Preprinted Labels, or Print-On-Demand? How To Choose When Given The Option.

Preprinted Labels, or Print-On-Demand? How To Choose When Given The Option.

Label Printers | 6 July 2017

Posted by Lisa Sarvie

Preprinted Labels, or Print-On-Demand_ How to Choose When Given The Option

When it comes to generating barcodes, there can seem like a multitude of options and decisions that need to be made. While we’re always available to guide you through this process to ensure you get exactly what you need in terms of your identifiers, there seems to be one question in particular that gets asked more frequently than others: Should Computype print my labels, or should I do it myself on-demand? 

While there are some factors that can dictate one route over the other- which we’ll discuss here- in some cases it really can come down to personal preference and process. Below are some considerations to assist in ensuring you’re on the right label printing path.

When does it make sense to print on demand?

When variable data is a requirement of your label

In situations where lot code, expiration date, product-specific information, or other variable data is required on the label. At Computype, we typically see this in healthcare applications when the FDA has mandated specific information be documented for recall tracking purposes. Similarly, in tire manufacturing, we see labels needing to be printed and applied on-demand as the identifier also serves as a branding mechanism and contains information specific to that particular tire.

When your process requires flexibility to make changes on-the-fly

If you don’t know in advance what the information on the label or within the barcode will entail, you’ll need to print-on-demand. Similarly, if your process requires batch printing based on usage demands, it might be more feasible to manage your label printing in-house. 

When you just need ‘one more label’.preprinted-or-print-on-demand

If you receive a label set from your supplier and sometimes the process requires just one more barcode than you were provided, you can utilize a ‘Scan 1- Print-1’ printing system to scan an existing barcode and print a replica on-demand. This can be helpful in transfusion medicine processes as it relates to Donation Identification Number labels, in addition to lab workstations where aliquoting may require additional labels. 

When your volumes are manageable in-house.

If you use hundreds of thousands of sequentially numbered barcodes every day, you may be better suited to entrust the printing task to your solutions supplier. If you need hundreds of labels, or if any of the above points apply, its likely you can manage the capacity in-house. 

When does it make sense to order pre-printed labels?

When sequence management is critical.

In mission-critical applications where its crucial to receive sequentially numbered, pre-scanned and verified barcodes, its best to leave the printing needs to your trusted solutions supplier. Your supplier should also be able to manage barcode sequences for you to ensure you never receive a duplicate. Beyond that, your supplier can assist with demand planning and forecasting to ensure orders are released and shipped based on your needs. 

When quantities are high or varied.

In cases where you need hundreds of thousands, or even millions of labels, it makes sense to outsource purely due to capacity. Additionally, if your process entails a low volume but high mix of different labels, it can be easier to manage through your supplier to ensure you’re not wasting time swapping out label stock and managing multiple label formats.

When you don’t have the resources.

In many facilities, lack of space is a genuine concern. If you don’t require variable data printed on-demand, you may want to consider outsourcing your label printing needs so you don’t have to store label media or find space for a printer.  It can also make sense to receive pre-printed barcodes if you have a small staff.  While learning to operate a thermal transfer printer and produce labels isn’t challenging, it does require maintenance and oversight, which can bog down staff who would be better served spending time on value-added tasks. 


When you need variable color.

Sometimes a bit of color does just the trick to ensure at-a-glance identification, branding, or communicate product-specific information. In these cases, your supplier can provide partially pre-printed labels in which the color has been printed but the variable data stills needs adding, or if variable data isn’t required, the entire label can be provided pre-printed.  Depending on the environment your label will need to endure, it’s important to ensure the label stock and image will remain durable for the intended life of the label.

When you want to receive labels that have already been affixed to your assets.

Particularly in healthcare applications, it can make sense to receive specified labware already barcoded and ready to use. In these cases, your solutions supplier will utilize the appropriate marking or barcoding technology to apply or affix your specified barcode design directly onto containers on your behalf. A convenient service option, this can be a viable option for companies that don’t require variable data on their labels and/or require barcode placement accuracy for integration with automation.


Regardless of your workflows, it’s always important to discuss your labeling needs and goals with your trusted solutions supplier to ensure full optimization of your barcode or labeling strategy. To disucss your needs, contact Computype today and one of our dedicated Label Pros will be happy to help!

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Lisa Sarvie

Lisa Sarvie is the Director of Customer Excellence here at Computype. From St Paul, MN, she works very closely with customers to ensure a positive experience. Lisa’s team works to ensure the customer experience with Computype is consistently satisfactory. Additionally, her team manages customer accounts to ensure all needs and specifications are consistently met.