All posts by Miles

Sustainable labelling

Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) and Labels

Biodegradable packaging – including biodegradable labels – are a positive marketing point – promoting your product and doing the planet and future generations a favour.

For some organisations – though – environmental protection and sustainability is more than a nice feeling – they represent a key corporate goal – in some cases it’s a condition of investment funds. 

Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) for labels requires proof (certification) that goals are being met.

In this article – you’ll learn how your labels meet corporate environmental responsibility standards and how you’re able to certify this.

Expert Labels

If you need any help or advice with your labelling – contact me.

Miles – Expert Labels

Take a look through our article and understand more.  Learn:

  • What is CER and what’s our aim with it?
  • What are certified biodegradable labels?
  • What CER certification exists?
  • What is the real impact on the environment with biodegradable labels?
  • What part recycling labels has in CER?
  • Biodegradable versus recyclable labels
  • What can we do about labels that don’t meet sustainability and biodegradability standards?
  • Contamination by inks, varnishes and adhesives.
  • Is the rest of the packaging biodegradable?
  • Certification of packaging and labels – EN13432 and FSC standards.
  • Practical considerations of using CER labels – lead times, minimum volumes and costs

What is Corporate Environmental Responsibility?

Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) is recognition by companies that they have a part to play in reducing harm to our planet and eco-system.  CER has the overall goal of reducing harm to the environment.

Sometimes this is done because responsible management genuinely care about our future, sometimes it’s to secure investment (which has a CER condition attached) and sometimes it’s to benefit from positive publicity or reverse negative public opinion.

Whatever the motive, how can you prove your CER credentials?

What are Certified Environmentally Friendly Labels?

In order to get credit for your label CER efforts, you need to get proof you are making an effort.  Proof comes in two forms – certified materials or 3rd party assessment of your packaging.

A handful of labelling products come with certificates to show they are compostable and many are FSC certified.  There are a number of environmental auditors who are prepared to assess your entire operation and give a rating of your sustainability efforts.

What are Biodegradable Labels and Packaging?

Biodegradable means that the labels and packaging will breakdown when exposed to the environment.  Just as importantly, they won’t leave behind any toxic residue when they do. 

Biodegradable labels can be certified as compostable, which means they’ve been tested under commercial composting conditions.  If they break down in commercial conditions they will breakdown in home composting conditions – but it may take a long time – if the conditions are not quite right.

Contamination by Inks, Varnishes and Adhesives

Ink and varnish on labels reduces the compostability of the label. 

Ink and varnish won’t affect compostability certification, as long as they don’t contribute more than 5% of the total weight of the label.  If it does weigh more than 5% it won’t be able to be certified without further testing.

Biodegradable labels have adhesive that biodegrades and doesn’t leave toxic residue.

What Part Does Recycling Labels Have in CER?

The use of recycled materials in labels and the disposal of product with labels into the recycling system all play a part in Corporate Environmental Responsibility.

Labels by their nature are dependent on how the end user disposes your product or packaging. 

You need to make a decision about whether you trust (or have researched) your clients’ propensity to recycle your product packaging or will they simply discard your products (and therefore the packaging and labels).

If studies show labels are discarded irresponsibly (as I think it would be fair to say some fast-food packaging is) then in order to be true to your CER word, you’ll need to use biodegradable labels.

Biodegradable paper labels are the perfect solution – they are both recyclable and biodegradable.

Biodegradable plastic labels are a different matter.  Biodegradable plastics contaminate recycled materials and shouldn’t be recycled.

Sustainable Labels and CER

Sustainability is a big part of CER. There are a few sustainable label materials to help your CER efforts.

With paper labels, the paper used in manufacturing is (most of the time) FSC – Forestry Stewardship Council – certified paper. The FSC brand certifies that the material used comes from a sustainable and responsible forestry company. Sustainability includes wildlife habitats as well as replanting trees.

Cane fibre labels are a popular sustainable label material. The labels are made from sugar cane fibre material mixed with natural hemp and linen. The sugar cane material is a biproduct of the production of sugar so production of sugar cane paper has the added benefit of avoiding waste.

As an added benefit, cane fibre labels are made with biodegradable adhesive, making them fully biodegradable and meet composting standards.

Options for plastic labels include bio-plastic labels – although the labels contain an element of petro-based oil, the renewable content is much higher.

Rock paper is label material made from recycled plastic and marble dust.  It has a soft touch and is waterproof.  Rock paper can be recycled and is made without the use of water – which the manufacturers claim is more sustainable.

Soya-based inks are sustainable – but these inks are a specialist material and not widely available.  Contact us to discuss soya-ink labels.

Is the Rest of the Packaging Biodegradable?

Labels play a small part in CER and work hand in hand with product packaging.

Without a product’s packaging being ‘compatible’ with the label – the overall CER benefits are lost.

You won’t be able to recycle a label if it’s attached to the wrong packaging.  For example – plastic labels attached to a cardboard box.

Suitable partnerships include:

Paper labels on card or paper packaging

Plastic labels on plastic packaging

Compostable labels onto paper or card

 

Certification of Packaging and Labels - EN13432 and FSC Standards

Compostable logo
Look for the compostable logo

The two certifications around packaging and labels are the compostability standard EN13432 and the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).

FSC certification is a mark of ‘sustainability’ on forestry products, everything from cork, latex, timber to, of course, paper labels.

Biodegradable labels are made from materials that are tested under EN13432 and meet standards such as size of particles after six months and whether there are any toxins present.

We’re not aware of any certification surrounding non-biodegradable plastic labelling.

How We Can Help Your CER Efforts

  1. We can advise you on which labels are compostable and provide certification.
  2. If you need a Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) chain of custody certificate to go with your paper labels we can help you get that.
  3. We can supply you with biodegradable labels.
  4. We can also make recommendations about recycling your labels and suggest suitable labels that can be recycled with your packaging.

What About Labels that Don't Meet Recycling and Biodegradability Standards?

In order to meet standards you must use products that meet EN13432, the compostablility standard or FSC certified paper.  Compostable labels are made from paper or biodegradable plastic material.

Some label materials aren’t biodegradable or made from paper.  In this situation, the next best solution is to make recycling as easy as possible – matching label and packaging materials. 

If recycling isn’t possible – for example metal products with waterproof labels – then the least harmful approach would be to use sustainable plastic labels – such as rock paper or bio plastics.

CER Labels in Practice - Lead Times, Minimum Volumes and Costs

FSC Labels

Sustainable paper labels from the Forestry Stewardship Council are widely available and easily sourced.  Leadtimes are typically ten days and prices are standard prices.  The other factor found with label materials is minimum volumes.  Because FSC sourced paper is so widely used, there are no difficulties with minimum volumes.

Biodegradable Labels

Biodegradable labels are still not produced in volume – and neither are the materials.  The result is that label manufacturers are reluctant to hold stocks of material – so if you’re buying biodegradable labels – (biodegradable paper or plastics) you’ll likely be paying for a new stock of material.  Lead times for special materials (as biodegradable is considered) are often longer than for standard products. 

Prices for biodegradable labels are significantly more expensive than standard materials.  For examples 1,000 paper labels would cost £15, for similar biodegradable paper labels expect to pay £110.

