Here at Computype, one of the most frequent questions prospective customers ask us is, "What exactly IS an automatic label applicator and what does it do?"
The simplicity of our answer may surprise you. In their basic form, automatic label applicators do exactly that: they automatically apply labels to your tires, vials, circuit boards, or whatever other assets you need labeled.
They can greatly reduce, or even replace the manual task of labeling. However, determining what kind of applicator makes sense for you given your goals, processes, and business may not be so simple.
In order to help gauge what kind of label applicator system is best for you, here are some points to consider:
How are you applying labels today?
Assuming you're using barcodes or labels already and are looking to explore options for improving the process, we should first consider what your method is today.
Whether you have a dedicated resource for applying labels, or it's the task of many people throughout a process, it's important to understand how you're accomplishing this task now, and what kinds of challenges you're having.
Knowing how your current process works will help in determining feasibility in shifting to an automated process.
How many labels are we talking here?
As you can imagine, the need to apply a few hundred labels per day vs. the need to apply a few thousand or even hundreds of thousands will lead to a much different kind of applicator solution.
There are basic, inexpensive automatic label applicators like the Cab A+`1000 that can sit solitarily on a benchtop and require little planning or commissioning; these are great if the volume aligns.
On the other end of the spectrum are systems that can be integrated into larger workflows and apply thousands of labels per day. Computype recently launched Chromaffix, an automatic tread label applicator that integrates straight into tire manufacturing lines. An automation system like this is capable of applying a label every 2 seconds to keep pace with the high throughput needs of tire manufacturing.
Similarly, the shape of the asset we're applying the label to can make a big difference as some systems are specialized for application to cylindrical or flat objects. A good starting point when researching label automation is to determine your label volume.
What are you hoping to accomplish with label automation?
More specifically, why are you considering automating the labeling process? A few reasons our customers are typically looking to do this include the following:
- Reduce manual labor
- Improve label placement accuracy
- Reduce errors associated with labeling
- Integrate the labeling process with existing lines or workflows
Understanding your goals will help in determining what kind of label applicator makes the most sense for you.
Do you need a system to both print and apply labels?
Some automatic label applicator systems will automatically print labels, and then apply them. Other systems, like the PL100i, are designed to apply an already printed label or die cut part. If your labeling strategy requires variable data (date, lot code, product-specific information, etc.), we'll need to consider a system that, at a minimum, prints information on demand before automatic application. If your labeling strategy requires the use of color – let's say to include your logo- we'll need to be sure we take that into consideration as well as not all label applicators have the ability to print in color.
What is your budget?
Based on everything we've discussed above, it should come as no surprise that the investment in an automatic label applicator system can vary based on things like throughput needs and connectivity requirements.
Typically, automated label applicator systems can range anywhere from $20,000 - $200,000. When considering business justification for a label applicator system, it's helpful to think through opportunity costs; what is the expense if a labeling mistake occurs, or if an asset doesn't get labeled at all?
In applications where precision and accuracy of the label are of the upmost importance, the business justification is often easier. Check out our basic justification formula for some ideas to help determine if label automation can be attained within your budget.
Simply put, automatic label applicators can greatly reduce or even fully replace the manual task of labeling. Determining which kind of system is right for you will depend on multiple factors associated with your goals, process, industry, and label volume. To continue your research, have a read through our whitepaper 'Is automatic label automation right for you? 4 key questions you must ask'.
Here at Computype, we've been helping customers improve their labeling processes with label automation for over 40 years. Our Global Services Team and Equipment Engineers are experts in helping you determine which applicator makes the most for your business, budget, and future goals.