Labels play an essential role in moving products off the shelf. Aside from putting a name to a product, a label also acts as an advertisement that makes your product stand out from competing brands. What’s more, it holds important product information that can help customers decide whether to purchase your product.
For these reasons, you should ensure that the look and durability of your labels remain consistent. Achieving that requires having stringent quality control checks in label production.
What is label quality control?
Quality control is a review process that ensures all manufactured products meet the same quality standards. When it comes to labeling, Pro-Motion Industries’s Quality Control Manager Susan Chou defines quality control as “exceeding customer’s quality expectations within reasonable parameters. This includes identifying defects and problems before going to the fillers (i.e., suppliers that fill containers with the required number of products before packaging and shipping) or even worse, their customer.”
Why is label quality control important?
Label quality control ensures consistency across labels. Your marketing team has worked hard to come up with a label design that appeals to your target consumers, so you’ll want your labels to look the same every time. Additionally, label quality checks ensure that product labels can withstand environmental and shipping conditions so that they remain pristine when products reach retail shelves.
Without quality control, you may occasionally have a bad batch of labels, which can result in many negative outcomes such as poor sales, customer complaints, and product returns requested by the retailer. Subpar labels may even negatively affect public perception of your product in the long run. For example, if a potential buyer perceives your label as low quality, then they may think the same way about your product.
What processes are crucial to maintaining label quality?
During production, there are three processes that are key to achieving consistent label quality.
For Chou, the pre-production evaluation process is critical to maintaining quality for all labels. She goes further by saying that this step “may be the most important part of the production process.”
During pre-production evaluation, the technician looks for inconsistencies and defects in the packaging. For example, if a container has dents, the label won’t properly fit it and thereby become wrinkled. Malformations can also reduce the labeling area, which then adversely affects the label’s coverage or placement on the packaging. It’s important to note, though, that industry standards allow for a tolerance of +/- 1/16th of an inch in terms of coverage.
The technician also closely inspects the packaging’s surface and taper to see if it matches the proposed dieline and layflat. A dieline is the blueprint that specifies all of the physical elements of the final printed product including:
- Package sizing, scale, and dimensions
- Location of all the visual elements (e.g., logos, text, and images)
- Positioning of folds, cutlines, creases, eye marks, glue tabs, and other connection points
- Bleed requirements and other unique manufacturing notes
On the other hand, layflat is the characteristic of materials that allows these to remain flat throughout the printing and application process. For example, it’s important that the backing sheet — the bottommost layer — of pressure-sensitive labels has a good layflat property. This is because the backing sheet protects the adhesive and supports the face material throughout the entire printing, die-cutting, and application process.
After the pre-production evaluation process, the labeler will be able to determine the best options for the elements that affect the consistency of label quality:
- Material – Using premium-quality materials in all layers of a label is needed to produce top-quality labels.
- Equipment – Inferior labeling equipment will fail to produce quality labels.
- Technician – Technicians who lack the experience, ability, and attention to detail will be unable to produce labels with a consistent quality.
A standard practice in quality control is creating benchmarks for product quality and testing samples of the output against those benchmarks.
During output sampling, Chou says that the usual challenges she encounters include debris and inconsistency in materials. While these problems are typically manageable, they have the most potential to reduce yields.
Different types of labels also present different obstacles. For pressure-sensitive labels, Chou says that the most common defects include wrinkles, bubbles, and debris. Whereas for shrink sleeves, the challenge lies in identifying the distortions (e.g., fisheyes) required in the artwork so that it will shrink proportionally onto the container.
Related reading: Shrink Sleeve vs. Traditional Labeling: Which Is Better?
Storage and transit testing
Testing how labels perform in real-world conditions also helps maintain label quality. For example, if your labeling requirements include durability against heat, humidity, coldness, and moisture, then you need to test applied labels against those factors. In other words, you need to check if your labels won’t get scratched, scuffed, misaligned, or peeled off during shipping and transit. See to it that even your label’s finest print still looks clean and sharp. Ultimately, your labels should still look great once they reach retail shelves.
How else can you ensure consistent label quality?
Being able to maintain label quality takes a lot of time and effort. It requires ongoing investments in the best technology and equipment and obtaining superior materials and adhesives from industry-leading suppliers. Not only that, but technicians also need to undergo regular training.
At Pro-Motion Industries, we go even further by having a Quality Control Manager onboard. Susan Chou has been with us since 2012, starting as a machine operator and inspector before moving to quality. Her extensive production experience makes her extremely vital to our commitment to quality: in every production run, we strive for 100% defect-free labels to meet or even exceed our clients’ expectations.
If you’re looking to make your products more attractive and appealing with reliable, high-precision decoration, you can rely on us. We have been New Jersey’s most trusted contract labeling services provider since 1994. Consult with one of our experts today at 856-809-0040 to get started.