 

Useful Links

Zebra ZD421 Desktop label printer

Zebra ZD421 Desktop Label Printer

Zebra ZD421 Family of Thermal Label Printers
Zebra ZD421 Family of Thermal Label Printers

Zebra’s flagship desktop printer, the ZD421 is the next step up in label printing from the ZD400 series.  A little quicker with more versatility and durability – this is what you need to know about the Zebra ZD421:

  • Prints 60 standard shipping labels (6″ x 4″)  in a minute.
  • Standard USB connection to your computer along with network, wifi and Bluetooth options available.
  • Comes with basic label design software enabling you to design and print labels – but you’ll need to pay extra for software that works with spreadsheets or databases.
  • You’re able to fit a longer 300m thermal ink ribbon (for four times fewer ribbon changes) or the shorter 74m thermal ribbon if you want.
  • The Thermal Transfer model prints onto paper, plastic and tags for durable long life labels
  • Optional Direct Thermal model for printing direct thermal paper labels for short-life fresh food or shipping labels
  • 203 dpi with the option of upgrading to the 300 dpi print model
  • It’s equipped with Zebra’s powerful OS-Link software, as all other Zebra printers are (except the ZD200 series).  Security – protection from cyber attacks –  is enhanced, you can mimic other label printer brands’ printer languages, you can print from Android smartphones, you can manage this printer over the web and a number of other features
  • 102mm (4″) print widt
  • The label or tag gap sensor can be moved all the way across the printer so it can print to tags and unusually shaped labels.
  • Colour coded cues guide new operators how to change labels, tags and ink ribbons.
  • Comes with a two-year warranty
  • Label cutter, label peeler and external battery options available.
Zebra ZD420 Sensor
Slide the sensor
Zebra ZD420 Sensor
the full width

We’ve written an article (Service Options for your label printer) about service options for your printer – take a look here.

If you’re not sure about anything, call us on 01359 271 111 or email us at info@expertlabels.co.uk

ZD421 Products

We don’t have an online shop capability.  If you like what you see and want to buy the ZD421 click the button below. 

A blank email will pop up and you can tell us what you want and ask any questions to make sure you’re getting what you need. 

From there we will answer any questions, send you an invoice and get your order processed.

Useful Links

Updated 3 Apr 2021

How to decide a label budget

What Your labels are Made of Affects Your Label Budget

Peelable Paper Labels
Paper is used for product labels

At the bottom of the price range are good old paper labels.  You’ll find paper labels on bottles and consumer products.  Paper labels are perfect for cardboard boxes, pallet labels and warehouse labels and on documents.   Businesses of all sizes use paper labels, particularly so in retail, healthcare and logistics.  Matte or gloss labels will cost around the same. 

Thermal paper turns black when it’s printed with a thermal printer.  Thermal labels are perfect for shipping labels and fresh food.  You’ll find a lot of businesses use these in their dispatch area – particularly in transport and logistics.  Thermal paper makes printing labels easy because there’s no ink used.  Expect to pay a little more for thermal paper, versus plain paper labels.

Next are standard plastic labels.  Plastic labels are used on assets – where labels are expected to last a couple of years on products.  Plastic labels are waterproof so you’ll find them in garden centres and horticulture.  Cosmetics and food and drink also use plastics as they are resistant to oils.  Chemical labels are made of plastics as are many laboratory labels.  Expect to pay 50% more than paper labels.

Clear labels – made from plastic (PE and PP) are marginally more expensive than their white counterparts.  Clear labels are found in a lot of food and drink packaging and extensively in cosmetics, as they allow the product to be seen – and they offer a more attractive appearance. Expect to pay 60% more than paper.

PET plastic labels are more durable and more expensive than standard plastic labels.  If you need labels that are scratch-proof or for higher temperature ranges you need PET labels. 

These labels appear in specialist areas such as high temperature applications – and on assets where durability is important.  Expect to see PET labels in product labelling and healthcare.

PET labels will cost 75% more than paper.

Biodegradable Labels come in paper, biodegradable plastic and clear biodegradable plastic forms.

Biodegradable label material is a small % of global production.  Because volumes are comparatively small, prices are high.  Prices will come down as biodegradable labels become more common, but never as low as standard paper or plastic labels.

Biodegradable labels are used by organisations who have made a commitment to protect the environment – where the environment is a key brand value.  Cosmetics and high quality foods often champion the environment.

Biodegradable label
Biodegradable labels

Expect to pay five times as much for biodegradable paper labels compared to standard paper.

Biodegradable plastic labels (clear and opaque) will cost around ten times the price of paper.  Plastics cost more than paper and biodegradable plastics cost more still.

Sustainable labels – labels that are both recyclable and don’t use water or harmful chemicals in production (e.g. Rock Paper Labels).  They aren’t necessarily biodegradable.  Sustainable labels cost around ten times what standard paper costs.  

Global volume of Rock paper is tiny compared to other materials hence a high cost.

Get Quote

High temperature labels will cope with temperatures up to about 350C and cost 20 x more than paper materials.  Used in specialist industries – like electronic PCBs, automotive components or aerospace.

Ultra-high temperature labels will cope with temperature up to 1200C and will cost an impressive 1,000 x more than the equivalent in paper.

Ultra-high temperature labels appear in scientific testing, metal manufacturing and glass manufacturing.

Heat resistant labels
Ultra-high temperature labels

Label Prices Are About the Number of Labels Printed

Flexo Label Press
Label Printing Presses are Expensive

Little bit of background: Printing labels consists of loading the printing press with a roll of material.  Fitting a die (a die is a metal shape with sharp edges that cuts out the shape of the label from the label material) in order to cut the labels. 

Then, if there are colours to print, there is the printing plate to fit, then select the ink and set it up.  Then… 

You get the idea – there’s a fair amount of time before the first label can be printed. 

As you can see above, label printing presses have rollers and loops so to feed the material through the press could take anything from 3 meters to 50 meters of material – before you’ve cut out the first label.

Before the first label is printed – there’s time and waste material. Then there’s time cleaning ink off the press afterwards.

Label presses run at several meters a second.  Several thousand labels might be printed in a few seconds, yet setting up the printer took 20 minutes. 

With sophisticated printing presses costing hundreds of thousands of pounds – every minute the press is used for needs to be charged out. 

What I’m getting at is: the cost per label drops massively in the first few thousand labels you print, because so much of the total cost is set-up cost.

How Bespoke and Standard Shapes and Sizes Affect Your Label Budget

Huge Cutter library
This is a label cutter

As I mentioned earlier – dies – or label cutters (also known as ‘tooling’) – are the pieces of metal that cut out the shape of the label or tag from the huge rolls of label material. 

We have thousands of label dies in our die library.  However, what happens when we don’t have the exact size you need?  We have to have the die made.

Label dies are precision-made by engineers in an off-site factory using large industrial tooling machines.  They are (usually) made from relatively thin sheets of magnetic metal.  Whilst they get made quite quickly – it still takes a few days to get turned around.

If we don’t have a cutter that suits your label project – either because you need an unusual size or a very precise size – expect to pay £100 – £250 (depending on how many cutting faces you need).  The smaller the label, the larger the cost of making the die.  If you need perforations between labels – this will bring the cost of the cutter up significantly.

If you need plastic labels, the cost of the label cutter goes up two-fold because the cutter needs to be more durable.

White Plastic Loop Lock Labels
Heavy Duty Plastic Loop Lock Labels

If you need tags cut from heavy duty plastic, such as the horticultural tags in the picture above, and we don’t have a size that suits your tag project, expect to pay more than £1,000 for the die cutter.  Cutters for heavy-duty plastic need to be made from solid pieces of metal (so they can be sharpened) not the standard metal sheets you use for paper or thin plastic labels.

Label cutters are a one-off cost, an added cost item in your first label order. 

If you decide to get your labels printed elsewhere you will need to buy a new set of  label cutters, as they are custom made to suit the label printing press they are fitted to.

How Colours Affect Label Costs

Colour labels

Colours make a big difference to your labels.  If your labels sell your product – you need all the help you can get – and that starts with using colours.

If we are printing your colour labels using a traditional ‘flexo’ printing press, each colour on your label costs money to print. 

That’s because inks need to be carefully mixed so they are an exact colour match.  The printing press needs to be set up in order to align the colours and the press adjusted so it prints perfectly.

Then, after the labels are printed, all the machinery needs to be cleaned so future print jobs aren’t contaminated.  Cleaning needs to be factored into the cost of the print job.

Not only do you need to cover the costs of printing the colours,  there is a one-off £40 ‘plate’ charge.   Plates are flexible rubber (or plastic) sheets that print an image of each colour onto the label.

