Other Voices: Five key steps to a successful warehouse label and sign installation project

Whether for new warehouses or expansions, several key preparation steps can ensure warehouse labels and signs meet needs and go-live date.

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Editor’s Note: The following column by Brian Blair, installation services manager for ID Label Inc., is part of Modern’s Other Voices column. The series features ideas, opinions and insights from end-users, analysts, systems integrators and OEMs. Click here to learn about submitting a column for consideration.

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Growth in retail e-commerce sales has led to a boom in new warehouse construction, with demand for space at an all-time high. These projects are enormously large in scope, to say the least, and represent multimillion-dollar investments.

Planning for barcode labeling and facility signage isn’t always high on the priority list, but making it part of your upfront project scope will save time and money and help make your construction project a success.

Whether you’re planning a new warehouse/DC or simply expanding your current facility, there are several key preparation steps to keep in mind to ensure that your warehouse labels and signs meet your needs and your go-live date. When planning the project, it’s important to consider the entire scope of your requirements – especially since most warehouse professionals are not regularly involved in large labeling installation projects.

Based on ID Label’s experience in this area, we recommend the following steps to ensure a successful installation project:

1. Establish a project team and include key vendors
For new facilities, don’t wait too long to plan for label and sign installation. This can lead to costly errors, rush production charges or delays in your go-live date.

Assign a cross-functional installation planning team of management, operations, IT, engineering and WMS vendor representation, with clearly defined project milestones and assigned areas of responsibility. If outsourcing label production and installation, be sure to include that vendor on your planning team.

2. Select the right barcode labels for your mobile scanning technology and set-up
The optimum design of barcode labels and signs should take into account the capabilities of your mobile-scanning devices. Determine the minimum and maximum scan distances the devices are capable of, their depth of field range, any limits on data string length and their symbology capabilities. Your warehouse label vendor can help recommend labeling solutions accordingly.

Are you an up or down picking operation? In a person-down environment, eye-level vertical location labels (aka totem) are an excellent solution for this kind of multilevel rack environment. They eliminate the need for long-range scanning, minimize potential confusion and errors, and ensure more efficient operations.

3. Assess key environmental factors that can affect project timing and costs
● Rack condition – Dirt and dust can quickly accumulate during storage and installation, which can significantly diminish a label’s adhesive values.
● Wire decking – Do the rack labels need to accommodate for wire deck overhang?
● Facility temperature – A label’s adhesive values can vary, especially in cooler or freezer environments.
● Bulk storage location identification – We typically recommend retro-reflective hanging signs with barcode images. They come in a wide variety of designs and materials, including angled and double-sided. PVC signs are sturdy and tend to work well in typical warehouse environments where open dock doors can increase air flow.
● Facility access – In an active, existing facility, installer access to warehouse racks may be limited to evenings or weekends.

4. Create an accurate data file
One of the most critical preparation steps is creating an accurate data file, which will be used to design and print your barcode labels and signs. A common program like Microsoft Excel can be used to set this up. Data fields should detail:

● Barcode information
● Human-readable data
● Check-digit sequencing verification
● Vertical labels
● Aisle signs
● Arrows
● Colors

5. Plan your labor and equipment
Finally, for the installation itself, there are several key factors to consider.

● What type and size of equipment can the floor layout accommodate? Scissor lifts? Booms? Single- or double-wide?
● How many supervisors and workers will be required for the installation?
● Is there available access to active electrical receptacles or will you have to rent generators?

Also, make sure you have the proper materials to accommodate installation of your hanging signs. This can include conduit pipe, couplers, chains, cables, clamps, S hooks and the proper tools to work with each.

You might presume that it’s cheaper to complete the warehouse label and sign installation with your in-house crew. The opposite is typically true. When labor, production, lack of experience, the likelihood of errors and the other complexities associated with completing new warehouse construction are factored in, organizations often end up spending 35-50% more on label and sign installations done in-house – and risk missing their facility’s go-live date.

Regardless of whether you outsource label installation or not, there’s no overstating how critical advance planning and preparation are to assuring successful project completion. So you’d better get started!


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