How we work, here at Expert Labels
Odds are you’ve visited our site, interested in labels. Probably a label that’s a little unusual and out of the ordinary. High temperature labels or peel and reveal. You’ve landed on a page or you’ve followed a trail that’s lead you there. You’ve read the article and you think you’ve found what you’re looking for. Now you’re interested in getting some labels or a printer.
Request a Label Sample
Step one, you fill in the form on our website and we’ll send you out the samples you’re interested in. If it’s a simple request then we go through our sample library and put a sample in an envelope and send it to you.
Often we’re asked for high temperature labels – but there’s quite a lot of information we need to know in order to get you the best performing sample. We need to know what temperature range you need, what temperature it’s applied at, what’s it applied to, how long it will be at a particular temperature and so on. There’s usually too much to put on a form, so we get in touch.
We ship your samples and record the specifications sent so when we speak again we know what you had.
Often we send you samples of label materials – especially when it comes to biodegradable or sustainable labels.
Clarify What you Need
After a few days we’ll be in touch to see if the label samples were OK. In the case of some more technical labels such as high temperature, peelable or chemical resistant, you might need to try a few different label materials until you’re happy with a result. Once we have settled on a material we’ll ask you about label dimension, print requirements, quantities and a few other details before we can quote. We might appear a little pedantic but it’s important that we are clear on what you need as this can be embarrassing, time-consuming and expensive if we get it wrong and have to redo a print job later.
Prepare a quote
Once we have the information we need we put together your quote and email it to you.
Confirm order and put it in writing
Once we agree the price we set out in detail what you’re getting and specify the expected delivery date. We confirm the price and send it over as an order confirmation. If you don’t have an account with us we will send you a proforma invoice to pay against.
Check your proofs
If you’re having printing done then we need to prepare an image of what your label will look like. 95% of the time this will be a pdf or graphic of the label. Sometimes it might be what we call a wet proof. A wet proof is a physical printout of the label. For most of the labels we print a wet proof isn’t possible but with digitally printed labels onto paper it is. Wet proofs have to be printed and posted out and adds delay to the process, but you will get to see the material and the actual colours.
As with all printing companies, we wait for you to confirm back by email that you’re happy with the proof. Only when we have it in writing do we proceed. If we are over-printing your labels using one of our thermal transfer printers then we will photograph a printed label and send you that, so you can see an image of the exact label you’re going to get.
Make to Order
If we are printing your labels using our thermal transfer printers (i.e. simple black printed labels with barcodes or serial numbers) and we have the labels in stock, then we can print and ship in a matter of hours, providing we get proofs approved and payment received. If we need blank labels made this can take a day if they are stock labels or up to ten days for custom blank labels (though usually faster).
Colour printed labels
This stage takes around ten days. If you are having colour labels printed in any volume (ie more than 5,000) then ‘plates’ need to be made. Each different colour on your label has a different plate. The label design is separated into different colours and a plate is created. This process might take a couple of hours to be completed, but it has to be scheduled in a queue so might take a day to be finished.
If you need an unusual label size you might need a label cutter – a metal plate that has raised lines that cut out the shape of the label from the sheet of label material. This process is outsourced to specialists. Again, like plate making, the actual building time is short but the job will go into a queue.
Next the labels need to be made. Labels we make are typically made on large printing presses. Setting up a machine takes minutes – longer if there are colours involved – then test printing takes a few more minutes. Once the job has been set up it can take anything from a few minutes to print your labels – through to hours – depending on the number of labels and the material being printed. Labels made with destructible materials (i.e. for tamper evident labels) can’t be run fast through the printing press – they fall apart.
Once the labels are printed, the label printing press needs to be cleaned – more so if the print involved colour labels.
As with the plate and die making stages, the labels go on to the machine in a planned way. Blank jobs (i.e. labels without any printing on them) would be scheduled together because there is less cleaning after the production run. Usually jobs are printed in order they are received but it might be possible to leapfrog the queue, especially if the labels are made from an unusual material – and there is an earlier job using the same material. That saves time changing large rolls of materials on the press.
We might then have to take your labels and ‘finish’ them. That means adding the extra features you sometimes find with labels – embossing, adding gold leaf (you can tell we have some pretty classy customers!) or varnish.
If the number of labels you need is relatively small then we would digitally print them. A digital label press is like a very large laser printer. So large in fact, you could walk inside it. Toner comes in buckets. Digital label printers have no plates so there’s no ink to have to clean off and no delays waiting for the plates to be made. Once you’ve approved the proof we can be printing your labels. The only delays with a digitally printed label is changing the material your labels are made of or any special finishes you might need. Additionally you still need to cut out the shape of the label and there may be a delay there. Digital presses are slower than Flexo presses (Flexo is the name of the traditional printing process) but they are getting faster. Every year faster digital presses are launched.
With digital label printing, the quantity of labels is no longer significant. You can print one label because the machine setup time is so small.
Another advantage of digital printing is that each label can be unique. Useful if you’re producing labels for a competition where there’s only a few winners.
Ship goods and follow up
When your labels are printed and boxed they get shipped. We usually get tracking details but there are some couriers who don’t provide this information. Because we use different suppliers for ribbons and printer and scanner hardware we don’t have a standard tracking email we send to you. Please contact us for tracking details if you are concerned about your shipment.
Check everything is OK
When we think you should have received your order we will phone or email to check you received it OK. It’s at this stage we will invoice you if you have an account with us.