The top 10 things to consider before buying a label applicator system

10 Major Things To Consider Before Buying A Label Applicator

When the efficiency and productivity of your business is reliant upon the purchase of a new print and apply labeler, CTM Labeling Systems proudly provides the opportunity to invest in equipment that revolutionizes your company’s day to day operations. Our label applicators will become an integral part of your business, both functionally and in regard to output.

In this white paper, CTM Labeling Systems has gathered the ten most important factors to consider when speaking with manufacturers and deciding on a label applicator for your facility. From the integrity of each manufacturer to the reliability and versatility of their products (as well as their hardware’s ability to integrate seamlessly into your workplace), these ten considerations will help you prioritize and feel confident as you explore your purchasing options.


You have a choice to make when you speak with manufacturers of automatic labeling machines. Each manufacturer has a different approach to its sales process, the design and manufacturing of its products, its ability to meet specific end-user needs, and its technical support. So, ultimately, your job is to make the best choice for the health of your business. (But your time, as a professional, must also be spent wisely.) You need to prioritize the most important aspects of this decision-making process and act accordingly.


This white paper will help you streamline your search for the right manufacturer and product for your business. We have compiled the top ten things to know before making your choice, and this 10-point list will help you to narrow down your manufacturer options, take advantage of every product and service those manufacturers have to offer, and make a wise choice when communicating with your manufacturer and choosing a specific product. When you make an informed purchase after considering these ten points, you’ll feel confident that you’ve made an excellent investment in your business.

Points to Consider Before Making Your Purchasing Decision

1. Manufacturer Credibility

A confident purchase starts with a solid understanding of the reputation and integrity of the label applicator’s manufacturer. Any credible labeling system manufacturer will welcome your team to visit their facility. This is one of the best ways to witness first-hand the engineering and machining strength of the facility and see how that manufacturer can support you throughout the process.

Ideally, the manufacturer should have engineers who understand design and manufacturing inside and out, a manufacturing/machining center, an organized, thoughtful and functional operation, and labeling sales and support staff on hand who have an excellent understanding of the products and the needs of the customers.

At CTM, we pride ourselves on the fact that each work center operates in a knowledgeable and organized manner. You can put your trust in our design, quality control, sales process, technical support and (ultimately) the product, from the beginning of the purchasing process throughout the life of the product.

If you’re unable to visit various manufacturing facilities, be sure to ask key questions in order to determine whether you feel confident in the label applicator manufacturer’s capabilities and reputation. Research the length of time the manufacturer has been in business and solicit references. You will also benefit from understanding a bit about the employees who will be manufacturing, selling, and providing support for your product.

A labeling system company that retains in-house employees rather than outsourcing labor is a company that will listen to your needs, respond to specific requests and changes, and provide you with a sales and technical support staff who, being onsite, will have a comprehensive understanding of the design and manufacturing of your product.

2. Sales Support

Look for indications that the sales staff enjoys working as a team with the manufacturing staff, the distributor and you, the end-user. A team approach will ensure that your salesperson is highly knowledgeable about the product and believes wholeheartedly in the integrity of both the product and the sales and support process.

An excellent salesperson will demonstrate expertise in label applicators and systems, and they will have immediate access to the engineering and manufacturing staff in the event that specific questions arise regarding the product you wish to purchase. Sales staff should be in contact regularly throughout the process to make sure that you feel comfortable and informed and should be easily accessible via phone or email.

The salesperson working with your team should ideally provide you with what CTM calls a site survey (where a specification layout allows your staff to articulate the utility the labeling system should fulfill, as well as key details about your site and the particular needs that require accommodation). Providing mobile phone photos and videos is a great way for you to be sure that the manufacturer understands your specific requirements, and a site survey allows for this service.

A FAT (Factory Acceptance Test) test, as a part of the sales process, provides you with an additional level of comfort regarding this business investment. The test allows you, as the customer, to walk through the parameters of the equipment you have purchased so that you come away with a complete understanding of the product. You should have the opportunity to train with the manufacturing technical support team and to make requests so that the manufacturer can make changes. That way, you can ensure that the product will be exactly what you and your team need upon purchase.

A hardware warranty should always be included with your purchase, along with a comprehensive description of exactly what is covered under the warranty as a means of avoiding any gaps in understanding after the sales process has been completed. When a company offers a limited lifetime warranty on its components, this is further assurance that you can trust the product you’re purchasing. 

