Labeling for the Future: Streamlining Supply Chain Processes in the Cloud

Article courtesy of NiceLabel

In just a few short years, cloud technology has become ubiquitous across countless industries worldwide. And with a broad range of benefits, from operational efficiency and scale to greater financial value, it’s no surprise that businesses of all sizes are adopting cloud solutions at an increasing rate. In fact, even before COVID-19, the cloud SaaS market was projected to jump 17% during 2020, reaching a whopping $150 billion in 2021. The recent pandemic has only added fuel to the fire.

Labeling, on the other hand, has historically been slower to adopt new technologies and practices. In fact, many companies today still rely on legacy label management processes like paper-based record keeping and QA practices, manual data entry or physically transferring data via a removable media like a USB drive on the factory floor.

But the threat of new challenges is quickly changing this dynamic. Consumers demand rapid delivery of essential goods, the need to operate virtually has never been greater, and global supply chains have been in turmoil.

Though new challenges often bring frustration, they also present the opportunity to proactively improve for the future. And there’s no better place to start than considering cloud-based labeling as a tool to streamline supply chains.

nicelabel image for cloud

Legacy systems and the need for a digital revolution

Regardless of the industry, competition is fierce and growing stronger by the day. Businesses can no longer afford to ignore the legacy systems and processes that hinder their profitability, increase costs or simply add time to delivery. This is doubly true for industries like ecommerce, where margins are small and delivery expectations can be near instantaneous.

For businesses that depend on a plethora of suppliers, the impacts of an inefficient legacy labeling system become more pronounced. One reason is that dated systems often require the use of multiple labeling standards. For example, when different suppliers all have their own custom-made labeling system, warehouse personnel may be forced to painstakingly identify products for themselves, leading to delays like increased stock turnaround time, missed deadlines, and misidentified products.

As the world digitally transforms across all business sectors, surely this leap forward should also be applied to labeling to improve warehouse efficiency, reduce inventories, and speed up supply chain operations.

The benefits of a cloud-based solution

For those looking to digitally transform labeling systems, the best choice may be moving to the cloud. In terms of labeling, the cloud can be a key enabler of standardized, consistent labeling by storing label information in a central location and extending it out to suppliers over the web. Additionally, when all of this data is hosted in the cloud, it greatly reduces IT security and quality assurance concerns.

Here are just a few ways the cloud can make life simpler for all members in a supply chain:

  • The IT burden for suppliers is reduced to zero. All they require is a username, a password and an Internet-connected device. Additionally, IT doesn’t have to spend large amounts of time to grant suppliers access to internal labeling infrastructure.

  • Security risks are greatly minimized. A centralized, cloud-based labeling approach protects systems and key information from unauthorized user access. It also ensures suppliers can always access the most up to date versions of label templates, which greatly improves quality assurance.

  • Suppliers can implement a new labeling system rapidly, as the cloud offers instantaneous deployment and a quick, no-hassle on-boarding procedure.

  • A cloud-based system can guarantee the same label output, no matter what printer brand or technology a supplier uses. This contributes to more consistent and brand-compliant labeling, and helps suppliers save resources by not uprooting existing IT infrastructure.

Improving operations with the Cloud – a real world example 991 Labeling distribution center 3 copy

Organizations that have already deployed a cloud-based labeling solution have benefited from reduced inventory as well as increased agility, speed-to-market and accuracy. These benefits and more have contributed to major cost savings and an increased ability to meet compliance efficiently.

For example, Würth, a global market leader in the sale of fastening and assembly materials, had originally deployed a labeling solution that was built on a locally installed database. Because of this system, making a label change involved sending CDS with the necessary updates on them to suppliers. This not only contributed to time delays, but often the wrong labels were applied, and it was impossible to track who was using which label version.

Since they implemented a cloud-based printing solution for approximately 180 of their suppliers, Würth IT has achieved many supply chain benefits, including:

  • Centralized Management – A cloud-based system provided a comprehensive overview of which suppliers were accessing the system as well as a comprehensive print history. This ensures all users are always printing the correct version of each label.

  • Swifter Onboarding – Würth’s cloud-based labeling system enables suppliers to trial software first, and test it with their infrastructure, before a full-scale implementation is deployed. Additionally, it only takes around five minutes to give suppliers access.

  • Greater Agility – Würth’s standardized, web-based solution enables the business to quickly react when any label changes are required. These changes or updates can quickly be rolled out across the supplier network, which ensures all labels are always up to date.

Looking to the future

In the past, large suppliers wouldn’t think it was necessary to comply with customers’ labeling requests. And if they did, the organization’s IT resources may not have been compatible with others’ labeling solutions. But this is quickly changing.

Cloud-based labeling eliminates many of the challenges organizations face today, from overtaxed IT teams to errors resulting from manual processes and oversight. And the benefits are near endless, from improved tracking across an entire supply chain to greater agility to quickly meet changing regulatory and customer needs. All of this means organizations can spend less time managing inventory, and more time focusing on their products, services and customers.

About the author:

NiceLabel lee pattyL ee Patty is VP and General Manager at NiceLabel Americas. In this role, Lee oversees the company’s sales, project delivery and operations in the Americas. Prior to NiceLabel, he co-founded Niceware International, LLC, a NiceLabel distributor, where he was responsible for marketing, healthcare product development and professional services. NiceLabel acquired Niceware in 2013, adding Lee to the global executive team.  Lee has over 20 years of AIDC industry experience and has also held sales, marketing and technical roles at Brady Corporation and Innovatec Communications.

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