Manual vs Automated Application of Vulcanised Barcode Labels to Tyres

Manual vs Automated Application of Vulcanised Barcode Labels to Tyres

Tyre, Tyre Label Automation, Tyre Labelling | 14 January 2019

Posted by Paul Burlington

Manual vs Automated Application of Vulcanised Barcode Labels to Tyres

You already know why vulcanised barcode labels are a good idea: tracking the tyre through your WIP is critical in ensuring an accurate audit trail. Without it, traceability for each unique tyre becomes extremely difficult and time consuming. So you know why you need it- but then the question becomes: ‘What is the best, most efficient way to securely apply vulcanised barcode labels to tires?’

Luckily, there are several different options, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The decision on how to best apply bead barcode labels to your tyres will likely depend on the stage during manufacturing that your process dictates origination. Bead barcodes can be applied to rubber pre or post mould. How the label is applied will also depend on variables like the structure of your manufacturing work cells, throughput, and accessibility to manual labour.

If we boil it all down, there are really two different strategies for efficient and accurate barcode label application to tyres: manual or automatic application. Both of these methods have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, so we've broken them down for you.

1. Manual Application of Barcode Labels to Tyres: 

It should come as no surprise that manual application of vulcanised barcode labels remains one of the most common methods utilised in tyre manufacturing. Typically this method consists of contracting with a label supplier who can provide you with pre-printed, sequentially numbered barcode labels, which your staff will then use to hand apply to tyres. Let’s review the advantages and limitations associated with this method of bead barcode label application:

a.) Advantages of manual bead barcode application:

  • No need to justify or invest in capital equipment dedicated to labelling

  • Unless you’re printing bead barcode labels yourself, you really don’t have a need for any labelling supplies, other than the stock of preprinted barcodes. This can save space, inventory, and budget

  • Relying on manual labour provides the flexibility to alter processes or test new methods without having to reprogram or adjust settings on equipment

b.) Limitations of manual bead barcode application:

  • Placement accuracy of the barcode label itself is not guaranteed when applying labels by hand.  If your barcodes need to be in a specific orientation or location on the rubber for later automated scanning, hand placement could potentially cause bottlenecks later

  • Consistency of throughput is not guaranteed. It takes the average human approximately 3-9 seconds to remove a barcode label from the release liner and apply to a product. While that range might not sound wide, adding or losing seconds on every tyre within an 8-hour manufacturing shift can easily add up to inconsistent productivity, making scheduling and planning difficult

  • Integration with other equipment, or planning for future workflows can also be a challenge when relying on manual labour for specific elements throughout a larger manufacturing process

  • The risk of repetitive strain injuries is real. Employing people to perform a repetitive, tedious task shift after shift- especially in the case of label application as it involves muscles in the hand and wrist- can lead to repetitive strain injuries that your organisation is then liable for.

  • The cost of errors can be monumental. If a tyre doesn’t have a unique identity that can be traced back to its origin, quality concerns quickly rise. Especially if a tyre makes its way all the way through your manufacturing process only to be rejected at the point of testing, an honest human mistake either misplacing a label or forgetting a label can cause large quality concerns and lost profitability. Simply put, without the bead barcode label, a tyre doesn’t have an identity throughout manufacturing.  

A lot of tyre manufacturing facilities are still relying on manual labour for the application of their barcode labels. While this method has its limitations, for the most part it does accomplish the task at hand.

2. Automated Application of Vulcanised Tyre Barcode Labels 

Hermes-296-x-196_TThere are many global tyre manufacturing facilities that have implemented automated barcode label applicators into their workflows for streamlined application of barcode labels to rubber. 

This method also typically relies on receiving preprinted barcode labels and loading them into the label applicator. Designed to keep pace with production, tyre barcode label applicators can be installed directly into your lines at varying stages depending on your process, and work to automatically dispense and apply the barcodes free of human intervention.

a.) Advantages of automated barcode label application:

  • Label placement accuracy is consistent, every time. There will be no wonky labels, making downstream scanning easy and efficient

  • Throughput is consistent. The consistently associated with throughput speeds makes scheduling and production planning both easier and more accurate.

  • Throughput is improved. On top of being more consistent from a planning standpoint, barcode label automation also allows for higher throughput rates that keep pace with production speeds. This eliminates bottlenecks and allows for easier ramp ups based on production volumes.

  • Reliability is improved. Relying on manual labour means that you are sometimes forced to work around the real life challenges of vacation schedules, sick time, or work-related injuries.  

  • Physical space is constant. The fewer people that have to physically move around at any point of a manufacturing process typically equates to fewer accidents and safety concerns. Beyond that, the amount of space a label applicator accounts for is a constant element, also making for easier planning when designing or upgrading a workflow.

  • Barcode label applicators are flexible in that they can be installed directly into your workflow, making for an easily adaptable solution for your already-functioning production lines.

b.) Limitations of automated barcode label application:

  • Initial investment of barcode label application equipment is necessary. While automatic barcode label applicators tend to be economically feasible and do prove fast ROI, there is the initial capital justification and investment that needs to occur prior to purchase.

  • While a good solutions provider will offer service and maintenance contracts, the need for machinery upkeep does exist with the investment of capital equipment like label applicators. While typically fairly simple to care for and manage, there should be someone on staff who has a basic understanding of how to care for and repair equipment, in the rare instance of an unexpected issue.

  • Generally speaking, most suppliers require that vulcanised barcode labels and equipment come from a single source.  While not necessarily a drawback, it is a consideration when determining who will supply your automated barcode labelling systems. Be sure that the same provider also has depth in their ability to supply sequentially numbered barcode labels that will withstand your process.

Not ready to fully invest in automatic label applicators, but interested in learning how to improve the manual barcode label application process? There are label dispensers for that!

Label dispensers aren’t technically ‘automation’, as they don’t replace the manual task of actually applying the label to the rubber. What they do help with, is the facilitation of peeling the label from its release liner, which can be the trickiest part of manual label application.  

A label dispenser takes pre-printed barcode labels, peels the label from the release liner and presents the label to the operator, ready to simply grab and place. This ‘middle of the road’ solution can remove seconds of time associated with the labelling of each and every tyre. Responsible for rewinding the liner, label dispensers also keep the work cell tidy and free of waste. Dispensers are a low cost means of improving upon a manual bead barcode label application strategy.


Choosing the best barcode label application method to suit your process is a decision that shouldn’t be made without first considering the bigger manufacturing picture. Barcode labels are critical in ensuring each tyre maintains an identity throughout manufacturing, making the application process equally as important. If you’re experiencing challenges in tracking tyres throughout the process, or are considering upgrading your existing barcoding strategy, know that there a lot of options, each of which should be weighed against your challenges and goals.  

To learn more about partnering to design a bead label applicator for your process, check out our page

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Paul Burlington

Paul Burlington is Computype’s Director of Business Development. Having worked directly with our customers for over 30 years, he has a deep understanding of the needs and challenges our customers face—specifically those working in industrial environments. Paul is our go-to-guy for all things tyre and rubber belt related, whether that means product ideas or efficiency boosting advice. Outside of work he enjoys spending time in the great outdoors.