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Keeping Control of Label Printing When Sharing Label Files

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Target Audience: Basic User, Advanced User, IT Manager, IT Support
Article #: 11553

Summary

Manufacturers often risk labeling mistakes and increased downtimes as they grow. As printing demand increases from startup to mid- and large-sized operations, the complexity of printing requirements grows as well. Among the problems that arises is keeping control of label printing when sharing files in order to increase efficiency.

There are four typical drivers that increase the complexity, and therefore the challenges:

  1. Printing to multiple printers Where before, a single workstation and connected printer were involved.
  2. Using automated print and label application machinery. Required to keep up with high speed manufacturing.
  3. Integrating data with order systems. Such as including input from work orders, serial numbers and etc. from ERP/MRP systems.
  4. Segregation of duties. The label print user, label designer and label approver are no longer the same, single person.

These changes require the sharing of common label designs hopefully sharing the same label design file. Thus, a ‘Labeling Library’ must be created. All printers and all automated machinery – regardless of print source (printed manually by a user or from an ERP/MRP system) – should source print jobs using the same library. In addition, the label print user, label designer and label approver must also all work from the that central library.

At first, many smaller clients attempt to store the label design files on a shared network drive or resource. Often, this is a folder on an internal server or some cloud-based storage such as Google Drive, Drop Box, or the like. However, doing so often leads to problems.

Common Problems Using Shared Folders

  1. Unauthorized changes to label. This usually happens by someone in production trying to compensate for a problem with the printer and/or driver setup.
  2. Labels require adjustments before they “look right”. Frequently caused by #1 above, when someone is attempting to adjust margins on the label to compensate for misalignment in the printer, poor margin settings on the printer, or bad settings on the printer driver running on that operator’s workstation.
  3. Confusion about which label version is valid. Older and draft versions may still reside in the folder.
  4. Problems with serial numbers updating correctly. This is often caused by trying to use Windows Security to lock down the labels. That same Security can prevent CODESOFT from updating the serial number in the label file after a print run.
  5. Client or QA department demands corrective action for label error. A print and approval history stored in the database can tell you who, where and when the errant label(s) were printed as well as who approved what changes to the label design.

Applying Labeling Good Manufacturing Practices

The more the organization grows, the worse these problems typically get. The application of labeling good manufacturing practices (GMP) can help to reduce errors and downtime. Although GMPs can seem to vary from industry to industry, I see the following common practices with our clients.

The growth of a manufacturing business can lead to labelling problems that can cause downtime and unwanted expense due to mistakes.
  • User access control. Password protection and typically tied to “roles” such as “Print User” and often integrated with Windows Active Directory.
  • Label design version control. Changes can only be made to a new version in “draft” status. Print users can only print a label with an “approved” status.
  • Label history. This applies to both launched print jobs and label design changes, leading to the question of “who did it, and when?”

To see examples of strict GMP requirements, see the FDA guidelines for medical devices here. Due to the critical nature of the products in this industry, manufacturers do not accept label errors.

We work with major label software companies whose current software editions support the above good manufacturing processes;

  • TEKLYNX – TEKLYNX CENTRAL and LABEL ARCHIVE
  • NiceLabel – Label Management System and Label Cloud
  • BarTender – Librarian

In all cases, they use an SQL database to store label designs instead of a shared Windows folder. All have developed intuitive user interfaces to allow manufacturers to deploy and use them quickly and easily. Also, they all can help the manufacturer comply with and enforce these practices.

Conclusion

As manufacturers grow, so does the risk of labeling errors and downtime. Following labeling GMP can help avoid these pitfalls. The major brands of industrial labeling software help the manufacturer comply and enforce these practices.

If you would like to know more about how they do it, which application might work best for you, and get some budgetary costs of making this improvement, please contact us.

Updated on January 11, 2021

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