You’re probably already using a barcode strategy to track specimens, samples or research throughout your processes, and understand the value barcode labels offer when it comes to tracking and identification. But are you leveraging your labeling strategy to take advantage of all benefits and ROI opportunities?
There are several ways you can add value to your processes through labeling. Whether it’s a different application strategy or an additional ID option, you can level up your efficiency by rethinking your labeling strategy. Let’s take a look at a few ideas:
1. Consider moving beyond manual labeling so you can spend more time on what matters to you
When employees are manually applying labels, not only is there a risk of misidentification, but efficiencies aren’t nearly as optimized as they could be. Making sure processes are running as efficiently as possible is especially important to prepare for (or in response to) growth needs.
If your lab is currently hand-labeling and noticing efficiencies could use a boost—or expects to see future growth, it might be time to look into a new labeling method. Automation and outsourcing are two options to consider:
Labware Label Automation
Automatic barcode label application typically applies labels at speeds greater than double that of manual and precisely applies to a consistent location time after time. Precise label placement improves the scannability of your barcodes, especially if automated equipment is involved downstream.
Beyond that, Automatic label applicators can often be integrated right into an existing workflow, reducing the need for manual labor and freeing up operators for more value-added duties.
If you don’t have a requirement for on-demand data and simply need each sample or container to have a unique identity you could consider outsourcing your labeling activities to a trusted supplier.
Outsourcing is an efficient way to accomplish your barcoding tasks ahead of time and ensure the identifier will remain intact and scannable for the life of the asset. Furthermore, you can free up valuable space that would have otherwise been dedicated to labeling in addition to time and resources when your assets/containers arrive pre-barcoded and ready for use.
2. Consider a marking technology that isn’t a label to avoid reapplication and waste
If you choose to upgrade your labeling method to an outsourcing program there are a number of benefits you can’t access anywhere else. One of these being specialized marking technologies that offer increased durability compared to traditional pressure sensitive labels. At Computype, we are familiar with and offer two of these marking technologies: direct mark and ceramic.
Direct mark is a print technology that places the desired marking directly onto the item itself. Some suppliers and outsourcing partners use a laser etching method to achieve direct marked labware, while others (including Computype) use special inks and a curing process to offer a colorful and durable mark.
Since the mark is applied directly to the container rather than being held on by an adhesive, it offers greatly increased durability compared to pressure sensitive labels. Although there are pressure sensitive labels engineered to withstand extreme conditions, they are not a permanent solution. The increased permanence of direct mark makes it a great match for testing that requires harsh conditions and/or extended storage periods.
Depending on which direct mark method your supplier uses, color may also be an option. Ink-based direct mark offers high-resolution color printing options making it a great fit when branding is desired, even on small container sizes.
Even more durable than direct mark is the ceramic marking method, however its applications can be somewhat limited.
Ceramic labels are printed on then applied to the surface of a glass container before being fired in a kiln. In the kiln, the ceramic label fuses to the glass surface of the container creating a mark that will survive just as long as the container itself.
Since ceramic labels can only be applied to glass containers they aren’t typically a great fit for cryogenic storage, however, they do hold a consistent tare weight through their lifespan making them a great fit for situations where weight is critical.
3. Consider adding color to your labels for at-a-glance recognition
Adding color is an easy way to insert a human-readable system of checks and balances into your strategy, or provide opportunities for brand awareness that weren’t available before.
We typically recommend adding color to a labeling strategy in one of the following situations: your sample collection is growing, your processes are complicated or your samples are being handled by people outside of your facility—you may even be in a combination of those situations.
Color can be especially helpful for organization in situations where large numbers of samples are being stored, or samples are passed through long workflow chains. Adding colored labels, or colored icons to labels in these situations can help employees identify whether the right samples are in the right place at the right time, at a glance.
In situations where sample containers are handled by outside facilities or customers themselves, brand representation can serve several purposes. To start, a crisp brand image gives an impression of trustworthiness and professionalism—important impressions to make. Additionally, the visual representation of your brand and associated colors allow for simplified tracking and recognition of the containers.
4. Consider additional technologies (RFID) to future proof your processes and reduce effort when scanning
While you may already be relying on a linear barcode, automated systems &/or tight space constraints sometimes dictate the need for a corresponding 2D code in a secondary location. To take things even further, some organizations are future-proofing their identification strategies through the utilization of hybrid RFID-barcodes. This combined strategy enables organizations to continue to use existing infrastructure utilizing barcode technology, while at the same time realize the benefits of RFID technology.
Adopting RFID in terms of a hybrid means less disruption to workflows while the technology is learned and integrated. In the long run, adding a secondary label, or hybrid label ensures a future-proofed system that will result in fewer errors, more accurate data output, and improved efficiencies.
If your facility is looking to improve efficiencies consider the above solutions. No single solution is going to work for everyone, so think about which option, or combination of options is best suited to meet your needs. Many facilities benefit from a combined strategy that caters to multiple opportunities for improvement, while others might find a boost in a single area to be effective enough.
Either way, consider your current practices and start looking for opportunities to boost efficiencies in your labeling strategy today!