10 Things to Consider Before Buying a Labeling System


When the efficiency and productivity of your business is reliant on the new purchase of a printer applicator labeling system, you have the opportunity to invest in equipment that will revolutionize the daily operations of your company. In addition to being a major purchase, a labeling system is also a piece of machinery that will become an integral part of your business, its functionality, and its output.

This white paper was created with the intention to help you to make an informed decision as you embark on this purchase. CTM Labeling Systems has gathered the ten most important factors you should consider as you speak with manufacturers and decide on a product. 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 automated printer applicator labeling systems. Each manufacturer has a different approach to its sales process, its design and manufacturing of its products, its ability to meet specific end user needs, and its technical support. Your job is to make the best choice for the health of your business, but your time, as a professional, must 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 to 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. This 10-point list will help you to narrow down your choice of manufacturer, take advantage of every product and service the manufacturer has 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 manufacturer’s reputation and integrity. A credible labeling system manufacturer will welcome your team to visit their facility, as this is the best way for you and your staff to witness first-hand the engineering and machining strength of the facility and the extent to which the facility is well-equipped to support you throughout the process. Ideally, you should opt to purchase from a site at which the engineers demonstrate design and manufacturing understanding capabilities, there is a manufacturing / machining center, the manufacturing area is organized in a thoughtful and functional manner, and the labeling sales and support staff is on hand with an excellent understanding of the products and the needs of the customers. CTM prides itself on the fact that each work center operates in a knowledgeable and organized manner. You’ll know that you can trust the manufacturer’s design, quality control, sales process, technical support and ultimately their product from the beginning of the purchasing process throughout the life of the product.

If you’re unable to visit the manufacturing site, ask key questions to determine whether you feel confident in the manufacturer’s capabilities and reputation. Perform research on 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 company which retains in-house employees rather than outsourcing their labor is a company which will be capable of listening to your needs, responding to specific requests and changes to your order, and will 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

As you begin the process of working with a salesperson, look for indications that the sales staff enjoys working as a team with the manufacturing staff, the distributor, and you, the end user. This 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 labeling systems, and will have immediate access to the engineering and manufacturing staff in the event that specific questions arise regarding the product you wish to purchase. This salesperson should be in contact regularly throughout the process to make sure that you feel comfortable and informed, and must be easily accessible via phone or email.

The salesperson working with your team should ideally provide you with what CTM calls a site survey, which is a specification layout that allows your staff to articulate the utility the labeling system should fulfill, as well as key details about your site and the particular needs which 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.

An FAT (Factory Acceptance Test), as a part of their 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 so that the product will be exactly what you and your team need upon purchase.

A hardware warranty should always be included with your purchase, 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 is proud to announce its offer of a limited lifetime warranty on its 3600A Series Label Applicator rewind assembly, a reliable thermal transfer labeler that is built to last.

When can you expect your product to be delivered? 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 we place 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 will integrate 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. Working with a manufacturer with a QC processes at each work center, to include a 100% inspection and test of every print engine received from their suppliers is key.

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 is certain to build confidence by offering that demo.

5. Speed

The speed of a labeling system is largely dependent on label size, product size, and conveyor velocity. Speed is not always an indicator of a quality piece of 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 will contain a ribbon positioned between the print head and the substrate. This provides a label that will last for a long period of time, and is best for use in, for example, a facility that stores automotive parts or heavy bearings that will be on the shelves for years.

Direct thermal print engines use a simple heat transfer, without the use of a ribbon, and therefore supply a label that does not last as long as that provided by 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 plans on using the 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 will 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 will be capable of running a maximum allowable label size through the machinery. Be wary of any manufacturer that does not mention a maximum allowable label size, as you will want a concrete answer as to how large of a label your potential purchase can handle. 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, you will want to be sure to choose a manufacturer that completes, as CTM does, a comprehensive site survey. This site survey will allow you to supply the manufacturer with any and all applications you may need your equipment to handle. In addition, a good salesperson will be able to point out other areas of functionality at your site that might be addressed by a labeling system. Once the key applications have been communicated to the engineering team, a piece of equipment can be manufactured for you that can handle a variety of projects.

CTM offers a Swing Away Tamp Nose Assembly with a swing away component that allows the user to clean and maintain the print head, as well as simplifying the media threading process. Print head maintenance and cleaning which is integral to the hardware’s longevity. Making operations easier for you is a CTM priority.

10. Cost

Although budgetary concerns are always important to consider, remember that quality manufacturers have a top-notch sales and support staff, an experienced engineering and technical support team, which are available to support you for the life of your labeling system. 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, because the manufacturer may not have the infrastructure required to provide you with a quality product and the support 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 manufacturers and make decisions regarding the best product to suit your business and its needs, you’ll enter into the purchasing process with confidence. We invite your to download our “Labeling System Planning Guide” to ensure you get the most for your investment with a labeling solution that works perfectly from the very beginning!

Download our labeling system planning guide