Traditional labeling-development techniques can put a drain on manufacturers’ resources — and that’s before a decision is made on which information is needed and will fit on the label. Electronic labeling, by contrast, allows for the removal of labeling production constraints and saves money.
E-labeling provides clear and sustained benefits for both consumers and manufacturers. The latter can reduce production costs and waste, while creating more space for design innovation on the label. In the process, they can reinvigorate their brand, launch products sooner, make necessary changes more quickly, and protect against counterfeiting. Consumers, meanwhile, benefit from improved access to more detailed product information.
To ensure a successful transition from traditional labeling operations, businesses need to implement an e-labeling process that both fits organizational practices and meets regulatory requirements.
Familiarization with country-specific shipping regulations is the first priority. An early understanding of those requirements will save businesses both time and money during the early stages of implementation and integration.
For features such as barcodes and QR codes to be integrated into product packaging, artwork and labeling must be managed and consolidated within a single centralized solution. The technology now exists to achieve that.
All-in-one label-management systems hosted in the cloud provide an efficient way for businesses to adopt e-labeling policies. Artwork can be generated from components and fragments quickly, while ensuring regulatory compliance and full traceability along the entirety of the supply chain.
In the implementation stage, businesses should be noting how other organizations are approaching their e-labeling processes, and pinpointing aspects that are relevant to their own organizations, including any areas that require tailored adjustments. This early in the process, they should only implement the minimum requirements necessary to achieve organizational goals. Implementation of additional requirements can come later as needed.
A pilot stage, though optional, is highly recommended to remove any issues before full-scale rollout. This phase, enacted on a small run of a limited selection of products, gives businesses an opportunity to analyze each step in the process, and make adjustments while the scale of the project is still limited.
Once issues have been identified and addressed during the pilot run, full-scale integration can take place. Organizations should ensure that all staff affected by the new e-labeling processes are given training, with the understanding that a learning curve might be needed as employees adjust to the new labeling and shipping practices.
Once integration has occurred, it’s vital that businesses keep track and benchmark e-labeling policies, making adjustments as needed. Regular policy reviews help to ensure continued effectiveness of the initiative.
Businesses must determine which products fall under the e-labeling policy now and in the near future, as well as set the criteria for which ones will be incorporated moving forward. An effective e-labeling system will need to include highly configurable technology that can support changes and additions to products at any stage.
A decision as to which information should be included on the label is another priority. At a minimum, e-labels should contain the same information mandated on traditional labels. Repeating the same information found on existing packaging will not make e-labels redundant.
Clear instructions for how users can access e-label information should be provided to both consumers and authorities. As a rule, it should require fewer than three steps for a user to access the required information.
Businesses should take into consideration all relevant domestic and international labeling requirements, and only adopt those that are necessary in order to meet the stipulations.
A comprehensive artwork and labeling system is crucial for businesses working to implement e-labeling policies. With continued growth in consumer demand, traceability requirements and regulations, cloud-based artwork and labeling platforms offer businesses extensive scalability, usability, performance and security. Such platforms are increasingly proving essential for businesses, as they ensure compliance on national and international levels, and in both digital and physical labeling supply chains. An extra benefit is that they reduce the time it takes new products to arrive on the market — a win for both consumers and manufacturers.
Gurdip Singh is chief executive officer of Kallik.