Labeling for Speed

Printing and Labeling help goods travel quicker and more
transparently through an ever-quickening supply chain.

By David Crist

 Rising consumer demands are ramping up pressure at every juncture of the supply chain. Goods must travel from the manufacturer, through the warehouse and across transportation and logistics channels in near-record times so they arrive at the retail store or e-commerce delivery end-point. It’s job No. 1 for supply chain professionals to ensure inventory gets in and out of warehouses as quickly as possible and that goods are tracked efficiently along the delivery route. Today’s demanding consumers won’t stand for anything less.

Meeting this new normal in customer expectations requires increased agility and streamlined operations inside the warehouse as well as for drivers transporting shipments on the road. To meet the challenge, supply chain and logistics operators are increasingly turning to mobile printing and labeling solutions as a game-changer that is fueling supply chain productivity. As a result, they’re boosting customer satisfaction and the bottom line.

These printers integrate seamlessly with a wide range of warehouse management systems, route accounting software, and other logistics and management solutions. The benefits delivered are powerful:

High levels of efficiency for last-mile delivery – With accurate labeling at every key supply chain step – including packing and shipping, picking, receiving and cross-docking – advanced printing and labeling technology makes it possible for workers at the factory or warehouse to literally jump inside trucks at inbound docks and start relabeling products for speedy last-mile delivery.

Transportation efficiency boosts customer satisfaction – Transportation or route drivers can quickly and easily update or amend orders in real-time and print new, accurate invoices to hand to customers on the spot. This fast, efficient approach saves time for busy customers and busy drivers alike, increasing satisfaction and loyalty across the board.

Better visibility across the supply chain – Labeling pallets, packages and products with barcodes or RFID tags so they can be tracked in real-time as they travel from the manufacturer to the warehouse to the customer delivers new levels of visibility within supply chain operations.

Agile Supply Chain – For Any Size Operation

Since barcode labels play essential roles in supply chain operations, making the most of advanced mobile printers or strategically located stationary printers can help small and medium-size businesses strengthen their competitive edge. There are a wide range of operational locations and processes where printing and labeling can make a difference:

Receiving – Applying barcode or RFID labels as soon as inbound items arrive ensures they can be accurately unloaded, checked-in, put away or handled by automated applications.

Picking – Generating barcode or RFID labels for each item picked allows them to be scanned right in the packaging area, then quickly and easily sorted for shipment.

Packing and shipping – Creating new labels to identify finished goods is a vital task for workers who are kitting, completing light assembly or packaging items. In addition, ship-to-order applications can incorporate customer-specific labeling, scanning to fulfill orders and creating of accurate shipping labels.

Cross-docking – Already mandatory in some food sectors, cross-docking is also gaining popularity for other time-sensitive merchandise.

The Right Technology – In The Warehouse Or On The Road 

As with any technology, the best way transportation and logistics professionals can position their organizations for success is to invest wisely in the best equipment. Here are some criteria to keep top of mind when selecting mobile printing and labeling solutions:

Performance – It is mandatory to look for the optimum printer that can handle a variety of barcode and RFID packaging, shelf, shipping and other identifying labels quickly, clearly and easily. Enhanced print speeds of up to 5ips are becoming the new standard.

Versatility – Dual radio Wi-Fi and MFi Bluetooth connectivity ensures workers can always print easily from their iOS or Android devices, whether they’re in a vehicle, warehouse, facility or store – in a dense urban area or on a remote rural road.

Durability – Printers need to be compact and lightweight enough for workers and drivers to wear or carry all shift long, yet rugged enough to withstand constant use by multiple workers in indoor, outdoor and in-vehicle environments that are often harsh.

Ease-of-use – Printers should be out-of-the-box compatible with any mobile device, and easy to get up and running quickly. Features such as an active docking station, visible LCD display and flexible mounting options are also vital for no-hassle mounting or grab-and-go situations.

Reliability – Highly mobile drivers and workers need long-lasting battery life. Smart Li-ion batteries now available have double the capacity in half the size, as well as an indicator for battery status. Printers also need to work for the long haul, so it’s important to evaluate warranties and to look for blue chip service and support.

Consider HaaS – Instead of owning devices, companies can take advantage of the OpEx model that eliminates the up-front capital investment, provides a predictable monthly price and ensures a simplified process for acquiring and updating future mobile print technologies and supplies.

The Next Generation Is Now

Today, there a wide range of versatile, reliable next-generation printing and labeling solutions ideally suited to help supply chain keep pace with skyrocketing customer expectations. Whether it’s streamlining internal manufacturing or warehouse processes or supporting efficient logistics and route operations so drivers can transport goods to the right place at the right time – advanced, highly customizable and integrated solutions are at the ready to improve business performance and profitability.

David Crist is president of Brother Mobile Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brother International Corporation, which provides innovative mobile printing and industrial labeling solutions to field workforces, mobile and supply chain enterprises.