How many label variations do you have for your products? Are you struggling to juggle seasonal labels for products?
You’re not alone.
As Australian suppliers face growing competition on store shelves, they are turning to creative, seasonal labels to catch shoppers’ eyes and win their wallets.
But with every additional label added, the task of controlling and managing labelling gets tougher and the risk of a costly labelling error gets higher.
It’s no surprise, then, that many Australian manufacturers are focusing on implementing wide scale version controlover retail level packaging.
In this article, we’ll look at the importance of version control, how it works and how you can get started.
What is wide scale version control for retail level packaging?
Let’s go back to basics.
Imagine a bottle of milk in the shop.
The milk has a label which identifies the product as Milk, Brand X, 2L, made by Company C and selling for $1.99 per bottle.
Sounds pretty simple – how could there ever be any mix up with milk?
But it happens. Let’s say Company C is marketing driven. To stand out from the competition, they create a Christmas label for use only in November and December. Then they have an Easter label only for the month leading up to Easter. And, of course, they have a regular label for the rest of the year.
That’s three label variants for the same product:
- Regular label
- Christmas label
- Easter label
Each label represents the product as Milk, Brand X, 2L, made by Company C and selling for $1.99 per bottle.
The difference is each label’s appearance: the Christmas label has a Christmas tree on it, and the Easter label has an Easter bunny and eggs. Company C doesn’t want to run the Christmas label in the middle of the year, or the Easter label at Christmas, so how do they ensure this doesn’t happen?
There are two common methods of checking what label is being used:
Method 1: Visually inspect labels at random.
This relies on an operator being alert as to which label should be run at which time. There are two major drawbacks with this: one, the inspection is only as good as the attention span of the person doing the inspection, and two, it doesn’t provide 100% inspection of every product.
Method 2: Barcode scanners.
A barcode scanner can be used to inspect every product by reading the GTIN/ EAN 13 barcode (thereby giving 100% inspection) and therefore allowing the company to check that every product is labelled and has the correct label.
However, there is still a problem: the normal label, the Christmas label and the Easter label all have the same barcode.
This is because the (the GTIN/ EAN 13) barcode identifies the manufacturer and the product. The retailer then uses that barcode information to look up a table, which tells the cashier that the item scanned is $1.99.
All three label variants are made by the same manufacturer (Company C) and are the same product (Milk, Brand X, 2L) and the same price of $1.99.
So, using the barcode does not distinguish the difference between one label variant and another.
What’s the solution?
A 2D code is a matrix barcode made up of black and white modules arranged in a square or rectangular pattern. The main examples are QR codes and DataMatrix codes. (You can read all about them in this article).
The purpose of 2D codes is not to replace conventional retail barcodes, but to enhance the functionality of product packaging.
If Company C includes a 2D code on its label design and a 2D code scanner on the production line, the label and GTIN (or EAN 13) barcode stay the same and work exactly as they are supposed to, but the 2D code allows every bottle to be checked (thereby giving 100% inspection) and identifies which label variant is being used. This significantly reduces the possibility of the wrong label variant being used at the wrong time.
In reality, companies have a lot more than three label variants, as they have more than one product – and often have several variants of each product. Added to this is the fact that, in many cases, the label variants look very similar, thereby increasing the possibility of the wrong label variant being used by accident. 2D coding coupled with a 2D code reader helps you to ensure that the correct label variant is used on the correct product at the correct time.
How to get started
Matthews Australasia has worked with lots of customers to tailor and implement a reliable solution that can be rolled out quickly at a cost-effective price. Talk to our team to find out how we did it, and how we can do the same for you.
Image credits: iStock/ Tzogia Kappatou (main); iStock/ Mykola Sosiukin (middle); iStock/ anyaberkut (end)