Product inventory in a warehouse.

The Important Role of a Labeling System for Order Fulfillment

Order fulfillment is the final step in the supply chain. It requires the coordination of your entire logistics system to gather and ship the right products to each of your customers. Labeling systems can automate several steps in this process while adding error correction systems and inventory management. You may be surprised how many ways the right implementation can cut delivery times and shipping problems, keeping customers happy and costs low. Learn more about the benefits of using a labeling system for order fulfillment.

Speed and Space

An automated labeling machine drastically increases labeling speed compared to manual labeling. After installation, you can usually see direct cost benefits long before your machine is used at full capacity. Automation frees up workers to do other jobs, making production more cost-effective. It also keeps labeling speeds consistent, so your labeling station won’t hold up the rest of your production line. If you’re looking for ways to work around the labor shortage, read our white paper on how an automated system can help work around hiring issues.

Even the simplest labeling machine can triple output without taking up more space than a manual labeling station. Power requirements are also surprisingly low. Most of the time, you will only need one or two electrical outlets and, for some machines, access to compressed air. This makes it an easy, cost-effective way to increase production speed, whether you’re manufacturing new products or handling them as they pass through a distribution center.

Reduction of Human Error  

Even the best-trained, most experienced employees will slip up sometimes. Delays in the labeling process can put unnecessary delays onto the shipping process, impacting customer satisfaction. Using an automated system removes those errors from the equation. Labeling machines use sensors to automatically adjust container positions, so labels are placed on the exact same spot every time. At CTM Labeling Systems, our machines can also save label formats for multiple products. Once you have your products set up, it’s easy to switch between lines. 

With a print-and-apply system, tracking and shipping information for each package is sent to the labeler directly from your order management system. This takes out one more source of potential human error from your distribution system, allowing you to streamline the workflow of fulfillment operations and save on labor costs. This is especially helpful in environments with high volume throughput. There is also the added benefit of maximizing profitability since labels are not discarded.   

Keeping Track of Goods in Large Warehouses

It’s hard to comprehend the size of warehouse complexes until you’ve been to one. For example, let’s say you want the broadest in-person shopping experience possible. You decide to go to the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the U.S. It has over 500 stores, a theme park, an aquarium, and 5 miles of hallways. The building has over 5.6 million square feet of space, which is 9 times the size of Yankee Stadium.

What if you want to shop by ordering online instead of going to America’s biggest mall? If you order from Amazon, you’re accessing over 330 million square feet of warehouse space around the world. That’s almost 60 times the size of The Mall of America, and over half of that space is in North America. A single local distribution center building in the e-commerce giant’s network covers at least 250,000 square feet, while buildings at larger nodes cover over one million cubic feet. Often, these centers have several of these giant buildings. Whether you work directly with large retailers like Amazon or rent out space in a warehouse facility, it’s easy to see how your inventory could get lost.

Worse still, warehouses are mostly aisles of identical racks. This makes it easy to get lost, even if you’ve worked there for years. To make navigation easier, you need labels. There are floor labels and building labels for finding the general area you need to go to. Then, there are aisle labels, rack labels, and bin labels, so you can narrow down your search to a specific area. Finally, you get to the product labels themselves. These can be pallet labels or labels on each carton or container. Using retro-reflective labels makes it easy to scan barcodes from a distance. This lets workers locate items on high shelves without having to lower them to ground level. Even if most of the warehouse is automated, like Amazon’s facilities, the robots still need to scan boxes to pick up the right items and fulfill each e-commerce order.

Error Reduction through Poka-Yoke

If you work in manufacturing, you know this term. Poka-yoke is the use of an immediate error detection system, so the user can correct or avoid the error. What started as a way for Toyota to stop production errors has spread to all kinds of systems. For example, to keep people from driving off without their debit cards, ATMs won’t dispense money until you remove your card from the reader. This type of error-checking functionality is easy to add to your order fulfillment system using labels.

Every container gets a label with a barcode and written information about its contents. Each barcode scan is logged into your system, so you can track each package as it enters, moves around, and leaves your facility. Add in scannable rack labels, and you can cross-reference containers against their locations.

By including human-readable information on your labels, your employees can double-check the product with the order information. This catches errors in your database that otherwise could lead to lost products or shipping to the wrong customer. 

Precise Inventory Control

By using barcodes to track items in your system, you always know how many products you have for a given SKU, as well as their locations. This lets you use real-time tracking of inventory in your warehouse management system, so your customers can’t order products that are out of stock. It also helps you track product flow, so you can order enough inventory and keep shelves stocked. 

Add Value With Labels

If you’re selling to retail customers, you can use the flexibility of an automatic labeling system to add value to your products. Here are three common ways companies use new labels to tailor products to the needs of their customers:

  1. Add labels with price tags, offers, and other information specific to the retailer.
  2. Create labels for packages built from multiple items shipped to the distribution center.
  3. Apply cover labels to meet requirements for product labeling in other countries.

What Kind of Labeler Do I Need to Improve Order Fulfillment?

We make a variety of print-and-apply labeling machines for all shapes and sizes of containers. These machines are compatible with print engines by Sato and Zebra and use either direct thermal or thermal transfer printing. These printing systems work with blank labels for maximum flexibility, or they can print new information over blank spaces on pre-printed labels. These units come with PLCs that connect to your OT system, letting you send addresses, serial numbers, and other information directly to the machine for printing.

One of our most popular models for order fulfillment is the 3600a-PA Series corner wrap applicator. This machine can wrap a single label on two sides of a box, making it readable in multiple orientations. This way it’s easy to scan or read the label as it moves through your order fulfillment process

We Can Help You Speed Up Your Order Fulfillment System

CTM Labeling Systems does more than just product labeling. Our local distributors can help you set up a labeling system that works with your production and logistics systems, so your products can move seamlessly to your customers with minimal delays or errors. Get started today and create your labeling system for order fulfillment.