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What is the best way to label tubes?

Having professional-looking packaging can help you sell your products better. To achieve this for products sold in tube containers (e.g., squeeze tubes for toothpaste, plastic tubes for shampoo) you have three labeling methods to choose from: manual, automated, and outsourced. Picking the wrong tube decoration method can set you on a path that’s hard to come back from. But don’t worry, we’ve put together the pros and cons of each method so you can confidently decide which one is the best for your product. 

Manual tube labeling

Many companies with small budgets or unpredictable throughput decorate their products manually. They usually print their own labels then apply each one to their products by hand. 

The great thing about this method is that it only requires a small upfront capital investment — just a printer. However, you’ll need to factor in costs, such as labor and replacement parts (e.g., printheads and rollers), that are required to keep the printer running optimally. Alternatively, you can just have someone else print the labels for you, and then apply these yourself. 

While only little money is required to get started with manual tube labeling, you’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort in applying the labels onto the containers by hand. Therefore, you’ll likely wind up hiring a lot of workers just to meet your production timelines. What’s more, you may have to shell out money to cover repetitive stress injuries caused by labeling thousands of tubes. 

Manual tube labeling is also prone to inconsistencies in label placement, resulting in bubbling, wrinkling, or folding of the label, which causes your product to look shoddy and unattractive. Worse still, these issues may cause the label to be torn or peeled off by the time the product reaches retail shelves. You may then lose money because of one or more of the following reasons: 

Automated tube labeling

Labor is typically the costliest part of the labeling process. This is why some companies automate using top-of-the-line print-and-apply label applicators, such as the CTM Labeling System 3600a-PA Series, which print directly on labels and apply these directly onto tubes. Many of these machines require limited human involvement and some can even be left to operate independently. This means you can reallocate the man-hours you’ve freed up to tasks that are more strategic or directly improve your bottom line. 

With automated tube labeling, applying labels only typically takes 3–7 seconds per label, depending on the equipment. Not only that, but you’re also guaranteed consistent quality of label application, significantly reducing labeling errors.  

Budget-wise, buying a print-and-apply labeling machine demands a huge capital investment. Not only that, but it also requires a lot of planning, real estate, and effort to properly integrate the machine into your operations. You’ll also need to spend on consumables, such as inks and label rolls, and maintenance-related costs, like labor and replacement parts.   

A lower-priced (and usually smaller-sized) alternative is purchasing a label applicator only, which you can load with pre-printed labels. A semi-automatic labeling machine like AutoLabe Model 550 Semi-Automatic can still increase your labeling speed by as much as 500% compared to manual application. It will, however, require an operator who will load the labels and containers first, then use a foot pedal, switch, or sensor on the machine to apply the label.

If you have a little more budget and need faster label application, then go for a fully automatic labeling machine like the AutoLabe Model 390 Automatic. Unlike semi-automatic labelers, a fully automatic one doesn’t require an operator to apply labels one at a time. 

However, if you require critical information to be placed in exactly the same spot every time, then you’re still better off with having the label printer and applicator in one machine. The print engines of print-and-apply labelers are faster and more reliable than those of stand-alone printers. 

Outsourced tube labeling

If you want to do away with all labeling equipment costs and the headaches related to operating and maintaining these, then consider outsourcing your labeling needs. Doing so may also allow you to cut costs on labeling consumables since labeling services providers can negotiate better prices with their partner suppliers. You’ll also save on real estate and your employees’ time and effort. This means your staff will be able to focus on more valuable tasks. 

By opting for outsourced tube labeling, you’ll have access to more advanced decoration technologies, thus more labeling options and better customization. For example, you may be able to experiment with embellishment and material options such as gold foil or textured papers. You’ll also be able to add protective solutions, such as varnishes or lamination, that improve your label’s ability to withstand various environmental conditions. 

Outsourcing also allows you to leverage the expertise of a labeling services provider. The provider can give you professional advice on matters such as:

  • Labeling materials and adhesives that work best on your container
  • Printing processes and inks that suit your needs and budget 
  • Protective finishing options that boost your labels’ durability
  • Adjustments to the artwork that will make it to look great on the container 

With better equipment and more trained personnel, they will be able to provide you with higher-quality label printing and application, thus increasing your products’ chances of standing out on retail shelves. 

Keep in mind that outsourcing tube labeling normally requires that you meet minimum order requirements, and that service providers may ask clients to pay one time for items, such as  cutters and print plates, depending on the type of label (e.g., pressure-sensitive labels, shrink sleeves) you choose. Despite the high initial costs, the economies of scale offered by this labeling method makes it ideal for mass production.

Flexibility regarding making changes to labels (e.g., adding time-sensitive information after the purchase order has been made) varies from provider to provider. You’ll also need to factor in providers’ lead times — the industry average is 8–10 working days — to find the best fit for your needs.

Whether you choose to outsource your labeling needs or purchase a label printer, applicator, or print-and-apply machine, you can turn to Pro-Motion Industries. Contact us today at 856-809-0040 to get started. 

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