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Why Demand for Color Labeling in the Supply Chain is on the Rise

The need to support color label printing is becoming more prevalent across all industries in order to meet evolving customer and corporate branding requirements. Also, new government regulations, which require the use of color, are leading businesses to completely overhaul the way they identify and label products. These evolving mandates are further driving investments in color labeling. With these impending changes, it is becoming increasingly important to have a solution in place that allows companies to quickly and easily add color to their labels and adjust to shifting circumstances. Therefore, as customers' demands change, companies must evolve their labeling strategies right alongside their products and processes to avoid any disruptions in their supply chain.

"Enterprise labeling solutions that support color label printing in an automated fashion have proven to be indispensable for doing business in today's global supply chain," said a Loftware spokesperson. "Implementing an enterprise labeling approach, which offers the power and flexibility to support complex, global and high volume labeling, allows firms to quickly and easily create color labels to improve usability and brand recognition - and most importantly safety - without all the effort, cost and waste associated with using pre-printed stock."

Enabling Regulatory Compliance

A wide range of industries have seen governments make a steady push to increase safety through the use of better warning labels. While long chunks of text or black and white images can be easily missed or ignored, color labels stand out and demand attention. As such, new global rules are calling for colored symbols on labels, which can more clearly indicate any crucial information that both handlers and customers in the supply chain need to know. A recent Top 5 Trends in Enterprise Labeling survey by Loftware (which polled over 600 supply chain and IT professionals) showed that over 45% of respondents identified regulatory demands as a business driver for color labeling.

Also, in the paper, "Meta-Analyses of the Effectiveness of Warning Labels" published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, researchers Jennifer Argo of the University of Alberta and Kelley Main of the University of British Columbia concluded that warning labels are effective in attracting consumer attention, and that labels using color or symbols noticeably boosted that effectiveness. Color labels can also solve other, less obvious problems associated with shipping dangerous goods. One example of this would be the advantage color offers for language barriers. It is easier to convey a flammable hazard by creating a picture of bright red flames rather than writing about the danger in a dozen different languages.

Advantages Over Pre-Printed Label Stock

"There are substantial inefficiencies and significant costs associated with using pre-printed stock for color labeling," said the spokesperson. "When manufacturers rely on pre-printed labels, any type of change or label variation means existing labels must be switched out, resulting in lost time and reduced efficiencies. Being able to rapidly fix a problem with a label, without having to re-print an entire batch, is an important advantage for any business. Many industries are learning that this type of on-demand printing is a preferable solution to pre-printed stock."

Pre-printing labels with pictograms can also pose a particular challenge. Businesses that use multiple pictograms must print empty stock labels, which then need to be filled in - often a time-consuming process. Alternatively, they might choose to print multiple types of stock labels. In either case, pre-printing leads to inefficiency and waste since it requires the printers to predict their needs far in the future while giving them little room for flexibility.

Using pre-printed stock for color labeling also requires companies to anticipate their needs and store vast amounts of labels. "Some companies have reported that they require up to 40,000 sq. ft. of space simply to store label stock," said the spokesperson. "There is also significant waste associated with stored labels when changes are made and the existing stock becomes obsolete. This can easily happen when a warehouse full of old labels display an outdated logo or no longer comply with evolving regulations. It is a costly waste, and an avoidable one."

In a recent Loftware survey, one third of the respondents said they are still using pre-printed stock, but many are seeding alternative solutions to manage their color labeling. Implementing a solution that supports color labeling removes the need for pre-printed stock and allows companies to dynamically make changes to labels while enabling them to print specific labels at the time they are required. A centralized, on-demand enterprise labeling solution is suited for dynamic color labeling, allowing companies to respond quickly to any customer or regulatory requirements.

Meeting Customer Branding and Use Requirements

"Companies today are placing even more importance on the value of their brand," said the spokesperson. "As a result, they are demanding more than ever that labels reflect the colors that are fundamental to that brand. But placement of the brand does not stop at the product - it is also important that it is represented properly throughout the supply chain on shipping labels, cartons and crates. This practice enhances brand awareness on multiple levels and reminds customers who they are working with, which is useful for drumming up repeat business."

Color is an important aspect of most brand names, and color labeling provides companies with a better chance to represent the full brand. "In fact, a growing body of research suggests that the color of your logo can actually say more about your company than you think," said the spokesperson. "If you have found that your logo's specific look has a particular resonance with people, you should not alter it. Instead, standardize it across all corporate labels and documents. This practice can also provide a simple anti-counterfeit measure."

The use of color labeling has also become critically important for grouping and identifying product and managing inventory for large global enterprises. In many industries, such as medical device, labels that include color are becoming increasingly important in helping to identify variations of product. These labels commonly contain color codes and graphics that make it easier to distinguish between brands, sizes and product models, ultimately offering substantial timesaving and safety measures for storing and identifying proper inventory.

"As technology advances and more viable hardware solutions become available for color printing, customers will want to benefit from these improved capabilities," said the spokesperson. "Loftware's Annual Top 5 Trends survey shows that today's global companies are outlining plans to increase the purchasing of enterprise software and color print technology sufficient to meet their color labeling requirements. Nearly 60% of respondents said they would purchase additional color printers this year and 57% of those surveyed identified branding as a business driver for color labeling."

Software Solutions That Can Handle Color Printing

Printers that accommodate color labeling are important, but they alone cannot help businesses be more responsive with labeling. It is important to have a standardized and centralized labeling solution that supports high-volume automated printing, as well as the capability to support rapid change for color labeling. Using an enterprise labeling solution that leverages native print drivers allows users to minimize network traffic and bandwidth and reduce overall maintenance. This approach simplifies printer deployments so customers can drive color label printing without requiring an install of Windows drivers across multiple environments.

"Native print drivers offer substantial time and cost savings for color label printing," said the spokesperson. "These drivers, which reduce the size of print streams to increase print speed, simplify the printing process with fewer moving parts, enabling companies to manage and support a broad set of printers across locations. This reduces maintenance and management of the printer network, increasing control and ensuring consistency. It also makes it easier to scale the labeling solution as demand increases, which can result in significant cost savings.

"The right enterprise labeling solution offers extensive native color print capabilities to support all types of color printing across a global enterprise. This approach empowers companies to deal with all of the nuances of today's complex labeling requirements and regulations, providing the ability to support high levels of variability with unprecedented speed, agility and scalability to support all forms of regulatory and customer requirements."

Authored by Josh Roffman, Loftware VP Product Management

For more information contact:

Loftware, Inc.

249 Corporate Drive

Portsmouth, NH 03801


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