What is automatic labeling?
Automatic labeling refers to the process of applying labels onto products using a machine instead of doing it by hand.
There are different types of labeling machines available. In terms of functionality, there are machines that only apply labels (label applicators) and those that have an additional printing capability (print and apply label applicators).
A label applicator (e.g., Herma H500 Vario) draws from a reel of pre-printed labels and automatically applies these onto packages. On the other hand, a print and apply label applicator (e.g., CTM Labeling Systems 360a Series Label Applicator) pulls blank or partially printed labels through its print engine. It then prints directly onto labels, which are then automatically applied onto packages.
In terms of level of automation, labeling machines are categorized as either semi-automatic or fully automatic. With a semi-automatic labeling machine (e.g., Auto Labe Model 550 Semi-Automatic), you will need an operator who will load the labels and packages first. Next, the operator will apply the labels one by one using a foot pedal, switch, or sensor on the machine. In contrast, a fully automatic labeling machine (e.g., Auto Labe Model 390 Automatic) does not need human intervention after its initial setup.
What are the benefits of automated labeling?
Labor cost savings
Labeling your products in house without a label applicator will require manpower, either your existing staff or new hires. If you use your existing staff, they are taken away from doing the job that they were really hired to do. Alternatively, they could label products outside of working hours, but you will have to pay them overtime and run the risk of burning them out. If you opt to hire additional staff, you will have to spend more on employee salaries and benefits.
In contrast, a labeling machine does not require salaries, benefits, overtime pay, break times, and sick/vacation days. With a machine performing the bulk of or the entire labeling process, you no longer have to hire more people. You are also able to free up your existing employees to do other, higher-value tasks.
A person applying a label by hand cannot match the application speed of a labeling machine:
- CTM Labeling Systems 360a Series Label Applicator: 76 meters per minute
- HERMA 500: 200 meters per minute
The number of labels applied per minute will depend on the size of each label being processed. However, to give you a more concrete idea of the abovementioned speeds, an application speed of 200 meters per minute is equivalent to around 2,000 labels per minute. This means a labeling machine can help you keep up with increased production volumes without the need to hire more people or shell out overtime pay.
Consistent label placement
Not every label you apply by hand is going to be perfectly centered or aligned. Crooked labels are visually unappealing, which may turn away buyers or result in retailers demanding for product replacements.
Manual labeling may also lead to bubbling or wrinkling of labels. Such issues make the information printed on the label hard to read or even affect the label’s adherence.
In contrast, utilizing a labeling machine ensures consistently clean label placement with a tolerance accuracy of +/- 0.3 millimeter — something a human can never accomplish. Even as throughput increases, a machine’s label placement will still remain the same.
Reduced labeling errors
Mistakes happen wherever people work. Aside from the abovementioned issues, a label could be applied to the wrong product. Fortunately, labeling machines often have verification features that ensure the right label is always applied to the appropriate product, preventing unnecessary rework or product returns. Some machines even come with scanners that check if the barcodes and text on the label are legible.
Aren’t labeling machines expensive?
The prices of labeling machines vary widely and largely depend on their features. Naturally, an apply-only labeling machine will be less expensive than a print and apply label applicator. A fully automatic machine will cost more than a semi-automatic one.
However, if you choose the labeling machine that best suits your needs, you will enjoy cost savings in the long run. When you take into account how much you spend on labor, mislabeled products, and other labeling errors, labeling machines are worth the investment.
Ready to invest in a labeling machine?
With such a wide range of equipment available, selecting one that will support both your current and long-term labeling needs without straining your budget can be daunting. The good news is that you can just tell us your labeling requirements and budget, and we will help you choose the right labeling machine for you.
However, if you are only looking to rent a labeling machine, we have you covered as well. You can rent labeling parts and equipment on both a short- and long-term basis. We hand inspect every piece of rental equipment before it leaves our facility to ensure it meets your needs. We even rent out our custom-built systems, which can be redesigned and reconfigured by our seasoned experts to meet your specific labeling needs.
For more information on the available labeling machines for sale and for rent, contact us at 856-809-0040.