How Enterprise Label Solutions Streamline Supply Chain Management

by Ken Allen, on April 11, 2018

On any given day, you must meet customer demands, comply with regulations, eliminate costly delays and downtime, and continue to scale globally. Those competing interests must be balanced with day-to-day business operations. What can you do to make reaching all of those goals easier?

Enterprise Labeling Solutions help you satisfy customer requirements, adhere to regulations, avoid delays and downtime, and grow your business. Read on to learn about the challenges of supply chain management, how a standardized and integrated approach can help overcome obstacles, and how companies successfully implemented enterprise labeling solutions to become more efficient. 

What Are Some Supply Chain Challenges?

Does this situation sound familiar to you: to enter new markets your packages need labels to be printed quickly and efficiently in more than one language, you must be able to update labels with accurate and consistent data to ensure you meet customer and regulatory requirements and your labeling printing is not able keep pace with production? If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, you’re not alone. While labeling might seem to be an insignificant part of the greater supply chain, it can present a range of challenges for large enterprises but when managed correctly can provide a significant opportunity to optimize supply chain activities.

Labels are your products' passport through the supply chain and companies are beginning to realize they are a mission-critical component in today's operating efficiently. When a label doesn't contain the right information, it can't be properly identified, grouped, shipped, located, or tracked. Many countries have regulatory requirements that specify what must go on packages, so if the labeling doesn't contain that information, the packages could be turned away at the port. Your customers won't receive their products in time, leading to lost revenues and customer dissatisfaction. 

Labeling might seem to be an insignificant part of the supply chain, but labeling can represent a range of challenges and provide a significant opportunity to optimize supply chain activities.

For products to move through the supply chain as planned, your labeling solution must be able to manage variable data to meet the wide range of complex requirements.  However, at many companies, that isn't the case - creating, updating and printing labels can be a long, time-consuming process due to manual processes. This of course creates delays and requires extensive involvement from IT while creating obstacles for scaling operations.

Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges with Enterprise Labeling Solutions 

Decision makers at Hypertherm, a manufacturer of plasma, laser and water jet cutting systems, realized that the company’s existing homegrown labeling solution which was prone to breaking down and causing significant delays, was preventing them from achieving the growth they desired. There were also issues with mislabeling since the existing solution was not accessing a centralized source of truth for dataTo meet these challenges, Hypertherm chose to automate and standardize their labeling on Loftware to eliminate delays and downtime and save up to $5 million. 

Another company that overcame labeling challenges to achieve greater efficiency is the Trek Bicycle Corporation. Trek is a world leader in manufacturing and distributing bicycles and cycling products. It exports its products to over 90 countries; more than 5,000 independent dealers internationally sell Trek’s product lines. Trek couldn’t afford inaccurate information on labels – that could lead to defects or downtime.

Trek needed to address four challenges: avoiding manufacturing disruption, meeting customer requirements, streamline warehouse management, and simplify how it managed its retail labeling program. For Trek, labeling is critical; when shipments are mislabeled, they can't make it through the supply chain. That leads to unhappy customers across the world. 

Trek’s customers have unique labeling requirements, too. Many retailers want products that are ready to be sold, so the product must be labeled with pricing and information about its features before it ships. Because Trek ships globally, labels must meet any number of regional requirements, depending on the product’s destination. 

Complex labeling requirements lead to inefficiency in the supply chain. Trek needed an Enterprise Labeling Solution that would address issues such as damaged shipments, international regulations, and restocking items. The solution needed to be enable business users to create and update labels quickly and easily without requiring extended involvement from IT.

Another issue Trek faced was simplifying its retail labeling program. It launched a program to customize labels for free that proved to be incredibly popular – 500 dealers participate, and each of them has unique labels. Updating all of those labels if a global change was made was a laborious task. However, Loftware’s solution which provides dynamic data driven labeling, was able to seamlessly integrate with Trek’s ERP system to automate and streamline labeling while ensure accuracy and consistency. This meant that instead of using hundreds of label templates, the company was able to use a single template which could adapt to a wide range of complex labeling variations.

Since adopting Loftware, Trek has been able to reduce its 500 unique label templates to one. That move saved the company a great deal of time and resources. Moreover, Trek can print 10 million pricing labels across all of its global warehouses. Tom Spoke, Trek’s global IT distribution manager, noted that the firm has experienced 100% uptime in spite of the enormous increase in label printing volume. 

Another example comes from a US-based electronics manufacturer. The company has 2,000 global customers and maintains 12 sites across the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific. It serves multiple end-markets including automotive, aerospace, and defense. While the company was growing, it was having difficulty scaling, including its labeling. 

To continue its growth, the manufacturer implemented Oracle's eBusiness Suite ERP system. However, its homegrown labeling system didn't integrate into EBS, meaning it couldn't draw out vital information for labels. Labeling was manual, which led to errors and unhappy customers. 

The manufacturer chose Loftware's Enterprise Labeling Solution to enable it to scale. Loftware was able to automate labeling, integrating with EBS to draw on a source of truth for label data to save time and significantly reducing errors.

Although labeling may at time be an afterthought, labeling plays a mission -critical role in the supply chain and can play a substantial role in optimizing supply chain and business activity to have a positive impact on a company's bottom line.  To learn more, download our report on Enterprise Labeling and the Supply Chain.

Topics:Supply Chain