As the last article in this 5-part series, to review, it is clear that the existing challenges for labeling in the electronics industry are begging for a solution. The list of what can go wrong, is significant: mislabeling and related data errors, customer and regulatory fines, loss of business, label-related safety compliance, inability to scale labeling operations in manufacturing, label-related recall, lack of traceability, inability to accommodate evolving industry standards, inability to meet customer-specific labeling requirements, and IT management stress. So what is the cure?
From long years of experience, there is a tried and tested methodology that works to simultaneously address all of the labeling challenges above, and it is comprised of three major components.
1. Consolidation and Centralization
Electronics manufacturers with dispersed, departmental, standalone and multi-regional labeling systems face a daunting task of meeting enterprise-wide consistency and control if the decision is made to sustain these systems. Fixing redundancy of all these separate solutions over many departments and across all labeling geographies is a time-intensive initiative that, in the end, does nothing to resolve the underlying problems of a decentralized labeling approach. Consolidation around a centralized system, tied to enterprise applications and data, insures corporate-wide labeling consistencies, compliance, and security. Electronics manufacturing companies need the ability to easily and quickly manage label data, make label changes, comply with evolving standards, and flexibly support new labeling requirements. Allowing multiple locations and/or suppliers access to centralized data to seamlessly produce labels remotely is crucial to business continuity. Utilizing this centralized approach to label data allows businesses to scale globally and remotely, and drives label production from any of its sites.
Electronics products manufacturers today know they need—and they already have—systems for version control. This means many electronics manufacturers have systems in place for compliance and regulatory standards with approvals, workflow, revisions, and documented copies; and, they have the right people already in place who are familiar with these systems. With this in mind, it isn’t practical to replicate data. Instead, it makes significantly greater sense to simply use the label data in these existing applications for the data to generate the labels, so the ability to connect and integrate to all key sources of label data is essential.
Business partners, too, need to leverage their own sources of label data, and extend labels and data to their partners. Through integration, an unprecedented level of flexibility to enable the use of corporate or partner data to create, manage, and print mission-critical barcode labels across the global supply chain becomes possible. In some enterprise solutions scenarios that include WYSIWYG design and browser-based capabilities, business users can even take ownership of the design process. This eliminates the need for IT at each print location to get involved or write code to handle new label creation and label changes, resulting in significant cost and time savings.
3. Automation Based on Business Rules
In addition to application integration, the forward-looking solution in electronics products manufacturing label- ing looks to all major enterprise applications to drive label printing. To ensure an effective global supply chain strategy, customers must consider how labeling intersects with evolving contributors such as globalization of manufacturing, safety and quality of products, shorter lead-times, lean business environments, and changing international market demands. Widely installed enterprise applications from providers such as Oracle, SAP, and others, are considered “a single source of truth,” and if these systems are leveraged to drive label printing and label data, then the error-prone practice of manual or redundant label data entry is eliminated. Enterprise labeling solutions include business rules logic that allows customers to automatically meet the rigors of global requirements such as regulations, languages, images, formats, and printers, and to manage variability across multiple industries and regions in one place. Automating these complex workflow processes frees up the organization to use precious labor hours more creatively and efficiently.
Summary: Why Efficient Enterprise Labeling is the Solution
Once considered a mere tactical necessity, contemporary electronics industry product labeling solutions can have major strategic implications. As noted in this white paper, there are at least eight major negative corporate outcomes that can result from product labeling errors and inefficiencies. Averting these issues is no longer a matter of fixing one label at a time or refitting one product facility at a time with silo or purpose-driven systems. Labeling has become a core component of a manufacturer’s strategic mission to create a smoothly operating global supply chain. The solution cannot be found in a patchwork of more systems, but in less and fewer disparities and incompatibilities. For a truly successful outcome, labeling must be integrated with core enterprise applications and data.
Electronics manufacturers of all sizes and scope can gain tremendous value from the intelligent three-step methodology of consolidation, integration, and automation of their labeling environment. Implementing enterprise-wide solutions that centralize global labeling and integrate with core applications and data bring into alliance the parallel goals of corporate growth and supply chain efficiency with labeling agility and accuracy. At a time when regulatory scrutiny and standards initiatives worldwide are on the rise; when customer demands are more specific and varied than every before; and when a single source of truth is the most reliable repository of data, an enterprise labeling solution is an efficient, cost-saving, accurate, and flexible way to quickly meet the critical needs of today’s global supply chain.
To find out more about how Enterprise Labeling Solutions and how they intersect with business drivers to impact the performance and overall success of your business, view the recently released report on Key Business Drivers for labeling in your global supply chain. You also may want to check out the report, Top 5 Trends In Enterprise Labelingto get more information about evolving supply chain themes and technological advancements that compel businesses to look at labeling differently.
About the Author
Joe Longo is Electronics Industry Specialist with Loftware and has been working with Loftware enterprise customers in the electronics industry for over seven years. His customers include some of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world: Jabil Circuits, Flextronics, Celestica, Kemet, Plexus, GE and more. Highly knowledgeable about the key issues most EMS manufacturers are facing today, he provides in-depth studies and recommendations to electronics manufacturers on solutions to their labeling requirements. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.