From Chaos to Order: How Labels Transform Your Warehouse


From Chaos to Order: How Labels Transform Your Warehouse

Warehouse racking

You’re reading this because you want a really efficient warehouse operation.  In this article I will show you the part warehouse labels play in making your warehouse more efficient.  Warehouses can’t operate without labels and this article summarises what you need to know.

You’ll learn about:

  • Rack Labels
  • How Sticky Should Racking Labels be?
  • What to Print on Your Warehouse Labels
  • Floor Labels
  • RFID Labels
  • Warehouse Label Checklist.
  • Useful links

Labels play two parts – firstly, in your warehouse infrastructure and secondly in keeping track of your stock. This article will concentrate on your warehouse infrastructure.

Rack Labels

Rack labels act as signs to direct pickers to the right locations in your warehouse. Hand written labels aren’t a solution in large warehouses.  Print your labels and if you want to be efficient, you’ll need barcoded rack labels. 

Your labels need to be clear, readable from a distance and logical – so that temporary staff can work out how to find things as quickly as possible.  

Rack labels need to be custom printed, as your warehouse is unique.  To help make your warehouse logical, colour labels are an advantage. 

If your warehouse labels are damaged then you need a source of replacement labels that can be reprinted to fit into your warehouse labelling system.  That might mean buying extra blank labels and overprint them in black if you need replacement labels.  Contact us to overprint your blanks if you need us to.

Rack labels need to be durable, scratch resistant labels.  They need to be waterproof so they can be wiped clean if needed.  Rack labels need to be as large as possible.

How sticky do my rack labels need to be?

“When I used to think of my rack labels, I used to think I needed them as sticky as possible, but when I had to reorganise my racking labels, removing super sticky labels then become a long and labourious job.” 

Yes, with a scraper and plenty of isopropanol alcohol (for dissolving adhesive, not for drinking) the labels will come off.  However, ask us for labels with peelable adhesive and when you need to reorganise your warehouse, the job becomes a whole lot easier. 

But I move my rack labels regularly…

If moving labels is a regular activity in your warehouse, ask us about magnetic backed racking labels.

Remember magnetic racking labels can be moved around easily and they can also be re-labelled easily.  If you decide the label needs to read differently just apply another label over the top and reposition on your racks as you need.

What do I print on my rack labels?

Rack labels are usually printed with a location identifier in ‘human readable’ format, along with a barcode.  

The larger the barcode, the easier it is to read from a distance.  The size of the barcode depends on two things: how large the rack label is (and this in turn depends on the size of the racking) and how many characters are encoded in the barcode.  The fewer digits, the larger the barcode can be.

Long range barcode scanning
Long Range Barcode Scanning

Sometimes rack identifiers are all printed at at ground level, with different levels logically placed together for easy scanning.  Sometimes the location identifiers are strictly placed in the same place for each bay and need to be read by elevating the reader sometimes several levels up. With high performance barcode scanners and a large barcode, codes can be scanned from 10m – 20m away – which is usually more than enough for most warehouses. You need to decide what works best for you.  If you want sample labels contact us and we can print you some for testing.

With long range barcode scanners and large, readable warehouse labels, your forklift drivers should be able to operate efficiently in your warehouse without leaving their seat.  This way of working will lead to faster picking and a more efficient warehouse. 

Floor Labels

Along with rack labels, warehouse floor labels are an option.  There are obvious complications and limitations with floor labels.  Damaged or dirty labels are difficult to read by humans and particularly with barcode scanners.

If floor labels are the only option then be prepared to replace them from time to time.  Consider them consumable and have a plan in place for reordering them.  Speak to us about how we can keep a stock of blanks in place for custom printing.

Your warehouse floor labels can be printed using barcodes, QR codes, and human readable text.

Usually your labels are made from a durable plastic material, but even then, will wear out.  Consider locating labels in recessed housings or buying etched metal labels which will outlast any plastic labels. 

RFID (Electronic) Warehouse Labels

RFID labels are sticky labels with an electronic chip embedded in them.  The chip enables the information on the label to be read electronically from a distance.

A roll of clear labels with RFID tags embedded within
These clear RFID labels would be buit into your labels

How is this different from barcode labels?  Barcode labels need to be seen by a reader.  If they are dirty, damaged or covered by something (like overhanging pallet packaging), they can’t be read.  Perhaps they are hidden behind something else – then a barcode can’t be read.  RFID readers, providing they are within range, can be read by waving the reader in the direction of the label.

If you need RFID labels for your warehouse, contact us.  We are able to make relatively short runs of RFID labels in a range of sizes and to a range of RFID standards.

Whilst these labels are more expensive and the readers are an added cost, if reading barcodes present a problem and RFID labels might be a solution to improve your warehouse’s efficiency, then RFID warehouse labels will pay for themselves over time. 

Call us for advice about RFID labels.

What You Need to Know About Barcode Labels

Barcodes come in over 100 styles (known in the trade as symbologies), however, our recommendation is you consider just two barcode styles – code 128 or QR codes.

Barcode Types
Some of the hundreds of barcode styles available

Code 128 barcodes are compact, you can encode upper and lower case characters along with numbers and symbols – in fact 128 different characters.

Code 128 barcodes also include a built-in check digit so barcode readers know they’ve scanned the correct digits.

QR Code labels
QR Codes can contain web addresses

QR codes are what are known as 2D barcodes. They can encode hundreds of characters including website URLs. QR Codes can be designed in such a way that even if they are marked or scratched they are still readable.

If you need to encode more than just aisle and bay information than QR codes could be useful.

Thinking outside the box, it’s possible to change the information encoded in the QR code after it’s been printed.

As mentioned earlier, the larger the barcode, the longer the read range.

Barcode labels can be printed on to plastic or paper – though plastic would be more practical for your warehouse.

Ask us to print your barcoded warehouse labels – or print them yourself using your thermal label printer.

If a barcode reader can scan a QR code then it will scan a 1D barcode.  Not all 1D barcode scanners will read 2D codes – let us know the make and model to check the scanner specs if you’re in doubt.

Warehouse Label Checklist

  • What is the maximum size my rack labels can be?
  • What needs to be printed on my labels?
  • Will I have labels at ground level or at bay level?
  • How many colours do I need?
  • Can I source blank warehouse labels for over-printing?
  • Do I need labels that can be removed (magnetic or peelable)?
  • Have I ordered samples so I can test readability and durability – or possibly how peelable they are.

As always, we are here to help. If you have a question, or specific design requirement you would like to discuss with us, please get in touch. Email or call us on 01359 271 111, we’d love to hear from you.

Useful Links

The UK Warehouse Association is a good place to learn all things warehouse related.

Free online training courses for Warehouse Management from

Learn about RFID labels here.


Last Updated: 15 May 2023


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