Digital Label Printing.

Over the past ten years, digital printing presses (imagine a massive laser or inkjet printer) have become more common. 

Digital printing press used for peel and reveal labels
Digital printing press

Digital printing presses eliminate the need for printing plates.  There’s no need to clean the ink off the press after each print run and set up is faster and easier. 

A big part of the cost of labels is ‘recovering’ the cost of the printing press – every minutes spent printing (or setting up) needs to be charged for. 

Digital presses are generally slower than traditional printing presses.  Because they are slower, there does come a number of labels where traditional presses are more efficient.

Digital printing means short runs of several thousand labels in multiple colours are much more cost effective.

Special Labels - Peel & Reveal and Booklet Labels Costs

Peel and Reveal label - round
Peel & Reveal labels

Regulations call for more and more text to appear on labels.  Sometimes you might want to simplify international product distribution by including multiple languages on one label. 

With small spaces – the solution is to use multi-layer labels – Peel and Reveal and Booklet labels – where your message can be printed over several pages on one label.

Multi-layer labels are used a lot in food and drink, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals businesses.

Peel & Reveal labels are quite an engineering feat.  Multiple layers of material printed on both sides with a hinge and special adhesive.

All that engineering and complexity means the machinery to make them is expensive, not to mention Peel & Reveal labels have to be tear-proof – so need to be made from plastic. 

What appears to be a simple concept is relatively expensive compared to plain paper labels.

Booklet and fold-out labels cost more than Peel & Reveal, even though they are made from paper.  The machinery to make Booklet and Fold-Out labels is significantly more complicated than Peel & Reveal machinery.

Example price for 1,000 30mm circular two-leaf Peel & Reveal labels printed – £670.  For 5,000 you’ll pay £690. Just £20 more. 

For a 45mm x 55mm 8-page Booklet Label with two colours – just 1,000 costs £2,605, with 5,000 costing £2,842

Get Quote

Label Finishes - Soft-Touch Varnishes, Gold Foiling and more

Embossed labels

Whilst adding ’embellishments’ to your labels adds cost – the perceived quality jumps – more than off-setting the cost of the enhancements.

Foiling, special rough-touch or soft-touch effects, different textures and spot varnishes are seen on high quality food and drink products, cosmetics and high quality packaging. 

Vaping juices and other potentially toxic products are printed with a raised warning triangle on the label.  These are all uses of ‘Embellishments’ on product labelling.

When your customers compare your product to a competitor’s product, the packaging is often the only difference – and if your packaging looks and feels quality – your price can more than cover the labelling costs.

  • Soft touch
  • Embossing
  • Debossing
  • Matte or gloss lamination
  • Textured
  • Spot varnished
  • Foiling

Ask us about making your labels stand out from the crowd.

 
 

Some Example Label Costs

These are example costs and just give a good idea of the sort of price you’d pay for labels. 

Please note, these prices are only a guide.  As you have read, there are many different variables included in pricing labels.

Click the Get Quote button below to request an up-to-date and accurate price.

Please allow for VAT and delivery (approx £15) in your budget.

Get Quote
DimensionsMaterialDetailsQuantity & price 1Quantity & price 2
38mm x 25mmStandard matte paperBlank white1,000 - £1540,000 - £160
45mm x 25mmGloss or matte plastic Blank white10,000 - £12030,000 - £155
50mm x 25mm Clear PlasticPrinted with black4,000 - £2088,000 - £238
50mm x 25mmPET plastic labelsGloss white, blank8,000 - £8516,000 - £117
50mm x 13mmHigh TemperatureBlank - suitable for up to 350C20,000 - £1,34840,000 - £2,115
50mm x 30mmHigh TemperatureBlank - suitable for up to 350C1,000 - £1,038
50mm x 20mmBiodegradable paperWhite, Blank1,000 - £1105,000 - £155
65mm x 65mm Cane Fibre Biodegradable White, blank sustainable labels1,000 - £2135,000 - £277
46mm x 46mmClear biodegradable1 colour2,000 - £200
50mm x 50mmPaper4 page Booklet label full colour1,000 - £1,6002,500 - £1,672
50mm x 65mmPaper8 page Booklet label10,000 - £2,65020,000 - £3,024
54mm CirclePlastic 5 page Peel & Reveal labels. Colour first page, black text on other pages.1,000 - £5925,000 - £900
32mm CirclePlastic3 page Peel & Reveal labels. Colour first page, black text on other page.4,000 - £429
25mm x 25mmRock Paper4 colours. 8 designs - digitally printed.4,000 - £568
50mm x 30mm Ultra-high temperature ceramic labelsBlank - print with thermal transfer printer. Suitable for temperatures up to 1250C. 15,000 - £5,900
100mm x 15mmUltra-high temperature ceramic labelsBlank - print with thermal transfer printer. Suitable for temperatures up to 1250C. 44,000 - £9,600
250mm x 25mmHeavy duty plasticBlank White Loop lock labels2,000 - £8010,000 - £370
50mm x 72mmHeavy duty plasticBlank white Non-adhesive Tags 3,000 - £3156,000 - £350
50mm x 50mmPaper2 colour labels1,000 - £1255,000 - £180
38mm x 38mmPaperfull colour labels1,000 - £105
25mm x 6mmPlasticBlank white Cryogenic labels1,000 - £1902,000 - £220
45mm x 30mmPaperBlank white block out labels3,000 - £1306,000 - £145
50mm x 30mmPlasticMark & Seal electrical safety labels 1 colour printed1,000 - £140
50mm x 35mmPlastic1 colour printed overlaminated labels1,000 - £235
101mm x 152mmPaperDirect thermal shipping labels5,000 - £11520,000 - £250

Updated: 1 Apr 2021

Inline Verifier

How to assess your labels for quality

Substandard labels cost you money, reputation and a great deal of inconvenience.   To avoid this, you need a process in place to assess your labels for quality.  This is critical in pharmaceuticals and other high compliance industries.  If you supply the major retailers you will be fined if your labels are not compliant.

  • Barcode and label standards to follow
  • How to assess your label quality
  • Checking what’s printed on your labels
  • Pros and cons of using a basic barcode scanner to assess label barcodes
  • Why you would use a barcode verifier to assess labels
  • The best way to assess label print quality
  • Summary

Read on…

Barcode and Label Standards

For many industries, labels are a critical element in compliance.   

Compliance comes in two forms – the label components (size, material, compliance icons, colours, barcodes and required text) and machine readability (ability to scan barcodes).

Industry label standards.  Different industries will require different label layouts and will specify icons and certain barcodes, containing certain data.  Standards are set by organisations like ODETTE for the automotive sector, FDA regulations for healthcare or EU directives.  The scope of different industry label standards is too wide to cover in this article.  It is your responsibility to research what your industry label standards are.  

Barcode standards.  Barcode standards (for example size and shape, bar width, colours or colour contrast) are set by an international organisation called GS1. 

GS1 is a not-for-profit organisation that issues barcode numbers and coordinates the way barcodes are developed and used in commerce.  It’s an international body that has national offices to provide local help and service.

There are generally two different barcodes used for items at a retail point of sale – GTIN8 and GTIN13.  Both these barcodes have clearly defined standards in terms of size, height and width proportions, white space, colours and contrast and bar widths.

For what are known as traded items, i.e. a box of 12 cereal boxes or a pallet of dishwasher powder, the choice of barcodes extends to ITF14, GS1-128 or GTIN8 and 13. 

For further details on what barcode to use where, when and how – use this great resource from GS1 – Getting it right – guide to barcoding.  It’s a 58 page pdf and helps with all aspects of barcode printing onto packaging.

Once you have taken advice from your industry body, you can finalise the layout and design and check they are compliant.

What needs to be in place is a ‘sign off’ to certify the label has been designed correctly. 

