Color Label Solutions

Color Label Solutions

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Lean" On Color On-Demand Labels

Recently, Motorola Solutions sent me an email detailing 10 mobile solutions for lean manufacturing:   

This email got me thinking:  Does on-demand color labels fit lean manufacturing principals?

As a review, Wikipedia describes lean manufacturing as a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful; and thus a target for elimination.  The Lean Institute has a more concise, yet similar description:  maximizing customer value while minimizing waste.

Although lean manufacturing is a large, complex subject with many highly-paid consultants, I wondered; how many different processes along a value stream for a manufacturer could be made more efficient using on-demand color labels.  Processes that require less human effort, less space, less capital, less time and at far less costs and with much fewer defects.

So here is my list of 12 processes that have been or could be improved using on-demand color labels.  Please remember; this list is not exhaustive; just examples.  Further, this list is not in priority; but along a potential value chain of a manufacturer.

  1. Label Procurement:  By moving to on-demand labels, Procurement can reduce or eliminate the number of different preprinted labels purchased; thus reducing plate setup, freight, and order process charges.  Further, by using continuous labels, manufacturers can consolidate labels to one consistent width and then print to any length, thus reducing orders also.
  2. Label Receiving:  With on-demand labels, associates responsible for receiving will have fewer different products to receive and process. 
  3. Label Put-Away/Picking:  Using on-demand labels, associates will have to put-away fewer SKU’s thus reducing trips to the print stations.   Further, an associate will spend less time and make less errors looking for a specific preprinted label.  According to Jaclo Plumbing, they have reduced their warehouse labor by up to one man-year by moving to on-demand color labels:  
  4. Warehouse Bin Labels:  By adding images to the warehouse bin labels, managers will reduce the risk of incorrect picking/put-away of items (see above).
  5. Warehouse Pick Tickets:  By adding images to pick tickets, warehouse managers can reduce the risk of incorrect picking.   Take a look at this blog post on Marco Specialties:
  6. Job Routing:  By adding color to tickets, job shops will reduce the risk of work orders being routed to incorrect stations or even lost.  This reduction of risk speeds jobs through the factory floor, reducing costs.
  7. Job Tracking:  By adding color to Kanban cards, manufacturers can quickly review job status, thus insuring the correct job is produced at the correct time.  Look at the work of Almatis to reduce inventory using color coded kanban cards:
  8. Label Design:  With just-in-time color labels, manufacturers can design labels that make it easier for customers to locate the desired products; by adding pictures, OEM logos, and color text.  Take a look at FX Luminaire:   Starcke Abrasives: and Bonanza Press
  9. Inventory Reduction:  Moving to on demand, manufacturers reduce the value of color label inventory.  This reduced inventory not only saves money but also eliminates the large minimum order quantities for preprinted labels.
  10. Label Waste:  Using on-demand color labels, manufacturers can adapt and redesign labels up to the moment the labels are printed.  Mercury Medical reduced their labeling wastes and thus costs by up to 67% by moving to just-in-time color labels: 
  11. Shipping Error Reduction:  By adding color to shipping labels, manufactures can reduce the risk of miss-shipments; thus reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction.  Take a look at how PI Components reduced their shipping errors:
  12. Improve Staging:   By adding color to staging documents, labels and bills of lading, manufacturers can reduce or eliminate the risk of missed drop shipments, thus reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction.  Look at what Tubelite has done with color:
Can you think of any other potential processes to add to this list?  I appreciate your ideas and feedback.

Based on these 12 processes, it seems manufacturers who consider themselves or who want to become more of a lean organization should move to on-demand color labels.  Be sure to ask your manufacturing customers about their interest in adding on-demand color labels to their lean processes.

Guy Mikel

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