system is integrated into the production line. Think of it as the materials-handling addition needed to help the Label Applicator accurately address the label onto the product.
In-line labelling systems can apply a variety of label position combinations:
- Front and back (including on round, oval and conical bottles)
- Front, back and wrap
- On tubes
- On cylinders (including a full-wrap overlap)
As such, in-line systems may need to capture, spin or turn a product to ensure the label is accurately placed on the product.
- Applying human-readable and GTIN barcode information to primary products
- Applying a wide range of applications onto a variety of product shapes and sizes, g. wine bottle labelling, aerosol cans, embossed bottles (with labels oriented relative to embossing), plastic bottles, syringes and vials.
Versatile: In-line labelling systems can apply a variety of label positions on various substrates.
Automatic or semi-automatic options: In-line labellers can be either fully automatic or semi-automatic. Semi-automatic in-line labellers are portable and best suited to slower production lines, low volumes or short runs.
4) WEIGH & WEIGH PRICE LABELLING
Weigh labellers and weigh-price labellers can be either a stand-alone machine with manual feed or integrated into existing automated production line for fully automatic price labelling.
Packages are correctly and automatically forwarded, aligned, weighed and labelled – even those of varying height and alignment. Labelling can be on the top, back or side, with speeds to suit the production line.
- Applying human-readable information (such as weight and price) onto primary products.
- Suits a host of food products, including meats, fruits, vegetables and bakery products, as well as non-food products.
Flexible systems: Units can be stand-alone or fully integrated into your production line.
Accurate: Both the weighing and labelling technologies are highly precise.
Robust and hygienic: The units’ housing suits the equipment perfectly to high-hygiene areas such as food production.
Quick: Fast set-up time and easy to use.
TECHNOLOGY EXAMPLE: The fully automatic Bizerba GLM-I range is a precise weigh-price labelling systems. Firstly the unit weighs, then labels the item with the price, in both food and non-food industries. Units are user-friendly and easy to service; depending on your production line, Matthews can seamlessly the GLM-I can be integrated into a network. It can also grow to satisfy future needs.
5) NEXT STEPS
Whatever labelling option you choose, here are some important features to look for:
- Fast implementation
- Able to be integrated within production or packaging line
- Simple to operate
- Easy maintenance
- Scalable (to meet future needs)
Speak to our experts – they are ready to help you choose the best solution among labelling technologies for your line.
Check out Matthews’ vast resource library. It has a host of detailed information that’s all free to download! There are whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, case studies, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action and more!
Image credit / fotofermer