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A specialty chemical manufacturer acquired nine other companies in a short time span, with many redundant product lines sold under different brand names. The company anticipated continued M&A activity and growth. As more product data would need to be integrated into its labeling systems, the company sought a simplified, consistent system that would scale across all its business units.
The company’s print methodology was complex. There was a label for every single product and SKU, totaling more than 9,000 label files in the system. Because of the way the label formats and product data were stored, the print operator needed to access four different software systems just to print a set of labels for one product. In addition, label stock pre-printed with static as well as variable information, such as DOT hazard diamonds, was used and often led to user error.
As they folded in new product lines, many of the formulas they sold under different brand names were actually identical in composition — the same ingredients, the same processing — and required the same information to appear on the label. Besides variable brand information, several of their products required different labeling based on their customers’ industries.
The company initially estimated that a new labeling system could slash their 9,000 label files to 70 or 80 — more than 99%. But by maximizing the variable data management and conditional printing features of their labeling software, including using layers to house brand information and other product data, the company was able to label all their products and brands with only 24 label formats.
A simple, graphical interface allows centralized control of the company’s data and labeling. The operator simply enters a job number — either by scanning a barcode or entering it at a keyboard — which triggers the system to gather data from various data sources, populate the label’s data fields, and send the print job to any of several different printer types, sizes and brands at any of the company’s online facilities. The entry of one job number will typically produce two to four different labels, on up to four different printing devices.
Images required for industry certification, regulatory, product and branding information are housed in the label’s layers. Data gathered after the scanning of a job number or SKU triggers the label software to turn on the appropriate layers for printing. The data retrieved includes all information required for customer and regulatory requirements, as well the names and folder locations of all variable graphic elements.
Because only a small number of templates are now required to print thousands of different labels, and since the operator now creates the label out of existing, centrally managed product information through a forms-based, point-and-click interface, the new process is simple, secure, scalable and agile. As the company acquires and folds in new product lines, the reduced effort required to manage formats and create new product labeling saves time and money.