CTM Labeling Systems is proud to offer a limited lifetime warranty on its 3600a Series Printer Applicator rewind assembly, a reliable thermal transfer labeler that is built to last.

A service-oriented provider understands that your business needs to sustain momentum, and will manufacture and deliver accordingly. CTM’s 1-2 week lead time on standard pieces of hardware reflects the importance placed on your business and its productivity.

3. Flexibility (Range of Motion)

When inquiring about a company’s labeling products, make sure your potential purchase will be flexible enough to meet your needs. CTM uses many standard components, and our applicator is versatile enough to function at any orientation. Working with a manufacturing company that will incorporate its product into your system is key. Our site survey (mentioned above) is used to make sure that we understand our end user’s needs so that we can design hardware that integrates seamlessly into our customer’s environment.

4. Reliability

Quality control is the key to any product’s reliability. Your business deserves a long-running, reliable product that can stand up to the test of your everyday needs. Use a manufacturer who has a QC process that includes a 100% inspection and test of every print engine received from their suppliers.

At CTM, we not only inspect every print engine and core unit, but we put every finished piece of equipment to the test before delivering to our customers. In fact, if a customer requires a demo prior to purchase of a standard printer applicator, CTM will offer that demo.

5. Speed

The speed of a labeling system is largely dependent on label size, product size, and conveyor velocity. However, speed is not always an indicator of quality equipment. In fact, speed sometimes comes at the cost of print quality, and buyers should be careful to make their purchases based on quality and reliability, as well as flexibility, instead of focusing on speed alone.

6. Type of Print Engine

Before purchasing a labeling system, you’ll want to consider whether you need a thermal transfer or direct thermal print engine. Thermal transfer engines contain a ribbon positioned between the print head and the substrate and produce labels that last for a long period of time. These types of labels are best used at a facility that stores items on the shelves for months or years at a time.

Direct thermal print engines, by comparison, utilize a simple heat transfer without the use of a ribbon and therefore supply a label that does not last as long as those from a thermal transfer. For food supply customers whose products will only remain on shelves for a short time period, this engine may suffice.

7. Type of Data Printed

If an end-user uses their labeling system for static projects (pre-printed labels), a labeling applicator will suffice. However, if a customer will be using the product for a variable project, a print and apply unit is better suited for the task. End-users will find that they have more flexibility with a print and apply system.

At CTM, we can create labeling systems that accommodate both static and variable projects. Our integrated loose loop systems are a combination of a printer applicator and an applicator that can bypass a print engine and apply labels without running the labels through the print engine.

8. Size of Label Capabilities

Every piece of hardware has a maximum allowable label size that can run through the label applicator. Be wary of any manufacturer that does not mention a maximum allowable label size, as you will want a concrete answer on how large of a label your potential purchase can handle. Be sure to provide information on the items you’ll be labeling so that your manufacturer can use these specifications to manufacture the proper equipment.

9. Ease of Equipment Integration, Operation, and Accessibility

In order to maximize the degree to which your labeling equipment integrates with your system (and the ease at which it can be operated), choose a labeling machine manufacturer that completes a comprehensive site survey like we do at CTM. This site survey will allow you to supply the manufacturer with any and all label applications you need your equipment to handle.

In addition, a good salesperson will be able to point out other areas of functionality at your site that can be addressed by a labeling system. Once the key applications have been communicated to the engineering team, the equipment can be manufactured to handle a variety of projects.

CTM offers a Swing Away Tamp Nose Assembly with a component that allows the user to clean and maintain the print head and simplify the media threading process. Print head maintenance and cleaning is integral to the hardware’s longevity and makes operations easier.

10. Cost

While budgetary concerns are always important to consider, remember that quality manufacturers have sales and support staff and an experienced engineering and technical support team available to support you for the life of your labeling system. And, these key components will be reflected in the cost of your labeling system. 

Consider that a slightly less expensive product may cost you precious time in the long run. Cheaper manufacturers may not have the infrastructure in place to provide a quality product and the support needed to keep your labeling system on track for years to come.

Action Plan

Now that you’re armed with the information you need to interview label applicator manufacturers and make decisions regarding the best product to suit your business and its needs, you can enter into the purchasing process with confidence.

We invite you to download our “Labeling System Planning Guide” to ensure you get the most for your investment with a label applicator and system that works perfectly from the very beginning!


Download our labeling system planning guide