In the case of pharamaceutical labels or other high compliance labels, label design software like the Enterprise Edition of BarTender can be configured to prevent labels being printed unless they have been approved by an authorised person.

Once the layout is approved it’s a matter of ensuring labels are printed correctly and consistently to that standard.

How to Assess Your Label Quality

Production faults with labels show themselves with:

Faulty Labels
Faulty Peel & Reveal Labels
  • Print not staying on the label or fading and becoming unreadable,
  • Adhesives not working – and labels falling off items,
  • Adhesives working too well – and labels not peeling off,
  • Labels you can’t print onto
  • Specific failures such as Peel & Reveal labels failing to ‘reveal’ or failing to shut.
  • Varnishes that are patchy

Faults are usually obvious once the labels are used.  If your labels are critical then it is important to test the labels before use. QA will need to assess each consignment.  Label faults are very rare.  Out of thousands of orders a year we get no more than a couple of faults.

Sometimes label faults might be an inconvenience rather than a failure.  Try to include label performance in your process evaluations. 

If labels are making your processes less than optimal, contact us for help making your labels perform better.

Checking What’s Printed on Your Labels

Variable Label Data

If a label has been designed correctly, the chance of incorrect data being printed on your label or encoded in the RFID chip or barcode is almost nil. 

After a label design, layout and data-content is approved the only other point of failure is the origin of the data. 

If faulty data is added to your organisation’s database, then faulty data will be printed.  Examples of this might be an uncapitalised name on a shipping label.  Another example might the wrong post code.

Another thing to look out for are changes upstream in the database.  A change to a field in a database might show up as incorrect data printed on a label.

Assessing machine readable labels

Machine readable labels, such as barcoded labels or labels with RFID chips embedded in them, need to be assessed first on what data they contain and then secondly – on how well the label meets the barcode or RFID chip’s technical specifications.

1. Scan barcodes with a barcode reader.

This is the simplest, cheapest and least reliable way to check barcodes on your labels.  Contact us for a simple barcode scanner (costs around £100) . 

Here’s the approach – it’s really simple – have a routine where you scan codes at the beginning, end of your print run and as many times inbetween as you can.  If you can’t read your barcode then investigate the problem and re-print if needed. 

This will pick up faults like a printhead failure but it won’t notice much else. 

The scope of the barcode quality report is Read or Not Read. Not particularly enlightening.

By scanning a sample of codes it won’t notice irregular problems such as where ribbons have wrinkled on a few labels in a large batch of labels.

Barcode scanners vary in quality and performance – so your scanner might read a code, your customer’s might not.  Remember also, your barcodes might be scanned by multiple scanners throughout the supply chain.

Certainly using a phone is not reccomended.  Cameras can read badly damaged barcodes much better than barcode scanners. 

It’s not perfect but it’s a low cost way to check your labels.

This is not a solution in a regulated industry such as pharmaceuticals or healthcare products, where labels need to be perfect. 

2. Using a Barcode Verifier to assess your labels

Axicon 6500 Barcode Verifier
Barcode Verifier

Our previous suggestion was to scan with any old barcode reader and see if it can read.  A much more reliable (and one you could argue in court with) is to use an instrument called a barcode verifier.

A Barcode Verifier is a precision instrument that scans and analyses the barcode, taking into account print quality and barcode layout and composition. 

A barcode verifier is built to assess against the ISO barcode standards – ISO15416 for linear barcodes and ISO15415 for 2D symbols.

By scanning your barcode you will see if the barcode meets standards and importantly, if it doesn’t, you’ll know what needs to be fixed. 

Perhaps more importantly though, you have a record of compliance that you can use in the event of a dispute.

3. Vision Based Inline-Verification for Printed Label Inspection

Inline Verifier
Inline Verifier fitted to a Zebra Label Printer

The best way to check the quality of barcodes and labels in general is to use a camera-based inline barcode verifier.  In-line Verifier means that the camera is fitted onto the label printer and checks the print content and quality of every label printed. This label inspection system is (in our opinion) the best way to ensure the quality of labels.

An inline verifier is the only way a printing fault like this one (below) would be noticed, unless you employ someone to watch every label printed.

Faulty Printed Labels
Faulty Printed Labels

Vision based label validation – takes an image of every label passing out of the front of the printer.  It compares the image to what is meant to be printed and stops the printer if it encounters a problem.

  • Vision label quality assurance systems check the readability of 1D and 2D barcodes, along with checking they meet GS1 and ISO standards.
  • You can set up thresholds for blemishes – so only significant marks stop the printer. 
  • Identify incorrect text, i.e. if the wrong data is included in the label.
  • Doesn’t slow down the printing process. The printers perform at their usual speed.
  • Uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to read the text of the label.
  • Works with the popular printer manufacturers such as Sato, Printronix, Zebra and Honeywell, though it is only compatible with the high-performance printers in the respective ranges.
  • Keeps an audit trail of results.

Sophisticated in-line verifiers can even take data from a spreadsheet or database and ensure labels include data from the database. 

Label Inspection System

Set up is reasonably simple: print a label and have it pass through the verifier.

Using the configuration setting – select areas of the label that will change and tell the software what should appear there.  Set up areas of the label that need to be ignored.

Let it print.

The printer can be fitted with a light tower that shows a red light if the system encounters an error and needs to stop.

A complete vision based label verification systems cost between £20,000 and £25,000 depending on the thermal printer and any additional training or system validations.

Summary

  • Contact your industry body and find out what the labelling standards are.
  • Talk to us about getting your labels designed to meet your industry standard.  That might mean using label design software (if you’re going to print labels yourself) or engaging a graphic designer.
  • Sign off your final label design.
  • Check your labels for quality (such as stickiness or colour) before you need to use them.  Ideally when you receive them.
  • Have a system in place for reporting faulty labels.
  • If you’re printing your own labels, check the labels (including barcodes) contain the correct information – and that the barcodes/RFID chips read correctly at the start and end of each print run.
  • If the consequences of faulty labels are serious, invest in a barcode verifier to assess barcode quality.
  • If the process of assessing labels is too time consuming and costly, invest in a camera based label quality assessment tool that will check every label printed.

Contact the experts for labelling advice.

Useful Links

GS1UK.org – the UK branch of the international barcode standards organisation, GS1.

‘Getting it Right – Guide to Barcoding’ pdf from GS1.

Updated 7 Mar 2021.

Service Options for Your Label Printer

If printing labels is critical to your organisation then you absolutely need on-site support and a partner that you can rely on.  We offer a full range of service options and are available to talk through your specific needs to ensure that you have the right cover at the right price.

Here are some things you need to think about.

  • Onsite maintenance services
  • Return to workshop repairs
  • Hot-swap services
  • Our recommendations on supporting your printers
You need to weigh up the various costs of a repair strategy against a damaging stoppage.

On-Site Maintenance Services

Thermal printer repair

If printing labels is critical to your organisation (for example you need to print shipping or pallet labels every day) then you’ll need to consider on-site support. 

Coverage
 
Brand coverage.  Repair coverage is available for all the major brands of thermal label printers – Zebra, Toshiba TEC, Sato and Datamax – O’Neil (now Honeywell).  Support can also be provided for the lesser-known brands such as Godex and TSC.
 
Geographical coverage.  Levels of printer support are provided across the country – including Scotland and Northern Ireland – although this is not as easy as England and Wales – there may be a delay and increased costs providing an engineer. 
 
On-site service looks like this:
 

Annual Contracts

  • You pay for an annual support contract.
  • Costs depend on the make and model of printer, with wider printers costing more than smaller ones.
  • If your printer is more than a few months old then you pay for an engineer to visit and make a pre-contract inspection.  This inspection includes a basic service.
  • If your printer develops a fault then you call the helpline and a technician will try and get your printer up and running over the phone.  If the printer needs a visit then a visit is booked same day or next day. 
  • The contract covers the engineers time (including travel) and parts, but won’t cover parts damaged maliciously.  It won’t cover consumable parts – i.e. printheads and platen rollers. 
  • There are different levels of cover.  Some cover includes the engineer’s time replacing a printhead, other levels would see you pay the engineers time replacing consumable parts.
  • Some cover includes support for label design software such as Nicelabel and BarTender. 
  • Premium cover also includes an annual maintenance visit where the printers are checked over and any parts that are causing a problem are replaced.

