What Exactly is “Multi-Site” and Why Does it Matter?
by Diana Headrick, on November 19, 2019
For years, companies managed their labeling operations locally at manufacturing or warehousing locations using a variety of stand-alone solutions. As organizations expanded product lines across global markets, they began to recognize the need to centralize labeling operations to gain better control over their labeling information. Recent examples of global recalls, such as the Takata Air Bag or Romaine lettuce recalls, illustrate the importance of being able to accurately track where and when a product was produced and later shipped. At the same time, increasing regulations require manufacturers to communicate critical information about hazards, expiration dates and other product warnings. This information must be printed on the label and is often managed through a labeling solution integrated with enterprise applications.
The Challenge of Maintaining Continuous Operations with Centralized Labeling
Over the years, with increasing customer and regulatory demand, labeling has become more complex. Customers are more demanding than ever when it comes to the appearance, composition and content on labels. To comply, companies are required to consistently pack more information on their barcode labels including product information, serialization numbers for traceability, industry-specific symbols, and pictograms for safety warnings. With this, labeling has become an even more critical source of information in the supply chain. This is why many companies have acted to consolidate and centralize their labeling operations to maintain better control over labels and their extensive amount of content needed for accurate and consistent labeling.
However, providing the appropriate traceability and complying with evolving regulations requires an accurate flow of information from ERP or other enterprise applications to the label. More advanced labeling solutions provide bidirectional communications of labeling data with enterprise applications, updating enterprise applications with what has printed. Integrating labeling with an ERP solution serving as a single source of truth ensures accuracy and enables traceability, while supporting compliance with regional regulations.
The availability of cloud-based Enterprise Labeling Solutions further enables customers to centralize operations while making labeling available via the network to remote factories and facilities. In an ideal world, this model allows global organizations to maintain centralized consistency and control without interrupting operations at remote manufacturing or warehousing facilities. But not everyone operates in an ideal world. What happens when the remote facilities lose their networking connection to the central location?
Ensuring Continuous Up-time with a Standardized Labeling Solution
Centralized labeling improves consistency and accuracy of label content but can present a new challenge for global organizations with multiple manufacturing or warehousing sites. As labeling is more tightly integrated with manufacturing and warehouse operations, labels must be printed even if the facility loses its connection to headquarters. Idle time is expensive and can result in missed deadlines, customer dissatisfaction – even fines. As a result, organizations must find a way to maintain continuous label operations at remote facilities with a centralized labeling solution. One solution to this challenge is Multi-Site capability, available only in Loftware Spectrum. With Multi-Site, business users at remote facilities, such as manufacturing plants, contract manufacturer sites, warehouses and distribution centers, can manage labeling independently, while accessing standard and approved label data and templates from a company’s central location. Multi-Site empowers these remote facilities to run without depending on a full-time connection to headquarters while ensuring that they comply and stay current with corporate labeling standards.
Supporting Remote Manufacturing with Multi-Site Capabilities
What about when companies run their Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) or Warehouse Managements Systems (WMS) locally at remote facilities? For these organizations, it may be more efficient to share information locally with their labeling solution during label production, and then synchronize later with headquarters. Loftware Spectrum’s Multi-Site also supports this model of decentralized operations with regularly scheduled synchronization of labeling data and templates, while maintaining the accuracy and consistency of labeling information throughout the supply chain.
How Multi-Site Allows You to Reap the Benefits of Both Centralized and Decentralized Labeling
With Loftware Spectrum’s Multi-Site capability, customers leverage a single deployment of Spectrum across multiple geographies and remote facilities, enabling facilities to failover to a local instance if connectivity to headquarters is disrupted. Spectrum then synchronizes transactional data later when the connection is restored. The process occurs automatically and does not require human intervention to synchronize transactional data and content between facilities and headquarters.
Spectrum’s Multi-Site capabilities provide the benefits of standardizing labeling with centralized control while also enabling a decentralized deployment model. Companies can standardize labeling while ensuring continuous operations, with complete control over how Spectrum is deployed between headquarters and remote locations. These capabilities are essential for companies that require continuous up-time and are concerned about labeling consistency and adhering to customer, regulatory and branding requirements across their global operations.