Josh Roffman is VP Global Product Management, Loftware
1 What are the most pertinent challenges manufacturers and organizations face when managing their labeling today?
Today’s supply chains are becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex, putting extra pressure on labeling to perform, and making accurate and efficient label management more important than ever. While every organization can benefit from streamlining labeling processes, there a few key labeling challenges that are common yet crucial to overcome:
- Avoiding labeling errors: Labeling errors are an all-too-often occurrence. Many even budget millions a year to reprint corrected labels and manage additional expenses from errors, like extra labor, storage and lost productivity.
- Maintaining compliance: Regulations differ across borders and are constantly evolving. Adding to this, approval processes can be lengthy and fines for non-compliance can be severe. Labeling must efficiently navigate these challenges.
- Ensuring supply chain agility: Organizations who had to shift in 2020 realize the need to accelerate change, manage costs and better work with suppliers from any location. In part, this means adapting to remote work and being able to easily extend standardized labeling processes to multiple locations and suppliers.
- Resolving fragmented legacy systems: Often different production facilities, warehouses and distribution centers use their own separate approaches, applications and even manual processes to enter data and manage labels. These silos make support more costly and make it more challenging to scale operations or quickly make enterprise-wide label changes.
2 Why do so many companies experience labeling errors? And why can this be so damaging to a business?
Many operations include fragmented labeling systems and approaches. These legacy solutions are often homegrown over years and create a plethora of issues and inefficiencies, such as a lack of consistent label templates, updates not being made universally and human error from manual data entry.
Errors also commonly occur due to non-compliant data, when necessary pictograms and info are omitted, deployed incorrectly, or simply clipped by the margins of the label. And errors happen when operators struggle to use complex legacy systems that rely on antiquated programming languages or require highly specialized knowledge.
When a labeling error does occur, it likely means halting production and using extra time, resources and labor to fix, reprint, attach and scan new labels. It also means more administrative overhead, losing opportunities due to downtime, potential customer fines from missed deadlines, and damages to a brand if errors endanger consumers.
For companies operating internationally, errors can lead to headaches like product being diverted to a holding warehouse, where the labels may have to be fixed by temporary workers, with a cost to house equipment in the warehouse.
Mislabeling can also be especially crippling for companies trying to implement lean processes, like just-in-time manufacturing, because errors mean having to store equipment onsite or they could mean individual parts are harder to assemble because they are not labeled correctly.
3 With many struggling with common labeling inefficiencies, like non-compliant data, lack of consistency across supply chains, or a lack of expertise to manage labeling, is there a way for companies to claw back their labeling error expenses?
Many labeling inefficiencies can be resolved by standardizing labeling across an enterprise via a single, centralized solution. Organizations can also reduce costs by introducing modernized tools, like automation to digitally transform labeling, or cloud-based platforms that reduce onsite maintenance and can be easily extended across facilities.
These modern solutions can be easy to use without requiring cryptic skillsets, and they enable companies and their suppliers to use a common interface to access content and the most up-to-date label templates. This can also reduce costs from extra labor, make implementing label changes much easier and can remove potentially catastrophic incidences of human errors.
4 What pertinent strategies and best practices should companies follow to fix or avoid labeling errors altogether?
One of the best first steps to reducing labeling errors is to adopt an enterprise-wide labeling approach. This process is vastly simplified on a cloud platform that can easily integrate with existing systems, like those for enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management (WMS) and manufacturing execution (MES).
Centralizing label data on one easy-to-use cloud platform and integrating it with existing business applications reduces errors by creating one accurate and consistent source of truth. It can also eliminate software incompatibilities, which reduces the costly need to replace legacy hardware or systems.
Introducing automation and a way to dynamically update label templates is also helpful to reduce errors. Countless label variations for regulations or customer needs can be automatically programmed and updated with minimal effort. In this regard, organizations can leverage data from their systems of record, or even from a specialized label vendor, to configure rules that dynamically change label content based on available data. This saves time while reducing manual labor and human errors that occur when users accidentally substitute one label’s content for another.
5 What can organizations do today to future-proof their labeling for years to come?
One thing the pandemic taught us was that manual processes and siloed labeling practices are extremely detrimental to supply chains and manufacturers alike. With this being the case, more companies are becoming agile by simplifying, standardizing, and centralizing their labeling processes on the cloud and other digital platforms.
By taking steps to modernize labeling, organizations have been able to gain critical capabilities like remote printing from anywhere and the ability to extend accurate and standardized label templates to partners and subsidiaries. Also of importance has been an increasing emphasis on automation and the ability to better harness enterprise data assets. These capabilities will be essential for years to come, and those who don’t harness them may be left in the dust, struggling with continuous errors alongside a plethora of unused inventory and lost revenue.
Josh Roffman, VP Global Product Management, Loftware
Mr. Roffman has over 25 years of marketing and product management experience with leading enterprise software companies. He is responsible for defining Loftware’s product strategy and was instrumental in the launch of Loftware Spectrum, the industry’s leading Enterprise Labeling Solution. In addition, he is responsible for overseeing all corporate marketing functions and leads Loftware’s thought leadership efforts. Mr. Roffman specializes in the impact of supply chain trends on enterprise labeling, and he frequently speaks at industry events and authors editorial content on the subject. Prior to joining Loftware, Mr. Roffman served as Vice President of Products at AFS Financial Solutions, where he was responsible for driving product strategy, positioning, and marketing programs. He also served as Director of Product Management at Softrax Corporation and was at Infoseek, where he launched a business information product selected by Netscape as a “Premier Netcaster Channel.”