4 Benefits of Automated Print and Apply Label Systems in Order Fulfillment
In considering automation opportunities for your warehouse, distribution center, or order fulfillment operation, it can be easy to overlook your operation’s labeling processes in lieu of other picking or packing options. But this would be a mistake. Though relatively simple in nature compared to other automation options, automating how you label your packages, whether for internal routing or for shipping to the end consumer, can bring a number of powerful benefits.
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Here, we discuss the major benefits that can come with automated print and apply labeling systems (PANDA) so that you can have a better understanding of whether or not investing in such a technology will make sense for your operation.
Benefits of Print-and-Apply Labeling Systems
1. Reduced Labor Costs
One of the primary benefits of automating your labeling processes is the same as with most automation options: It reduces your labor costs. Depending on the specifics of your operation, it’s possible that a print and apply system can secure upwards of 20 labels per minute (per device). That’s the equivalent of labeling roughly one package every three seconds, which is simply not achievable when you’re dealing with human workers. Speedier labeling allows for a higher throughput and, ultimately, more profit for less cost.
Likewise, when done manually, this often creates a bottleneck: An area that either requires additional buffer conveyor, pack stations, or operators manually moving orders off the line waiting until they can be labelled and then placed back on the line. Bottom line, by not automating this process, it reduces your efficiency by adding additional material handling equipment costs, lost floor space, and/or wasted labor.
Similarly, by putting your existing employees to better use performing tasks which add more value to your operation, it’s possible to break free from the constraints of an overly competitive or unreliable labor market, which many businesses have found them in now.
2. Reduced Errors
In most cases, if you were to ask what the primary source of mistakes are in an order fulfillment environment, the answer will be two simple words: Human error. Especially when they’re responsible for completing a repetitive task like labeling, humans can grow fatigued, making them prone to mistakes.
Automating your labeling processes removes this primary source of error. Scan verification ensures that each label is placed on the correct package every single time, leading to increased accuracy, fewer errors, and happier customers.
3. Accuracy in Positioning
In addition to reducing errors caused by labels placed on the wrong orders, automatic print and apply systems reduce errors caused by labels placed incorrectly on the correct packages.
Some warehouses or receivers have very specific requirements in how and where labels must be placed on a case that they receive. (This is often to accommodate their own receiving processes, particularly if they are automated.) If you have a worker manually applying labels to packages, then you need to trust that they will always put the label on in the exact right location every single time case after case—which simply isn’t very likely. Humans simply aren’t capable of that level of precision without an excessive investment in equipment, floor space and time.
A PANDA system always puts the label in the exact same spot, time after time. In addition to increasing your efficiency and throughput, this means that automatic print and apply can reduce the number of chargebacks that you receive due to incorrect label positioning.
4. Compatibility With a Range of Products
Some operations may mistakenly believe that automated print and apply technologies aren’t well suited for the types of product that they handle; for example, warehouses or distribution centers which process fragile goods. In reality, print and apply systems can (and should) be tailored to your specific needs.
In particular, these systems can make use of a variety of label application methods, depending on the product being handled. For example, labels can be blown on, tamped on, wiped on, or even applied passively—all depending on the specific needs of the operation.
Integration is Everything
While automated print and apply labeling systems bring a number of powerful benefits to an order fulfillment environment, in order to be utilized to their full potential, it’s crucial that they be properly integrated with the rest of your facility. This means that orders are fed into and taken from the PANDA system in an efficient way that makes sense for your operation.
A trusted systems integrator can help you understand your different options for automated print and apply, while choosing the system that will best integrate with your other manual and automated systems.