Packaging Corner: Labelers unlock data
The latest label print/apply systems sync data and placement variability.
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Just as retail and e-commerce distributors are adapting to the explosion of stock keeping units (SKUs) and exponential variability of items’ packaging dimensions, so too are the label printer/applicator systems installed at the inbound and outbound ends of facilities.
“Labeling today is all about the data,” says David Holliday, director of product marketing at ID Technology. “Our latest systems interpret information coded within the GS1 standard as the bar codes are printed and use it to automate the application process.”
The standard establishes Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), 14-digit numbers that identify compliant products throughout supply chains. GTIN users can identify, capture, share and access a broad range of data stored in the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN). Through interpretation of each item’s GTIN, the latest printers connect to the GDSN to automatically determine an item’s packaging dimensions, explains Holliday.
“Our systems unlock that information with an integrated bar code scanning array,” Holliday says. “For facilities receiving items and applying a license plate number for storage and retrieval purposes, or applying shipping information for outbound orders, our equipment can use the data in the code to determine the dimensions of the product and the appropriate location to apply the label by conferring with the GDSN database.”
Because some operations might be conveying or sorting 1-inch-tall pouches to cartons as tall as 40 inches—all on the same line—having label printer/applicators engineered to accommodate such a broad tamp distance is crucial to keeping up with throughput demands, Holliday adds.
“It’s not uncommon to see at least two labeling systems, or more, per line alternating to label every other package to meet throughput requirements—particularly in applications with highly variable package sizes,” he says.
Not every facility has integrated GS1 standards, however, Holliday notes. In those cases, package size and label placement can be determined with integrated dimensioners—sensor arrays that physically measure an item as it moves along the conveyor. “It really depends on how sophisticated the system is,” he adds.
About the AuthorSara Pearson Specter Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.
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