As the function of labeling continues to grow in importance in today’s global supply chain, many companies are searching for labeling processes that work hand in hand with their supply chain strategy. These companies recognize that labeling has becoming a mission-critical component in their supply chain as they continue to expand globally.

So what are some of the changes driving today’s trends in labeling? Demand for color labeling and the expanding role of labeling as a function are just two of the trends that have been identified based on input from more than 600 supply chain professionals, from a range of leading global companies, in a recent enterprise labeling trends survey.


Increasing Demand for Color Labeling

The need for color printing is becoming more prevalent across all industries in order to meet evolving regulatory, customer and corporate branding requirements. Today’s global companies are outlining plans to increase the purchasing of enterprise software and color print technology sufficient to meet their color labeling requirements. Support for color printing is gaining in popularity as companies strive to eliminate the need for pre-printed label stock while reducing the occurrence of waste. Companies are embracing color print capabilities to facilitate a range of capabilities.


Enable Regulatory Compliance

Labeling continues to play a critical role in meeting industry standards and regulations. To address these evolving requirements, companies must comply with a range of specific labeling and formatting requirements, including mandatory color requirements. Many regulations, such as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) use color to highlight warnings and critical safety information. To correctly represent these attributes and support compliance, companies must have color label printing capabilities.


Meet Customer Branding and Use Requirements

Companies today are increasingly placing importance on the value of their brand. As a result, they are demanding that labels reflect the colors that are fundamental to the brand. In addition, in many industries (such as medical device and food and beverage), labels that include color are becoming critical in helping to distinguish between sizes of variations of product.


Eliminate the Need for Pre-Printed Label Stock

Supporting color printing removes the need for pre-printed label stock, helping companies save time and money. When manufacturers rely on pre-printed labels, any type of change or label variation means existing labels must be switched out, resulting in lost time and reduced efficiencies.

In addition, significant costs are associated with storing pre-printed labels and the waste associated with those labels when changes are made and the existing stock becomes obsolete. Alternatively, with color label printing, changes can be made dynamically to allow printing of the specific labels at the time they are required.


Labeling is Everyone’s Concern

As labeling in today’s global supply chain becomes more complex, companies are realizing the vital role it plays in meeting customer and regulatory demands.

Labeling, which intersects the supply chain at all levels, is becoming more prominent, involving multiple departments at global organizations and requiring specialized attention. Those departments can include IT, Operations, Regulatory, Warehousing, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Marketing and even Sales.

Companies are recognizing the importance of coordinated labeling. In many cases, they are establishing labeling groups or roles to manage labeling.

Companies are beginning to see labeling as a separate function for three important reasons:


1. More Groups Involved

With the number of people and corporate groups involved in labeling growing rapidly, it’s becoming increasingly important to provide labeling solutions that can meet their varied needs. To this end, companies are beginning to centralize labeling and access to key sources of label data to ensure that labeling is able to meet these diverse labeling requirements.

Providing a central or designated role to manage labeling offers a better chance of understanding and addressing the superset of labeling needs dictated by different groups. What’s more, with proper organization and collaboration, labeling can be extended to business partners and suppliers, which reduces the tendency to create redundancy, fosters inefficiencies, and increases costs.


2. Viewed as a Global Initiative

As businesses extend their reach across the global supply chain, they are looking to standardize their labeling solutions and maintain consistency with their labeling. As a result, a centralized view of labeling is becoming more important. As companies scale, they must consider how to efficiently deploy and maintain labeling solutions in multiple markets and regions.

Part of the challenge of maintaining labeling across a global operation is to understand the specific requirements of each market or region. To streamline maintenance and support enterprise-wide labeling changes, businesses today are being proactive in designating labeling professionals to manage this ever-increasing and mission-critical role in supply chain operations.


3. Increasing Regulations and Customer Requirements

The importance of labeling today is even more vital as companies are tasked with meeting critical customer and regulatory labeling requirements, while maintaining labeling consistency across multiple markets and regions. Establishing a dedicated labeling role offers oversight to ensure that the business is adhering to both regulatory guidelines in each international region, while meeting unique customer demands throughout the company’s global supply chain. It also ensures that someone is responsible for leading the charge of supporting corporate brand standards and helps to remove the threat of mislabeling.


Customer-Specific Requirements

With nearly 60% of those polled reporting that their customer-specific labeling requirements have increased since last year, it is clear that labeling requirements are more demanding and variable than ever. To meet these demands, organizations must be able to efficiently manage complex, variable data and formatting on their labels and do so quickly. Companies are striving to meet customer-specific requirements in an efficient and timely manner. However, to meet these standards, labeling needs to be both dynamic and data-driven.


Meeting Unique and Variable Requirements

Customers are demanding that their vendors meet a range of unique and variable labeling requirements, including formats, barcodes, labels, languages and data attributes. In response, vendor companies are implementing integrated, automated labeling solutions so that their customers’ requirements can be met dynamically without forcing the manual oversight that often causes labeling inconsistency and errors across the supply chain. Without the ability to meet customer demands, businesses are faced with fines, customer dissatisfaction and even loss of business.


