Pallet Labeling Standards and Best Practices Explained
Understanding pallet labeling standards can be straightforward, as all shipping and logistic labels must contain the same data elements. Governments may mandate that certain practices are used to trace food and pharmaceutical products. But, the general nature of this operation is usually driven by the industry bodies in consultation with solution providers.
Understanding how these label standards apply and the most effective practices surrounding them is key to avoiding costly mistakes within your business. In addition, these labels provide a lot of information for suppliers, consumers, and shipment companies, and solution providers like Insignia are dedicated to making producing labels as simple as possible.
Serial Shipping Container Codes (SSCC)
Global Standard One (GS1) is a global organisation responsible for standardising and maintaining the integrity and compliance of barcode applications and use. Although businesses create serial shipping container codes (SSCC) for all units shipped worldwide, they must comply with the GS1 standards. These codes are generated to be unique to the product and company involved. The code contains five critical pieces of information and makes up the structure of GS1 SSCC.
Firstly, it has an application identifier. This is a prefix of 00 and indicates the code is an SSCC. Next is an extension digit. It is a number between 0 and 9 and is used to increase the combinations that can be possible within the SSCC generator. The application of this digit is at the discretion of the company allocating the SSCC.
GS1 member organisations give the GS1 Company Prefix (GCP) to the company assigning the SSCC. It makes the code unique without revealing the origin of the unit. The length of this section depends on the member’s policy regarding number allocation.
A serial reference follows the GCP and is a unique part of the identifying number specific to a particular unit. It is created when the item is packed. It is typically a sequentially generated number, but there are exceptions.
Lastly, a check digit is added. This is used to check for input errors. It is created through a simple algorithm and can help confirm the proper components needed for a functioning SSCC.
Benefits to the Industry
The most significant benefit to using an SSCC is that all trading partners involved in transport and distribution around the globe can use it simply by adding the necessary information to the pallet as it moves along the supply chain. This allows for the pallet’s movements to be tracked more accurately.
Additionally, it will contain all the necessary trade item information to get products where they are needed. This information can be in the form of a homogeneous unit, which includes just one type of item, a heterogenous unit which contains different kinds of trade items or a logistic unit, which acts as a trade unit. The information provided will give item identification, the number and size of the products, and trade dates such as production, packaging and expiry dates.
Because the barcodes on these labels must remain unobstructed for scanning purposes, certain practices must be followed to prevent delays. To begin with, labels must be printed with dark black ink and a clean white background for maximum contrast and visibility.
Pallet Labels Unique & Sequential
The unique numbers that appear on pallet label licenses act as an identifier of this pallet alone. Therefore, the shipments will get rejected if these numbers get duplicated due to the barcode information not being properly locked down.
Software like BarTender has been created to help produce standard GS1 barcodes to avoid the possibility of repeated codes.
Label Placement & Appearance
To ensure maximum visibility if any side of the pallet is obstructed, two identical labels should be placed on either side, specifically where the opposing fork entry angles are located. For all types of pallets, the label must be positioned between 400 and 800 millimetres from the base of the pallet. In addition, it needs to be at least 50 millimeters from the vertical edges to avoid any damage.
For smaller units, the placement will vary depending on the size. But the ideal placement will be at least 30 millimetres from the natural base of the product. In addition, it should be 20 millimetres from the vertical edge.
Furthermore, creases and wrinkles can distort the barcode, making it impossible to be scanned and rendering them useless. Fixing this issue after the product has already begun its journey will create massive delays.
Navigating Stretch Wrap
Products are typically secured onto a pallet using copious amounts of plastic stretch wrap. If plastic is present between the barcode and the scanner, scattered lightwaves are created, and the scanner cannot read the information correctly.
Therefore, the SSCC label tag should always be on top of the plastic wrap after it has been applied to keep the code readable. There is only one addition to this rule. This addition presents itself when multiple pallets are stacked and wrapped together. When unwrapped at their destination, the labels applied to the outside plastic will be discarded before the products make it to the processing inventory stage.
To avoid this issue, apply separate tags to each pallet and one label to the entire shipment for identification purposes.
Mistakes to Avoid
There are three main issues regarding SSCC codes that can lead to costly mistakes for suppliers and carriers.
The first mistake is using an incorrect SSCC code. Because these codes contain so much information and are generated in a unique sequence, having a misprint can lead to essential data being lost, misread, or misunderstood. False information provided to carriers can result in products being shipped to the wrong locations, incorrect quantities being delivered, and the inability to track the items as they are transported.
The second significant error is the poor print quality of barcodes and tags. These issues may occur from faulty machinery or misprints, causing delays and disruptions in the supply chain as it affects the scannability and readability of labels. This can lead to products being rejected and sent back to the distributor.
The final issue is to avoid putting labels in the incorrect locations on the pallet. As mentioned before, the label should be accessible and visible to the carrier responsible for scanning and reading the information, keeping the process moving quickly and efficiently. Any resulting time or resource delays can add up quickly for the party at fault.