‘Ad hoc’ service

Out of contract support is called adhoc printer support.

  • In the case of an adhoc repair, you call us and we quote you an hourly rate (usually around £80-100 per hour) and give an estimate on the cost of the parts. 
  • The engineer is booked to attend as soon as possible, but with no guarantees.  Contract customers come first.
  • You are invoiced for the cost of parts and the number of hours the engineer spent on the job.
  • If you are located in Scotland – you may need to pay for the engineer’s accommodation.

Return to Workshop Repairs

Mobile Printer Repair Centre

Return-to-workshop or return-to-base repair is, as the name suggests, where a thermal label printer is shipped back to a central repair centre (usually in the UK) where the printer is fixed.

You pay for the workshop time (at a lower rate than on-site service) and parts.

This is the most economic repair option – especially if it’s repaired under a contract bought at the time of buying the printer.

Obviously, returning the printer for repair is going to take longer than an on-site repair. 

Add in the time the courier takes to return the printer and you can find yourself without a printer for seven working days.

If you use a Return to Workshop or Return to Base (RTB) service, you will need an alternative way to print labels whilst the printer is away.

When you have a spare label printer, a return to workshop service is the best option.

Printer Hot Swap Repair Services for Thermal Printers

A hot swap repair is a service where you notify us that you have a faulty printer.  We immediately send you a replacement substitute printer that you can plug in and use the moment you receive it.

For this to work, printer features need to be similar – the ribbons and labels need to be the same dimensions so they fit in the replacement printer.  The interface and the printer operating language need to be 100% compatible otherwise you will need to devote precious time making the new printer work.

What’s usually a problem is if you have an unusual printer.  A printer wider than 110mm wide, a higher resolution printhead or a Radio Frequency ID label encoder. 

Hot swap service needs to be planned in advance so that we can check compatibility and have hardware available.  Contact us for hot swap label printer service for you.

Our Recommendation for Supporting Label Printers

Where Labels are Critical to Your Organisation

Where label printing is business critical – buy a second label printer – but don’t keep it as a standby printer.

Don’t pack the printer away and forget about it. We have clients who do that.

Have both printers in use.  You don’t want to find the printer hasn’t been updated or has a problem when you come to use it.  Two printers working side-by-side will halve the wear and tear on the printers – so they’re less likely to fail.

Make sure your second printer is the same as the first.

Why? Because then it’s interchangeable. The printer operators know how to operate both, the ribbons and labels are compatible and if one printer breaks down, you can switch over in minutes.

Take out extended cover as it’s usually cheapest and includes a printhead – which – if bought separately – would be half the cost of the service contract.

Try This Service Hack with your Thermal Label Printer

Take out extended (and enhanced) warranty when you buy your new thermal label printer.

When (if) the printer breaks down, order an identical printer for next day delivery.

You only buy a new printer if the first one breaks (they are generally very reliable).

Let’s look at some example costings:

On-site Maintenance

Original Printer Price £900
3 x annual contract £1,000

Total cost £1,900

Benefits

Lower cost if you have an unreliable printer.  More convenient – you call and an engineer comes to fix the printer.

Extended Warranty

Original Printer Price £900
Extended 3-year warranty £290

If your printer breaks down:

A new printer £900

Total cost £2,090

Benefits

You only buy a spare printer if you need it.
You have a spare printer.
If your printhead fails it’s repaired free of charge.

Risks

You might find there isn’t a replacement printer available next day.

Updated: 20 April 2021

What An Ops Manager Needs to Know About Printing Labels

Whilst labels might not be the most thrilling part of the Operations Manager’s role, labels can be a show-stopper, bringing your whole operation to a halt.  A well executed labelling system can be complicated but comes with some very large opportunities –  in cost efficiencies, resilience and performance.

This is what you need to know to get those benefits.

We’ll look at:

Let’s get some answers.

Your Label Printer Fleet

13 Zebra label Printers

In order to print labels, you need printers.  These can be thermal printers, for example Zebra or Honeywell or they might be colour ink jet from Epson or Primera. 

This is what you need to know:

  • Printer Location.  Obviously: if you can’t find a printer, you can’t print with it.  A printer that’s been put into a cupboard and forgotten about can’t be used as a backup printer.
  • Make and Model. Knowing the make and model of printer means you can establish what consumables it uses.  You know it’s capabilities i.e. performance or maximum label dimensions.  You’ll know which printers can be substituted if one breaks down.
  • Age of printer. Generally speaking printer technologies don’t advance a great deal over two or three years – what does change rapidly are security flaws. Hackers can gain access to networks through printers, if firmware is out of date.  Whilst this might not be of direct concern for operations managers, it needs to be addressed.
  • Usage.  Thermal printers keep track of how many labels and tags they print.  By looking at these logs you can see which of your printers are over-worked and which are coasting.  Depending on printer capabilities it makes sense to redeploy them to balance out wear and tear.

Direct thermal labels wear out printheads more rapidly than thermal transfer labels.  Knowing if your printer is printing onto direct thermal labels is important.

Printer Maintenance & Service

Thermal Printhead and platen roller
Printhead and Platen Roller - typical spare parts

You need to know what to do when your printer breaks down and you need to know your printers’ maintenance history.

  • What is your breakdown plan?  Many smaller businesses don’t have a plan for when their label printer stops working.  Larger organisations need to have a plan in place – with more label printers in operation – it’s not a case of if, it’s when your printers break down.

    What do you do?  Fix it yourself, call a helpline, send your printer off for repair, call out a service engineer, substitute with a redundant printer from the store room?  You need to have a plan.

  • How are printer faults reported to you?  How do you, as Ops Manager, get to hear about printer problems?  Do you get told directly? Is there a phone number on your printers for help?  Does the IT department look after problems?

    Reporting lines need to include the operations manager, because label printing problems have a direct effect on operations. 

  • Do you have all the printer support information?  When you have a broken printer you might need phone numbers for the repair service or a website address to log the problem.  You need contract details and printer serial numbers etc.  Having all this information in place can save time and prevent a lengthy stoppage.
  • What preventative maintenance are you doing?   Preventative maintence is more common with larger, industrial sized label printers, rather than desktop models.

    Printers use bearings, belts and other components that are subject to wear and tear.  If you have an on-site printer maintenance plan, this will often include an annual preventative maintenance visit by an engineer.

    If you don’t have a maintenance contract, you can pay for an engineer to come to your site and service your printer fleet.

    An alternative which is less convenient is to send back individual printers to our workshop for servicing.  Servicing also includes updating the printers firmware – making the printer more secure from hacker threats and reducing the risk of software bugs.

  • Service History.  Knowing your printer fleets’ service history means you know which machines need work and which printers don’t.  It helps you redeploy printers within your organisation.  It increases resale value if you come to replace them.
  • Spare Parts.  Printheads and platen rolls are consumable items.  They are designed to be replaced.  They can be fitted by a technically minded person in a few minutes.  If you are dependant on your labels, it makes sense to keep stocks of printheads and platen rollers. 
  • You need to know what you have, what printers they are for and where they are kept.

Being prepared gives you peace of mind you have things under control.

Label and Ribbon Inventory Control

Labels on shelves

Keeping track of labels and ink is clearly critical.  Production days (or weeks) can be lost if you run out of labels.

