Solving: Preventing Bar Code Labeling Mistakes using On-Demand Rules-Based Labeling

preventing bar code labeling mistakes

It used to be simple, you made the product, put it in a box, slapped on a label with the customer name and address, and shipped the product. Now, preventing bar code labeling mistakes is much more complex.  In the commercial, global supply chain, shipping containers now need their own individualized “license-plate” tracking bar codes, such as a GS1 Standard SSCC (serialized shipping container code) bar codes. Intermediate containers, nested within require SSCC bar codes and may require customer specific bar codes or GTIN (global trade identification number) bar codes and lot number bar codes for the contents. Custom or semi-custom products private labelled for customers may also require their own tracking bar codes, such as for serial numbers, as well as GTIN bar codes, as well as hazardous material signage and other special handling information.

As we discussed in our previous blog about Work In Progress Using Tools & Equipment You Already Have, license-plate tracking bar codes labels, with human readable information are being placed on raw and intermediate materials, within manufacturing plants, so as to correctly identify the materials, and track their usage to make intermediate and finished products. At times, these bar code labels are matriculated into the supply chain as well.

Correct Info and Format Reduces Bar Code Labeling Mistakes

All of this requires that the correct information be printed with the correct format label on the correct label stock. Failure to do so can result in problems with other systems that depend on having the correct information on the labels.  Incorrect labels can result in rejection by a customer of a complete shipment plus payment of penalties for not shipping good product on time. Internally, within the manufacturing plants, errors in labeling can result in the wrong materials being used to make products, which can lead to scrapping or reworking products. Even worse, shipment of defective products can lead to lawsuits and loss of reputation.

When printing labels during the production process, there are many opportunities for mistakes.  Selecting the wrong label, mistakenly entering incorrect data, or printing the wrong printer, loaded with the wrong media are few common scenarios leading to label errors. For this reason, many manufacturing companies pre-print labels in the office and then take them to shipping, or receiving, or the production floor to be applied to the product or appropriate packaging containers.  Mistakes in bar code labeling has been exacerbated by market forces that require shipment of custom or semi-custom products, coded and labeled according the needs of each specific customer, and made-to-order with delivery time of a few days, at most, from the time of receiving the order.

Reconfiguring Your Process

Here’s an approach to reconfiguring your processes to ensure generating the correct labels, in a fast-track on-demand environment.

  1. Selecting an operations tracking system that works best for your production and facility. This should not be confused with a materials tracking or inventory management system.

Recognize all the data elements that your system needs to track including the contents and location of all the nested containers involved in shipping the product(s).  This includes identifying the materials that will be packed in each container, and the outer containers, such as cases, cartons and pallets, in which these materials will be contained.  The materials within each inner container may be tracked by part number, quantity, lot number and expiration date, as well as other parameters such as color and size. There may also be parts within the container that have their own tracking bar codes. The data collected by the tracking system about what materials are in each container provides the information that is automatically inserted into the barcode label printed for the container.

Now, integrating this with a materials tracking system accommodates when containers or parent containers are recorded as being picked and packed for customer orders.  By being automatically associated with the customer and the customer’s ship-to address, the labels printed for shipping containers, such as pallets, are automatically populated with this information.  Again, note that this container tracking, which is done by a materials tracking system is different from tracking inventory at a location, which is done by ERP and accounting systems.

  1. Labeling Tools: As with manual label creation, label creation starts with identifying the information that must be contained on the label. Once this hierarchy has been established, field names can be assigned to reflect the specific attributes of the material within the container.  For example, a container of material is being entered into inventory, information such as the item and the quantity are captured, typically using a mobile computer and stored for the container. Then, when the label for the container is printed, the appropriate container data is extracted and printed in the label fields assigned to that data type.  When looking for label system tools, you should have an idea of what type of data needs to be included in all the shipping containers associated with moving your product out of your facility and into the supply chain. It can be as simple as devising a list such as:
  • The materials in the container, by item number, or material type
  • Whether the label is for raw, intermediate or finished goods.
  • The attributes of the material, such as size and color.
  • The customer to whom the material is being shipped.
  • The type of container, such as box, barrel, or reel.
  • The quality control status of the container – generating labels to reflect items, that are awaiting, have passed, or failed quality control inspection
  • The transaction used to generate the label such as Receiving, Work in Progress, or Packing.
  • The operation being performed on a work order.
  • If the material is work-in-process or finished products.
  • The device printing the label, which allows pairing a mobile data collection device with a wearable barcode label printer.
  • Location and facility at which the transaction takes place

This eliminates most major sources of error in generating the correct labels for products, as well as all nested containers in which products are packed.  The use of rules-based labeling, combined with the availability of color barcode printers, such as those offered by PaladinID, has opened up the possibility for automatically generating labels in different colors, sizes and layout configuration on the shop floor.

When it comes to printing bar code labels on-site and/or ordering preprinted barcode labels, PaladinID offers on-site and remote assessments to ensure that the manufacturer is selecting the appropriate printer and label software for their particular needs.  Please contact Dana Ritchie or (603) 527-0256) for more information on setting up a barcode label printer in your facility OR for preprinted barcode labels.

This excerpt from Preventing Bar Code Labeling Mistakes by using On-Demand Rules-Based Labeling, published February 2017 © BellHawk Systems Corporation

About Bell Hawk
BellHawk Systems provides its BellHawk real-time inventory and operations tracking software to manufacturers, distributors, food processors, laboratories, engineering and other industrial organizations. It also provides related professional services to assist its clients in implementing these systems as well as in integrating these tracking solutions with their ERP, CRM, accounting, E-Commerce and other systems.

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PaladinID develops and supports high-performance barcode labeling applications. We work with our clients to “Make Your Mark” by providing the expertise and tools necessary to create an entire product label printing solution. Located in central New Hampshire, PaladinID has been serving Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New England, and beyond for over 30 years, and in 2017, became an RFID-certified company. We look forward to working with you.

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