It’s been a hectic year for food and beverage industry labeling. When the pandemic hit, the FDA scrambled to speed supply chains by enabling ingredient substitutions without label updates. Several brands have issued mislabeled allergen-based food, and while labeling should be helpful instead of a barrier to consumer safety and speed to market, it clearly has problems.

One culprit in the current labeling crisis is outdated labeling processes, which are all too common. Some of these methods include manual or paper-based quality assurance practices, locally managing label templates instead of centrally storing them and spending long periods of time to design or hard code label templates.

Luckily, these issues that slow down and decrease visibility across organizations and supply chains can be fixed with a relatively simple approach: adopting modern, cloud-based label management.

Centralizing and digitizing labeling in a cloud-based platform can drastically reduce recalls, make supply chains more transparent and ensure companies meet compliance. To help organizations benefit from this, here is an overview of key benefits and drivers around adopting a cloud-based label management system as well as tips to ensure a successful implementation.

Overcoming legacy obstacles

For too many organizations, an accumulation of disparate legacy systems has made the labeling process sprawling, decentralized and inefficient. Legacy systems may use a range of various labeling applications across different facilities, which can cause inconsistent label formatting, the need to create the same label multiple times and the need to purchase or use different systems and printers.

To help with these issues, digitizing and centralizing labeling via the cloud not only makes supply chains safer but presents a world of benefits. This is especially important for food and beverage manufacturers and retailers with multiple locations spread across the country or the world.

Implementing the right label management system

There is not one all-encompassing, best approach to label management. However, there are several key benefits all organizations should consider when implementing a new system. Below are some capabilities to think about.

  • Facilitate anywhere collaboration: Accommodating remote work is key to maintaining business continuity and can save organizations’ resources. With a cloud-based label management system, there is no longer a need to go on-site to update, design or troubleshoot labels because any authorized remote user will be able to quickly access a central location to change and print labels from any location.
  • Ensure agile quality assurance with standardized labeling: The right label management system should provide centrally accessible premade templates, a centralized hub to track system events and digital processes for change and approval workflows. This will not only speed processes and decrease the chance of recalls and wasted products, but it will also improve remediation by providing a detailed, searchable record of label creation, updates and printing history.
  • Automate workflows: Some workflow elements and business rules can be automated. These rules can choose which label to print for certain customers, which language applies to a region, and a host of other decisions. Automating these decisions further reduces human error and allows organizations to easily customize workflows for a certain industry, customer or localized regulation.
  • Reduce IT workloads: To ensure labeling does not overload IT with jobs like hard coding label templates or time-consuming change requests, a label management system should provide an intuitive interface that enables authorized business users or IT to swiftly design or update labels for any printer or model in minutes, without the need to code. This frees IT workloads and speeds time to market.
  • Use an easy-to-integrate labeling system: Organizations often use different types of printers and printers from different manufacturers. Therefore, a label management system should enable secure, on-demand printing with any type of printer (e.g., label printers or direct marking printers), regardless of the manufacturer.
  • Unite all label and direct marking devices on a single platform: By standardizing on a single label management system for all of their label and marking devices, companies can reduce costs, increase label accuracy and improve productivity.
  • Integrate labeling and marking devices with MES and ERP: Implementing a standardized integration with the manufacturing execution system (MES) at each production site and establishing a single source of truth enables food manufacturers to eliminate manual data entry errors, ensure correct product information such as batch and expiry dates, and remove the costs associated with reworking labels or discarding perishable products.

Don’t sit on inefficient labeling

The society should not have to compromise safety or proper labeling practices because an outdated method of label management is putting the brakes on operations. Modernizing legacy systems with a cloud-based approach is easy and can be done quickly to drastically improve speed to market, resource efficiency and quality assurance. Taking such action will enable organizations to swiftly adapt to crises, meet new regulations and, most importantly, help protect consumers with accurate labeling. This begs the question: What are organizations struggling with inefficient labeling waiting for?