  • You need to know if you have a system for tracking label stock levels?
  • Do you keep emergency stocks that are kept separately – just in case someone fails to reorder labels?  If so, where?  Have you arranged label and ink stocks sitting on the shelf with your suppliers – ready to be shipped next day?  Ask us to keep stocks for next day delivery for you.
  • Do you check stock when it arrives?
    Faulty Labels
    Faulty Labels
      In case it’s damaged or faulty?  The last thing you want is to open the last box of labels to find they were damaged during shipping. 
  • Do you have a reliable way of reordering labels and ribbons?  We use a special barcode for some of our clients – when they reach the last roll or box of labels they scan a special code and a replacement box is ordered automatically.  Ask us about our automated label reorder system.
  • Do you have a secondary supply of labels and ribbons?  Critical in an emergency.
  • How long do you wait for labels/ribbons.  A shorter leadtime is preferable. Sometimes a long leadtime is inevitable and you need to plan accordingly. 
  • How often are your label deliveries delayed – unexpectedly?  Perhaps you need a more reliable supplier.

Quality Control for Printed Labels

Inline Verification System
Best way to assess barcode quality is an inline verifier

So far we have looked at printing labels – this is what you need to know about the quality of your printed labels. Recalling a batch of product or getting a fine from your customer because of substandard labels can be avoided if you know this:

  • Can you trace incoming batches of labels? If there’s a problem with label adhesive or print finish on some labels – can you identify them on the shelf?
  • Can you track who you’ve sent labels to – in case of a problem (i.e. unreadable barcodes).
  • Do you assess label quality before they’re applied to your products or outer cases – do you scan barcodes?

    Problems with barcodes can be difficult to see with the human eye. The first you will know is when you get a call from your customer to say they can’t read your barcodes.  Read the Barcodes panel for more information.

Barcodes

Tesco charge £620 (2018 prices) an incident for barcode non-compliance.  They raise the problem with their outsourced barcode support desk who determine if the codes are substandard.

Barcode printers can have wrinkled ribbons, worn out printheads and a host of other problems that stop barcodes from reading.

The only way to test if your barcodes are up to standard is to scan them.

Scanning with a smartphone is not recommended, as they can cope with substandard codes better than the laser scanners found in warehouses.

We’re happy to advise you on the best solution – contact us here – and read this article. 

  • What quality credentials do your suppliers have? This does a long way to giving you confidence you won’t experience problems.

Staff Training

Any system is only as good as the people running it.  How well it’s run depends on how well they’re trained. 

Training includes everything we’ve covered here: loading and setting up your printers, cleaning printers, checking incoming materials, checking printed labels, using label design software, reordering labels and ribbons…

  • Are your labelling systems documented (so you can train people and improve systems)?
  • Is there a training system in place?  Is it documented?  When was it last reviewed?  Does it contain out-of-date equipment, processes or software?
  • How are staff trained – a quick chat from their supervisor?  A printed (and frankly boring) manual?  A video?  Specialist external or in-house instructors? Is the training interactive and assessed?   Are there practical exercises?
BarTender Label Design Training

Expert Labels have been training people on labelling for more than 25 years.  Talk to us about putting together an on-line interactive training and assessment course for you.  For advice and help, contact us here.

Label Management Software

As Operations Manager you want a label management system that fits your needs.  Labelling Management Software is more than just designing labels – it’s the whole process of choosing what label to print and putting the correct data onto the labels.

This is what you need to know about label management systems to ensure it does what you want.

  • Is your labelling management software documented – we’ve already talked about the importance of documentation for training – but it helps you streamline and improve your processes, identify faults and on a practical level – helps you get quality certification. 
  • Where are your label templates backed up to?  As Operations Manager – you’re likely not responsible for backing up your label files – but you do want to know how you get it back if you need to.
  • You need to know what your labelling software is capable of.  If you know what it can do, you can make improvements.  Call us and we can advise you.  We work with Seagull Scientific’s BarTender and Nicelabel software. 
  • Are you taking advantage of the automation available from your software.  Labelling software can be automatically triggered from your order or production systems and automatically print labels.  You could set up a label printing system that works for months without attention. Ask us for help automating your labelling (we work internationally).
  • Do you know if your label designs are protected from accidental changes?
  • Are your label designs effectively organised and shared with users?  This eliminates duplicate label designs and manages different design versions.  BarTender and NiceLabel have the ability to set up a shared library with controlled access to different users.

Labels and Ribbons

labels and ribbons

This is where answers to a few questions can save thousands of £s. 

Ideally, you should put together a spreadsheet detailing what label sizes you buy, where you buy them from, the quantity ordered each time, annual usage and a few details about the labels – i.e. colours and adhesive type.

  • How much you spend on labels?  As a starting point – an answer to this helps you understand the size of your money saving opportunity.  Saving money isn’t just about getting a better price – it’s about buying more intelligently. 
  • Where do you get your labels from?  Your label supplier may not be top of your ‘must see’ list, but they generally have a great deal of knowledge and should be able to make recommendations about how you’re using your labels.
  • What volumes of labels you buy.  The more labels you get in one order, the cheaper per label the cost will be.  It might be that you’re buying lots of small orders and you could be buying a few larger, yet ultimately cheaper, label orders.
  • How often am I buying labels? This is tied in with the volume of labels bought.  You have to balance the cost of keeping stocks of labels against the reduction in price larger orders give you. 
  • What are my labels like? You could be buying labels that might be better suited made in a different way?  Perhaps you need peelable labels but didn’t realise you could get them?  Understanding if your labels are a good match for the task they’re being used for will help you decide if you can make any improvements.
  • Can you print labels two or more across?  Two labels across means you’ve halved the amount of time your staff are printing.  Not always possible – but worth investigating.
  • If you’re overprinting labels then you may be using thermal transfer ribbons.  Here’s what it’s good to know about ribbons?
  • Are your ribbons matched to your labels?  It might be that a ribbon made from a different material might suit your labels better – that might mean they print faster, better or cost less.  We are happy to test label/ribbon compatibility for you – with just a small roll of labels we can test different ribbons.  Find our address here: contact us.
  • What size ribbons do you have?  A ribbon that closely matches the width of labels printed means you’re not wasting thermal ribbons.  If your ribbons are much wider, we can help you get custom made ribbons that means you can save significant amounts of money on your ribbons.

Controls and Reviews for your labelling

  • When was the last time you reviewed your labelling system? If not annually – then perhaps just key parts of the audit need to be done – security issues.
  • Could labels be printed in a different way?  For example, new technology you could be using (like QR codes or RFID tags).
  • Do you have a set of benchmarks and standards your processes should be compared against? Perhaps just historical benchmarks. 
  • Do you have a report from your financial system that provides answers to supplier, frequency and cost questions?  Can you get it built in order to do a quick annual review?
  • Are you receiving updates on software improvements and newer versions? 
  • There is a lot to keep up to date with – do you have a trusted expert advisor to guide you through the complex world of labelling?

Summary

Let us help you maximise your labelling potential.  Contact us for an audit of your labelling system.  We conduct audits internationally.

Expert Labels

We’ve spent weeks creating this article – which I sincerely hope it’s useful.  I would love to hear your feedback – what’s useful and what isn’t.

Please email me your thoughts to miles@expertlabels.co.uk

Updated 11 Feb 2021.

Labelling Trends for 2021

In this article...

In this article we’ll take you on a journey into the future

    • Natasha’s law – how it affects labelling for food businesses
    • QR Codes – Covid Track and Trace introduced them to millions of people
    • The continued push to sustainability for environmentally aware producers
    • The continued expansion of digital printing
    • The importance of supply chain resilience – including your labels
    • The rise of NFC labels – contact-less technology in labels for hospitality
    • Labels as a subscription for organisations in lean supply chains
    • Cloud labelling software

Let’s explore…

Natasha's Law

Allergen Labelling
Allergen Labelling from NiceLabel

In October 2021 Natasha’s Law comes into force. The tragic death of 15 year old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse on a flight from Heathrow in 2016 highlighted the potentially fatal consequences of inadequate food labelling. 

