Businesses invest large amounts of money in their products, from concept to manufacturing and distribution. Unless a product is digital, that investment includes labeling. Using proper label application techniques is, therefore, a must to make the most of that investment. Here’s how to get labeling right the first time.
Applying Labels to Products by Machine
Machine label application is a must for larger companies with huge product volumes. Not only does it save time, but it also helps businesses cut labor costs, particularly in areas with a high mandatory minimum wage.
Of course, a business still needs workers to monitor and load the machines, but the process goes much faster than hand labeling. Depending on the type of product and the machine a company uses, labeling machines can process as many as 200 products per minute.
Applying labels to products by machine has another – even more important – advantage to hand labeling. They are much more likely to attach the labels correctly the first time, resulting in less downtime and a more uniform appearance.
In an extremely competitive environment, how a product appears on the shelf can make the difference between a sale and a potential customer moving on to a competitor. Rows of products whose labels line up symmetrically simply look more attractive, studies show, according to psychology today magazine. Symmetry, it seems, is in our DNA.
How Much Does Automated Labeling Cost?
Automated labeling machines can cost anywhere from $1350 to $140,000 and upward, depending on the speed, sophistication, and volume you need. We advise our clients to research their purchases thoroughly to ensure that their investment in an automated label application machine will serve them well for years to come. If they intend to scale up in the near future, it’s best to go with a higher-productivity model rather than one that only meets the company’s current needs.
Common Issues with Machine-Applied Labels
When applying labels by machine, you might encounter several issues. Use the following quick guide to help you troubleshoot.
If the liner tears while applying: Replace or repair the peel tip. You could also try ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) tape to fix the problem.
If a clear label won’t adhere to the product: Ask your label printer to add a black timing mark on the liner’s backside so that the machine’s sensor can “see” the distance between the labels. An ultrasonic sensor could also solve the problem since it uses sound waves, not dark and light, to measure the gap between the labels.]
If the label follows the peel tip during the process: Check to see if the applicator is webbed correctly. Also, adjust the tension a little higher on the applicator.
How to Apply Labels by Hand
Hand-applied labels date as far back as the Bronze Age – and believe it or not; some have survived until today. We’d like to think that this longevity illustrates the importance of buying quality labels – but that’s a subject for a different day.
We can’t guarantee that these label application tips will help your labels adhere for thousands of years, but we can help your hand-applied labels stay on your products throughout their journey to market and beyond.
Hire the Right People
Some of the world’s brightest people can’t color within the lines. They might be a great fit for the marketing or development teams, but they don’t belong on the labeling line. Test the shortlisted candidates on their eye-hand coordination before hiring them.
Prepare Your Labeling Team Beforehand
If you change your label design placement or introduce new products, add the instructions for the new design to the labeling instruction manual. Make sure that new employees get thorough training in labeling correctly before they start.
Employee training should incorporate a simple, easy-to-follow process. Ensure that it includes the following hand labeling basics:
- Bring the labels to room temperature since extreme temperatures affect adhesion.
- Visualize where to attach the label.
- Clean and dry the surface.
- Remove the label’s backing and apply the label in the correct place.
- Cure the attached label in a room-temperature environment to ensure secure bonding.
Consider using mock or blank labels for hands-on training so that you don’t need to use your regular product labels. Taking these precautions will help you avoid waste and increase productivity in the long run.
Use a Jig to Ensure Even Label Placement
Take a hint from the machine fabrication industry and use a jig that can hold each product during hand labeling. A jig keeps the product straight and indicates where each label should go.
Avoid Common Label Application Mistakes
In addition to improper placement, using the wrong label application techniques can result in the label itself having a flawed appearance. Some of the problems include:
- Lifted edges
- Poor adhesion
- Wrinkled surface
To avoid these label application mistakes, ensure that employees follow industry best practices.
- Select the right type of label for the container or product: Certain shapes and sizes of labels simply won’t work on various containers. For instance, square labels will wrinkle or bubble on a tapered bottle. Your label provider can help guide you to choose a properly shaped label for each container or product you sell. Provide them with the dimensions and shape of the product – or even better, a photo, as well.
- Choose smooth containers: Don’t try to cut costs with low-quality glass, paper, cardboard, or plastic containers. Pitted or uneven surfaces will cause your labels to have a rough, amateurish appearance. It’s like putting a bumper sticker on your car before cleaning the surface underneath. Bubbles and wrinkles will likely result – or worse – the label won’t stick at all.
- Ensure that the labeling environment is ideal: Moist or polluted environments can give rise to peeling or lifted edges, or poor adhesion overall. If you can’t change the environment, be sure to speak to the label manufacturer. A change in the adhesive can help overcome environmental challenges.
- Take the product into consideration: In some cases, such as acidic substances, the contents can affect the adhesion factor of the label through oxidation. Again, the label manufacturer can help select a label-adhesive combination that will solve the problem.
Make Sure You Order Enough Labels
Whether you use automated labeling solutions or label by hand, it’s imperative that you don’t run out of labels mid-production. We recommend that our clients keep at least six to nine months’ supply available in case demand rises, and you need to increase production.
To learn how much labels you’ll need for your next order – or answer any other questions you might have, get in touch with the Nova Printing team today.