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April 14, 2020


Digital labeling in SAP meets the need for agility during a crisis

Lee Patty

More than 200 million workers globally, including representatives from the largest brands in the world, rely on SAP’s ERP software to manage their warehousing and supply chain operations. But that doesn’t guarantee they’re operating as efficiently as possible, or that they are fully prepared to ensure supply chain continuity during times of crisis.

During a crisis, companies require the proper tools to move inventory and ship products as fast as possible to those who need them. Speed and agility are always a priority; however, these can be increasingly hard to achieve when borders close and stay-at-home mandates are in effect. Outdated methods of labeling in SAP ERP, such as SAPscript (hard coding label templates) and SmartForms (complex form layouts) typically require IT intervention and during a time when engineers and technicians are unable to leave their homes, this can result in hiccups in the process and even longer delays than usual. In addition, using paper-based quality assurance (QA) practices can complicate the label change process and increase the likelihood of errors. In a time when it’s so important to get critical relief items that are in high demand to their destination, companies can’t risk supply chain delays and reduced visibility.

This puts the brakes on agility and is unacceptable for today’s businesses, which need to move product quickly and respond to new situations and potential disruptions at the drop of a dime. So, how can you upgrade legacy labeling methods that may be hindering operations or leave supply chains and business operations crippled during crisis? The answer is by moving to a cloud hosted label management system whether integrating with SAP ERP on-premise or in a private cloud environment. Here’s how that can help:

  • Collaboration from any location – Now, more than ever before, the cloud is becoming an essential tool in maintaining business continuity. With cloud-based labeling, no one is required to be on site to troubleshoot labeling problems, as any authorized remote user can quickly access a centralized hub to alter and print labels from anywhere at any location. Not only does this enable label management anywhere, but it also promotes supply chain consistency while improving QA and traceability.
  • Minimize the IT burden to make label design and changes faster – IT teams may be overtaxed ensuring networks are up and running, or overburdened by volleys of support tickets as business users transition to remote work. To make sure labeling does not get hindered, a label management system includes a built-in label designer. This lets IT or business users access universal templates and content to quickly design or alter complex labels for any printer or model in minutes, without coding. This drastically reduces the amount of templates an organization must maintain, frees up overtaxed IT who may have had to become involved for weeks on end, and speeds time-to-market.
  • Prevent errors instead of catching them – Manual and paper-based QA methods are time-consuming and increase the chance of potentially disastrous labeling errors. An advanced label management system can digitize QA and provide a fully integrated document management system (DMS). This includes electronic change and approval workflows as well as a centralized database of all label templates, including comprehensive visibility into who accessed, changed and printed labels. This visibility makes quality control and audits simpler, enabling proactivity instead of reacting frantically to errors. It also eliminates paper-based processes, reduces labor and cost requirements for repetitive admin maintenance, and further ensures the proper labeling is delivered on products faster and with less risk. 
  • Reduce label print time and improve quality – When working remote, it’s important for workers to have the proper tools to virtually manage QA. A common legacy approach to labeling in SAP is sending “raw data” via the spooler to legacy labeling software. This approach offers no return path for print previews or final quality check before printing the labels, leading to errors and time-consuming reprints. Another approach involves building “custom SAP integrations” in-house, which may take several months and be very costly. But cloud-based label management systems can provide a built-in ABAP package, which can be installed quickly and enable seamless, on-demand printing with print previews in the SAP system user interface. The spooler approach also is built for high volume “batch printing of documents” and not the “on-demand printing of labels,” and therefore, slows down the printing process of labels.
  • Automate and upgrade the logic governing the label process – Automated logic can be built into a system for workflow and business rules, such as which label needs to be printed for a particular customer or which languages need to be on a label that is shipped to a particular region. The data for this logic can be stored in the LMS’s Document Management System or alternatively within SAP to automate decision making workflows, which reduces human error and increases overall efficiency.This also allows organizations to quickly customize workflows for a specific industry requirement or customer.
  • Get seamless, remote deployment and integration with business systems no matter what crisis or disruption takes place– With a label management system, the DMS can provide a central hub for printing and tracking labels. This is useful for a variety of business systems beyond SAP, such as manufacturing execution systems, warehouse management systems or in-house built applications. Even if an organization encounters a crisis but does not have a labeling system that enables efficiency and business continuity, achieving this level of integration can be done in one day from any location with a cloud-based label management system that has the right package built into the software. 

It’s difficult to predict when a disaster will occur, but even if external circumstances make remote work a necessity, business must go on, and this means ensuring productivity is as effective as possible. As part of this effort, labeling cannot go overlooked and with the technology available today, there is no reason that it should be seriously disrupted.  

Now more than ever, organizations are realizing that they need digital systems in place to ensure their overall operations don’t depend on scattered and localized silos and restrictions. And just as ERP, WMS and MES systems are crucial to day-to-day business and overall supply chains, so is a label management system.

Luckily, for those who depend on SAP ERP and other business systems, it’s easy to deploy and integrate a highly efficient cloud-based label management system from any location. Whether workers are remote or not, this will fully digitize QA, reduce labeling errors and shipping delays, and significantly increase overall efficiency and ROI. For more information on the new NiceLabel’s SAP solutions, visit  https://www.nicelabel.com/sap

  • SAP