Your quick guide to choosing the right carton coding and labelling solution


The rules around carton coding and labelling are becoming increasingly strict. You need to make sure your cartons have the right code or label, in the right place, in the right format. So how can you make sure your shippers are correct and compliant? Read on for a quick guide to choosing the right carton coding and labelling solution.


In Australia, barcode labels are the preferred method for applying barcodes to cartons. It is also the most cost-effective option especially if you have various SKUs. In-line print and apply allows manufacturers to keep generic cartons instead of maintaining inventory of various pre-printed cartons.

Solution: Label Printer Applicator (LPA)

Great for carton barcode labelling, an LPA can print barcodes in the correct format (typically ITF-14 or GS1-128) with human-readable information, and then apply the label to one side, adjacent sides or opposite sides of the shipper.

LPAs can automatically apply carton labels at high speeds of up to 70 labels per minute, depending on the application. They can also apply barcode labels onto cartons along with data captured from other systems within your business, such as Matthews’ iDSnet software solution. (This blog has a good technology review of LPAs.)

Alternatively, on low-volume production lines, you can opt to label cartons by hand using a fixed or mobile Label Printer. 


Often, you need to print human-readable information directly onto the carton, such as date codes, batch numbers or product description.

Solution: Thermal Inkjet Printer

Ideal for high-resolution print, a thermal inkjet can print high quality, human-readable information directly onto the carton. This is an easy option if you need crisp barcodes, graphics and text, as a thermal inkjet will print exceptional quality even at high line speeds.

(This technology review gives a detailed run down on thermal inkjet, as well as DOD and hi-res inkjet printers, which are covered below.)


You need to print larger product information onto the carton, such as the product name and batch information.

Solution: Drop On Demand (DOD) Printer

A Drop On Demand inkjet printer is the method of choice for moderate resolution, small to medium character print. Large Character DOD printers deliver many benefits for carton coding, including being low cost, flexible, reliable and low maintenance. They are renowned for being simple to operate and for typically having lower capital and operational costs than other inkjet technologies.


You already have your shipper labels printed and ready to go, so you’re looking for a cost-effective and efficient way to apply them to your cartons.

Solution: Label Applicators (LA)

A Label Applicator is a simple way to apply pre-printed barcode labels, which are typically in the ITF-14 format.


For shelf-ready packaging (SRP), you need a way to achieve high quality branding onto your shippers, while also ensuring the product information is clear and readable. (See our thought leader article on SRP’s uptake in manufacturing. This blog on creating shelf-ready packaging that retailers and consumers will love, also has some good information.)

Solution: Impulse Inkjet & High Resolution Inkjet Printers

For high-resolution, large character printing on demand, an Impulse Inkjet Printer is both economical and efficient. Optimised drop control provides exceptionally high-resolution printing, while the printers can typically manage high speed production lines with ease. Some printers, such as the Matthews Mperia T-Series, can be programmed to print various messages, including alphanumeric text, barcodes and graphics, and on either one or two sides.

High-resolution inkjet printers are perfect for when you need the optimum print quality on cartons, even if they are corrugated boxes. They can print large or small characters and codes on demand, both at high speeds and high print resolution. Remember, though, that some of Australia’s major retailers do not accept barcodes printed onto cartons, so labelling may be a better option.


If you have large volumes of the same SKU, pre-printing the branding, barcode and product details onto the carton is extremely fast and cost-effective.

Important features to look for

Whatever carton labelling and coding 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

Matthews can help you implement the correct, compliant shipper barcode carton coding and labelling solution. Contact our experts to discuss your needs today.

Don’t forget we have a huge range of information in our resource library, including whitepapers, articles from our thought leaders, presentations, infographics, YouTube channel, which has some good basic videos on carton coding such as the one to the right, and so on. All material from our resource library is free to download. 

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Matt Nichol

Matt Nichol

Key Account Manager at Matthews Australasia
Matt is a laser marking expert and has in-depth knowledge of product ID technologies. He is a regular at international trade shows like Pack Expo and is constantly looking at emerging trends and technologies.
Matt Nichol

by Matt Nichol

Matt is a laser marking expert and has in-depth knowledge of product ID technologies. He is a regular at international trade shows like Pack Expo and is constantly looking at emerging trends and technologies.

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