Providing Flexibility in Creation and Updating

When it comes to managing the label creation and updating process, companies need to enable business users to manage label design. Companies report that they need labeling solutions to provide business users the flexibility to create and update labels to meet evolving requirements in a timely manner to improve customer responsiveness while eliminating dependencies on scarce IT resources. To further aid in the labeling process, they are leveraging “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) design and browser-based capabilities, enabling business users to streamline the label design and approval process.


Enabling Rapid Change and Customer Responsiveness

Companies today are faced with complexities and variations in labeling that they previously didn’t consider. What’s more, responsiveness to these increasing demands has become paramount. Without a labeling approach that enables rapid label change globally, companies are forced to maintain countless permutations of labels, all which must be created and maintained separately. This results in more expense in maintaining labels and a lack of consistency. Configurable business logic allows users to quickly and easily support new customer requirements, enabling label formatting and content to be changed dynamically.


Data-Driven Labeling is Imperative to Comply with Global Regulations

Regulations and the speed at which they change are continuing to have a significant impact on businesses today. With new standards and regulations dictating requirements across a range of industries, labeling has become a critical function for meeting compliance. Constant change is necessary to comply with evolving requirements, however, so labeling must be both dynamic and data-driven for companies to quickly respond and avoid fines, supply chain disruptions, and even loss of business.


Rapid Expansion

The effect of regulations and emerging standards continue to impact businesses globally. A vast array of evolving regulations  span across a range of industries, such as chemical, food and beverage, medical device and pharmaceutical, and electronics. Some of the leading regulations and standards that are shaping the future of labeling in today’s global supply chain include GS1, GHS, Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive (RoHS), EU1169, Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Unique Device Identification (UDI).


Constant Change

As regulatory requirements increase, companies must find efficient ways to showcase unique data attributes and formatting standards, including character-level formatting, pictograms and other regulatory content. In addition, data elements must appear in specific locations, and new standards dictate which languages need to be applied to labels, based on where goods are traveling though the supply chain.

Connecting labeling with enterprise applications allows companies to standardize mission-critical labeling while maximizing existing investments to easily manage regulatory variations. Integration to sources of truth for label data ensures consistency and accuracy to quickly respond to evolving regulatory standards. This ultimately assists companies in achieving compliance in order to avoid fines, supply chain disruptions and ultimately loss of business.


Regional Implications

Many regions across the globe maintain or are developing their own specific set of standards. These distinct requirements further complicate the regulatory landscape and must be met if companies want to do business in a specific market. For instance, the GHS is a set of international regulations, established by the United Nations, for handling chemicals. However, in the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has outlined the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to meet these regulations, and the EU has Classification of Labeling & Packaging (CLP) to address GHS. Without the capability to address specific requirements of each region, companies stand the risk of non-compliance and ultimately may disrupt their existing supply chain and limit their ability to scale their business into new markets.


Cloud and Emerging Deployment Platforms

Cloud and other emerging technology platforms continue to revolutionize the way companies conduct business and execute business processes. As companies continue to think differently about how applications will be delivered, they are at the same time beginning to think differently about how labeling is incorporated with their business and deployment models. There are a variety of important reasons for embracing New deployment models need to be embraced for a variety of important reasons.


Centralizing Global Efforts

Businesses are centralizing labeling to improve consistency across their supply chain. Using a centralized deployment platform offers great flexibility, providing complete control over how capabilities are deployed over a global landscape. Leveraging a modern, multi-tier labeling solution also provides scalability and flexibility for creating and updating labels.

Centralizing also ensures that labels adhere to corporate standards. Ensuring that labels comply with brand standards can help business differentiate their product, build relationships and maintain customer’s trust while having a positive impact on revenue. Additionally, centralizing global labeling efforts gives organizations more flexibility to support business continuity so they are able to shift label production from one site to another rapidly while leveraging the data in order to keep the supply chain flowing.


Emerging Hybrid Deployment Models

Companies seeking global deployment for labeling are using browser-based applications that can dramatically reduce the burden of installing and maintaining labeling systems at individual locations. In addition to allowing companies to provide access while maintaining central control, new models designed to support high availability and failover are being adopted by enterprise labeling solution providers. These models enable central control over administration and key elements like label templates to ensure consistency while allowing for autonomous operations at a location or plant level. At the same time, the approach offers flexibility to support centralized deployments that are configured to failover to local instance to ensure uninterrupted labeling at the location or plant level.


Technology’s Impact on Deployment

Technology continues to revolutionize the way companies conduct business and execute business processes. Cloud-based computing offers endless possibilities for outsourcing applications and computing infrastructure. Some companies are looking to integrate labeling with existing cloud-based systems or are looking for solutions that can be part of the adoption of this deployment model. The cloud model provides flexibility to scale, eliminates the need for extensive disaster recovery plans and provides automatic software updates.

Cloud and browser-based applications dramatically reduce the burden of installing and maintaining labeling systems. They allow companies to enable users with secure and instant access to functionality and label status while streamlining management of global operations.  

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