Whilst allergy labels were mandatory on packaged foods since 2014, they didn’t apply to foods packaged on-site, such as sandwiches and sushi.  That’s changing in October 2021. 
 
We’ve written a more detailed article here – which explains what Natasha’s law applies to for food manufacturers and how you can label your products if you need to.
 

Everyone's Using QR Codes - Now Take Advantage of Them

Every's Using QR Codes
Everyone's Using QR Codes

Corona virus has opened the general public’s eyes to QR codes.  For the majority of people, if you want to go somewhere public, you need to scan a QR code using the NHS app.  For many people this was the first time they even realised they had a QR code reader on their phones.

QR codes perfect for driving customer engagement in labelling for a whole range of products – but they work for so many industries.  We’ve even used them in heavy engineering to display technical drawings. 

How can you take advantage of QR codes?

There’s a ton of benefit to be had from QR codes from opening webpages (think food menus in hospitality), opening online order forms (order from the table in hospitality), opening map apps – take  a look at this article for many more ideas. 

The problem you used to have was encouraging people to scan the codes. 

Now they know how, you can start enjoying the benefits of QR codes on your labels and packaging.

The Continued Rise of Sustainable labels

Biodegradable label
Biodegradable label being tested

At the end of February 2020  I sneaked in a trade show.  Remember them?  

One thing that was inescapable was that every other stand seemed to be promoting sustainable packaging and labelling. 

We are noticing this as well.  A large proportion of our enquiries relate to biodegradable and environmentally friendly labels – because there’s a growing number of companies who consider the environment a key company value. 

Previously the problem with sustainable labels had been volume.  Biodegradable and sustainable label materials are now more readily available than ever – and that will gradually lead to a drop in price.  If the environment is rising in your list of priorities – read this article.

Expect to see more sustainable labels in 2021.

Digital Label Printing

Epson Colorworks C3500 colour label Printer
Entry level digital label printer

Digital label printing first appeared ten years ago.  Since then label printers have realised the advantages.  Minimised set up costs means that it’s viable to print much smaller batches of labels than used to be the case.  Digitally printed labels can each be unique – because plates aren’t needed.

Again, there’s a gradual move downwards in price with digital printing presses.  High volume professional presses still cost hundreds of thousands of pounds but desktop printers cost around £1,000 and produce very good results.

Expect to see more digital printing in 2021.

Supply Chain Resilience

Operation Stack
Critical supply chain holdups (Credit: Barry Davis)

In March, Covid caused a shock to supply chains not only in the UK but around the world.  Then at the end of the year there was another shock from the threat of Brexit and the closure to inbound traffic to France – both of these lead to shortages and delays.

Throughout 2020 supply chains became a talking point in the news.

One key part of the modern supply chain – something small but critical – is labelling.   Without labels – nothing can move. 

In order for your supply chain to be resilient – you must make sure you have labels to print onto – and systems that ensure the correct information is printed onto those labels.

Perhaps we’ll see more consideration to supply chain resilience in 2021.

NFC Labels

Near Field Communication (NFC) labels are a type of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) label.  We’ve talked about RFID labels for decades – so what make me think 2021 will be the year it’s all going to take off?

Covid makes me think these types of label will gain ‘traction’.  I don’t think we’ll see an explosion of use, but I think the pandemic will have accelerated their use.

A lot of people don’t like touching things.  Some people appreciate the sheer convenience of a label that you simply wave your phone near and it does something.  Combine the two and you have more people using NFC technology.

NFC Label
NFC Label

The ability to read NFC exists on pretty much all Android and Apple phones.  It doesn’t require you to download an app.  That makes it’s adoption much easier.

The other factor in the adoption of NFC is cost.  As with most things, technology products drop in price as volumes rise. 

Like QR Codes, NFC gives you the ability to open websites, display order forms, identify people, products and places, provide Wifi or other logins – all from an easily programmed ‘electronic label’.  In fact – it’s so easy to program, you just need a smart phone and a free app – and you can be programming your NFC tags.

Contact me to find out how you can jump ahead of your competition and make your users lives’ a little easier in 2021.

Labels as a Subscription

If you’re male you might be familiar with dollar shave club.  Described as “Everything you need in the bathroom – from razor blades to grooming products – automatically delivered to your door. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

This is interesting.  Most people visit the supermarket weekly.  It’s easy enough to grab razers, shaving cream and so on when you’re there – but the Dollar Shave Club grew from nothing to a $1Billion company in less than FIVE years – the convenience of subscription is pretty compelling.

Label Subscription Service

Labels lend them extremely well to subscription.  Every month or two a selected box of labels arrives at your door – automatically.  Twice a year you review how many labels you’re using and adjust how much you’re receiving.  It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Ask us to provide you with labels on subscription.  Order once and forget about reordering.  We’ll take care of everything.

If you use thermal ribbons with your labels – let us ship the exact number of rolls you need to match your labels – so you never over stock and never run out.

Contact us and ask about labelling subscriptions.

Labelling Software in the Cloud

For years now, software and resources have been moving to the cloud.  So why is that you still have to download label design and print software?

Whilst other software publishers have been slowly preparing their software for the cloud, Nicelabel, a leading company in the label design space have had software running in the cloud for years.

Nicelabel’s Label Cloud:

Nicelabel Cloud Printing
Web Print Labels
  • Design labels using their design software,
  • Save it centrally on the web – accessible to anyone who needs it,
  • Share one set of data – eliminate duplicate and out of date records
  • Simple software subscription
  • Easily Scaleable

I think the move to cloud computing will extend to label design software – and Nicelabel seems to be ahead of the game.

  • You won’t be surprised to know, we can help you with your cloud labelling.  Get in touch!

Useful Links

Natasha's Law Compliant Food Label Printing

Natasha’s Law and What You Need to Do About It.

In this Natasha’s Law article – learn:

  • What Natasha’s Law is
  • See if it affects your business
  • How the law affects you
  • How to make your labels compliant
  • Brother’s standalone label printer for ingredient labels
  • Useful links

What is Natasha's Law?

In October 2021 a set of food labelling laws called Natasha’s Law comes into force.

The tragic death of 15 year old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse on a flight from Heathrow in 2016 highlighted the potentially fatal consequences of inadequate food labelling. 

Natasha, who was allergic to sesame, stop breathing on the flight to Nice.  Despite using her medication, she died from a severe allergic reaction.

Natasha had eaten a sandwich which failed to list sesame as an ingredient.  The sandwich had sesame seeds baked into the dough.

The sandwich, made by Pret a Manger, had no specific allergy warnings and Natasha ate the sandwich, believing she was safe.

Whilst Natasha’s case was well publicised she is not alone.  A handful of people die each year from food allergies and many more are made ill.  Food allergies are estimated to affect one in eight children in the UK to some degree. Around 2% of adults have food allergies. 

Natasha’s law passed through to law and new regulations were prepared in 2020. 

Who Does Natasha's Law Effect?

The new regulations only apply to food known as ‘pre-packed for direct sale’ (PPDS), which is food packaged onsite by a food business or company or school canteen before a customer selects or orders it from the same premises.

Food prepared and manufactured off site already needs to include ingredients and allergy warnings but until October 2021, food made onsite and packaged didn’t.

If you make food on site and package it before selling it – Natasha’s law applies to your business.

Allergen Labelling
Allergen Labelling from NiceLabel

How do the Food Labelling Changes Affect You?

If you make food that is pre-packed for direct sale, you need to list all the ingredients – paying particular attention to 14 specified allergens.

From 1st Oct 2021 PPDS food needs to be labelled. Foods that are made to order and non-packaged foods are not affected by the new regulations (most can’t be labelled anyway).

Allergens in the food as either an ingredient or a processing aid needs to be listed on the label.

From the food information regulations: “the mandatory information must be easily accessible, in a conspicuous place, easily visible and clearly legible. Information must be indelible (where appropriate for example on food labels where it needs to withstand handling). The information must not be hidden, obscured, detracted from or interrupted by other written or pictorial matter or any other intervening material.”

