Labelling is a key business process that is widely used internally and externally, across the organisation. From streamlining logistics and distribution, to helping manage suppliers and production, labelling can be a challenging task. There are multiple issues to consider; the hardware involved, ability to design labels, maintaining accuracy of information, and making the correct labels available to the right departments. Accuracy, for example, is key for those organisations working in regulated environments such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals or food labelling. On the other hand, businesses with international offices and distribution centres may find it challenging to cost-effectively design and deploy correct labels in different languages for different regions.
Technology is increasingly being used to help overcome these challenges and make the labelling process more effective, despite the fact the industry has been largely static for the past few years. Technologies like cloud can have a dramatic impact on operations especially seeing as so many other critical business processes, like customer relationship management (CRM), have already made the move. So if they can move to cloud, why can’t labelling? The answer is, it can.
Moving away from a legacy of complexity
As it stands, many organisations are stuck with legacy labelling processes that adds complexity to the design, printing and distribution of accurate labels. Typically, a business has multiple systems, across multiple departments that don’t necessarily work together. In addition, because labelling methods have historically been difficult to use, label design has largely fallen to the IT team. If something needs to be updated or changed, or a label designed from scratch, already over-stretched IT teams need to do it. The problem here is that it won’t be done quickly which can hinder the rest of the process. In one manufacturing company, for example, getting a label changed requires a minimum of eight weeks’ wait for the IT department to do it which they charge €3,000 per change request. This means important business opportunities may lost.
These disparate systems and hardware are costly to maintain and require specialist skills to operate.
Democratising label management
In the era of the cloud or software-as-a-service (SaaS), the labelling process is democratised. This means the designing element of the process is made easier and business users can do it, while the quality assurance process is made more efficient because typically these systems are intuitive and user-friendly, built using familiar interfaces.
This leads to one of the main benefits of moving labelling to the cloud. Adopting a SaaS approach means there is no additional specialised (and expensive) IT infrastructure needed and there is therefore no need to spend money maintaining it. As a result, businesses of all sizes — not just global enterprises — can afford label management systems and benefit from the productivity gains. In the past, it was larger organisations with the resources and in-house IT skills who could deploy such a system. But now there are far fewer barriers to entry for those smaller businesses who don’t have the IT skills and budgets needed for hardware, maintenance and management.
Better quality assurance, lower risk
The advantages of digitalising the labelling process don’t stop at cost and ease of use. There are wider benefits, especially when it comes to the accuracy of labelling information. A digital approach to quality assurance of labelling effectively removes the human element from the process which also takes away risk and cost. It is also easier to secure the process and provides an added measure of traceability. Firstly, only people with the right access can amend data or change the label templates. Secondly, digitalising the label management system provides users with an extensive audit trail, which details which changes have been made, who they were made by, when labels were printed and what was actually printed. This traceability is vital for meeting compliance requirements for regulated industries such as food and beverage and pharmaceuticals.
Building on quality assurance, a cloud-based label management system enables businesses to centralise the label management processes and be able to store, change and approve all labels in a centralised location. This ensures that everyone is able to access the right, most up-to-date information wherever they may be located across the business or across the country. This also applies to global operations, making information available to suppliers, partners or affiliates, if needed.
It is indeed a new era for labelling. Digitalising the process has widespread benefits for all organisations: agility, efficiency, speed, regardless of their size or the industry in which they operate. Cloud-based or SaaS systems ensure businesses can move easily and quickly away from legacy IT solutions that may be more of a hindrance to the process than anything else. It also means that more people within a business can design and print labels, quickly and easily, and have access to the right versions and the most accurate data.