How to be Natasha's Law Labelling 'Compliant'

Natasha's Law Compliant Food Label Printing
Food Label Printing

Printing ingredient labels at the time of manufacture presents a problem to many small food retailers such as sandwich shops and cafes.

Your labels need to be printed on-site at the time of packaging.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Using an inexpensive £250 label printer and pre-printed labels – you can quickly and easily label your food products with beautiful, eye-catching and professional branded labels.

Using labelling software like Seagull Scientific’s BarTender, or NiceLabel – you can build a library of label designs that can be printed on demand.

Your labels can include the best before date and all the required ingredient information.

Brother's Standalone Label Printer

One particularly practical solutions is Brother’s TD2020 printer. 

It doesn’t need to be plugged into a computer to print labels. 

You design the label designs on a PC, download the label designs to the printer and use the printer keypad to select what you want to print.  It can even run off batteries.

Watch the video below and contact us to find out how you can try it.

Useful Links

Epson Colorworks C3500 colour label Printer

Why Buy a Colour Label Printer

When you need relatively small quantities of colour labels on a regular basis – investing in a label printer will save you money and increase convenience.

  • Print labels on demand – no more waiting for labels to be manufactured and printed for you.
  • Print unique labels – a label customised to each product.  Different size, style, shape or colour permutations – can be printed for each product
  • Personalised labels to meet your customers demands, made specially for them.
  • Prototype packaging and labelling with photo-quality colour labels – testing different messages and colours.
  • Simplify label stock control – by printing what you need when you need it – no stock control headaches or running out of labels.
  • Meet GHS requirements by printing required pictograms and graphics using a colour label printer.

Roll labels V Sheet labels

Roll label printers have important advantages over inexpensive sheet label printers.  Here’s why you should choose a colour roll label printer:

  1. Labels on rolls are less expensive compared to sheet labels. Whilst the printers cost more, roll label printers will save money in the long run.
  2. Wide range of materials to print onto – paper, gloss paper, plastics, permanent and peelable adhesives.
  3. The labels and the printed image are more durable (water resistant and suffer less sun damage) and
  4. You can print just one label or hundreds of labels – no need to print whole sheets of labels.
  5. Roll label printers are more durable and reliable than sheet printers

Do I Print My Colour Labels In-House?

The decision to print coloured labels in house or through label printers comes down to:

How many labels do I need?

If you need lots of labels then it’s more convenient to have labels preprinted. Our rule of thumb is that it isn’t cost effective to pre-print fewer than 1,000 labels.

 

Colour label printed with Colorworks printer
Vibrant Colour Labels printed with an Epson C3500 colour label printer

Do I need special materials or label finishes?

Not all label materials can be printed onto using a colour printer. On a recent project we couldn’t find removable plastic labels for a client – that were inkjet printable. If you need gold foiling or a special varnish you’ll need pre-printed labels.

However, pre-printed labels aren’t all perfect…

Adding unique information such as batch codes and serial numbers at print time isn’t possible without over-printing.

Keeping track of hundreds of different product labels is a headache. 

How Raza Nostra Solved Their Label Problems

Raza Nostra is a Madrid-based artisan meat specialist.

Black and White Labels Aren’t Good Enough

Raza Nostra provide their customers with high quality meat and black and white labels don’t reflect the quality of the brand.

Not only did black and white labels fail the company’s artisan brand, the labels didn’t include coloured images and country of origin flags.

Perhaps the largest – practical reason why pre-printed labels were a problem was wastage. Raza Nostra requires 30 different types of labels and the minimum order volumes of its label supplier forced the company to buy far more labels than it needed, resulting in storage expenses and high levels of wastage.

Raza Nostra needed a solution. 

Colour on demand

Raza Nostra  decided to test Epson’s TM-C3400 on-demand colour label printer. The C3400 prints custom colour labels onto matte and gloss label media between 30 and 112mm wide – perfect for Raza Nostra’s product labelling requirements.

Another important consideration are prints that are highly durable, water-resistant and smudge-proof. Raza Nostra found that the Epson labels easily withstood storage conditions in its large fridges.

Raza Nostra needed to print up to 1,500 new labels per day and the entry-level Epson printer had no problem keeping pace, producing 100 labels in just three minutes. 

Flexibility, quality and economy

Raza Nostra’s testing proved the concept of in-house label printing and they bought two Epson printers. Using the printers, the company can now produce exactly what it needs, when it wants, which has dramatically reduced costs and wastage.

Another benefit is that it’s easier for the company to keep up with constantly-changing expiration dates, prices and barcodes.

Furthermore, Raza Nostra now has the flexibility to change its label designs as often as it wants and can print flags and images in full colour. 

Useful Links

Epson – Colour Label Printers

Updated 29 Nov 2020

Label Rewinder Unit

Label Rewinders

If you’re printing batches of thousands of labels – and your solution is to collect the printed labels in a box – we have the answer to your dreams – label rewinders.

  • What is a label rewind unit?
  • How to use a label rewinder
  • Things to look out for when buying a label rewinder
  • Benefits of a label rewinder
  • Label rewinder prices.

Read on to learn more about these great time-saving machines.

What is a Label Rewinder?

A label rewinder is a label printer accessory that allows you to neatly wind printed labels back onto rolls.  No need to stand by your printer re-rolling labels by hand.

It has an electric motor powered from a wall socket.

Zebra Internal rewinder unit
Zebra Internal label rewinder

Many thermal label printers have an optional internal label rewinder you can add to the printer.

The benefit of a free standing rewinder is that it can be moved around and used with a number of printers.

Free-standing label rewinders are compatible with a wide range of different label printers – desktop models or industrial.

With a free-standing label rewinder you can rewind labels onto a range of different roll cores, unlike internal printer rewinders, which are usually fixed to one core size.

Benefits of a label rewinder

Label rewinders save time and effort when you’re printing thousands of labels.

Unattended rewinding.  Start printing your labels, return to the printer when the labels are finished. 

Consistent rolls.  Rolls are rolled at a steady tension.  Rolls are neatly rolled onto the cores.

Quick.  Many rewinders can work at the same speed as your printer.  Printers can produce labels at 300mm per second.  Rewind your labels at the same speed.

How to use a label rewinder

In less than a minute, you can set up your rewind unit to rewind your labels.  No tools needed.  Quick and easy.

  1. Loosen rods that hold the roll core.
Loosen label Rewinder

2. Adjust the roll core rods

3. Slide on label roll core

4. Print 50cm of labels then press pause on the printer.

5. Stick labels to the core.

6. Switch on the label rewinder, take the printer off pause and print remaining labels. 

Labels are effortlessly and quickly wound onto the core.

7. At the end of the print run, remove the finished roll of labels from the label rewinder.

rewound labels

What to look for with a label rewinder

There are three features to look for with a label rewind unit.

Motor power.  As labels come out of the printer and are rolled onto cores, they can become very heavy.  Smaller underpowered rewinders would struggle to turn the motor.

Core size.  Labels are typically rolled onto three sizes of core.  Make sure you get a rewinder with the correct sized  core, or buy one with an adjustable one.

Tension Adjuster.  The Tension Adjuster means the label rewinder smoothly takes up the printed labels – without undue stress on the labels, printer or rewinder motor.

Label Rewinder Tension Arm
Label Rewinder Tension Arm

Label Rewinder Costs

Stand-alone label rewinder machines cost from £275 up to £600 plus VAT.

Internal rewind units range in price depending on make and model of printer. 

You can ‘field fit’ internal printer rewind units to some thermal printer models.  The rewind kit includes a special base that raises the printer by a few centimeters to allow space for a roll of labels to be rewound.

Expect to pay around £350 plus VAT for an internal label rewind kit.

Contact us to get a quote for label rewinders or complete the form below.

Updated 19 Feb 2021