Labeling Technology Evolves – Is It Time to Upgrade?

Why Modern Print-and-Apply Labeling Technology Should Be On Your Priority List

Would you send a letter without a stamp? Of course not!

Similarly, cases and pallets that leave your facility without proper labeling will suffer the same fate as your stamp-less letter: they don’t make it through the distribution process.

Lost inventory, recalls, and the consumer demand for information are made all the more challenging when labels are not properly affixed or they are non-compliant with GS1 standards or retailer and customer requirements. Needless to say, getting labeling right is a critical step in any industrial or consumer products manufacturing operation.

If labeling issues keep cropping up in your operation, or you’re not able to scale as efficiently as you would like, this blog post is for you.

Setting the wheels of progress in motion

Manufacturers face constant pressure to increase output and lower costs. The last thing anyone needs is unreliable or under-performing labeling systems. Fortunately, print-and-apply labeling machines have advanced significantly in recent years. They now run faster and are more reliable than previous generation labelers. What’s more, they are easier to operate, far more flexible than before, and safer for operators.

As an example of how print and apply labelers have evolved, earlier labelers have as many as 11 rollers involved when changing labels and ribbons. The latest designs have just one roller involved in the same task.

With this in mind, you’ll want to take a hard look at your current labeling technology to determine if it’s time for an upgrade to a more modern solution. More often than not, you’ll realize a rapid return on investment (ROI).

Automation vs. hand labeling

Let’s take a moment to talk about hand labeling. If you are still relying on a manual approach for your products, cases, and/or pallets, you may want to rethink that strategy as volumes increase, particularly considering persistent labor shortages.

While appropriate in some situations – e.g., a small batch producer with one production line and limited distribution – for most producers, hand labeling leaves the door open for errors and costly downtime. In addition, paying workers to peel and stick a label on a box or pallet isn’t a cost-effective way to do business and doesn’t scale.

As volumes increase and you’re starting to need full-time employees dedicated to printing out and applying labels, it’s time to move to automated labelers. The payback on your investment will happen quickly while offering notable improvements in accuracy and setting you up for future growth.

Embrace new print-and-apply technology

If you have previous generation print-and-apply labeling technology in place, you might want to take a close look at its performance. Since labelers have improved so dramatically over the past few years, legacy print and apply labelers may be costing you more than you realize, impacting your overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) metrics.

Exploring these new systems and conducting informational meetings with marking and labeling suppliers can help you determine if:

  • Your current technology is costing you money through printing or placement errors, scrap products or regulatory violations
  • Slow message changeovers and/or maintenance issues are setting your organization back by hundreds of hours per year
  • The training and labor required to support and maintain obsolete technology is wasting valuable time that could be better applied elsewhere
  • You lack visibility and insight into marking and labeling performance, or you are missing key data to make continuous improvements
  • You are experiencing higher than expected maintenance costs and excessive downtime
  • Change over time to swap media rolls or change print heads and ribbons is slowing down production

Five key things to look for when purchasing labeling technology

Sooner or later when you decide to make the move to modern automated print-and-apply labeling there are a number of things to consider. Getting these factors right will go a long way toward improving your labeling efforts.


Any labeling tech you purchase should allow for maximum flexibility, in terms of size, fit on the line, and application. You want a machine that allows the operator to make adjustments on the fly, monitor those changes, and make adjustments quickly as needed. For instance, the labeler should be able to apply labels to multiple sides of boxes, cartons or pallets of various sizes – and allow you to make changes without having to bring in an external technician.


You will want to look for technology that doesn’t require safety cages or guarding and can easily fit into any existing production infrastructure with no additional safety precautions. It’s always best practice to minimize dangerous tech on the shop floor whenever possible – your lawyers will thank you.


When it comes to manufacturing tools, “simpler the better” is every plant manager’s mantra. You want the process of implementing, training staff and using any technology to be as simple as possible, and labelers are no exception. Before purchasing ask for a demo of the equipment and get a good understanding of the level of training required for operators to run the machines or swap out labels and ribbons. Moving to automated print-and-apply labeling should decrease the level of work needed, not add to it.

A print and apply label machine next to boxes.

Modern print and apply labelers such as the A-Series from Matthews feature simple designs that make it easy to change out ribbons and labels, even during a shift if needed.


You want to purchase from a credible equipment supplier that has a strong track record of success in the marking and coding industry. When making this investment you should be sure that both the machines and the company behind them are in it for the duration. Depending on your industry, you’ll also want to make sure any automated labeling solution can perform reliably under harsh conditions, such as extreme cold in a frozen food processing facility.

Integration with other systems

For the best ROI, print and apply labelers should integrate seamlessly with ERP and other back office systems. Tight integration minimizes the potential for message errors and mislabeling. Modern labelers often include cameras and sensors to validate label placement and content, which in turn can feed vital quality data back into OEE dashboards.

Take control with automation, central management

Whether you’re a small manufacturer with plans to grow or an established producer who needs a tech refresh, the opportunity is ripe to explore the latest generation of automated print-and-apply labeling technology. Modern print and apply machines allow for much greater flexibility and a simple “hands off” approach to labeling, freeing up workers for other vital needs to keep your business running.

The A-Series automated label print and apply system from Matthews Marking Systems can do all of this and more. Powered by the MPERIA platform for centralized control and integration with other enterprise systems, the A-Series provides a compact, modular design and compatibility with any label design software. Ease of installation, operation, and maintenance make the A-Series a robust – and safe – labeling option for any manufacturer. If this all sounds intriguing, we’d love to tell you more! Contact us by calling 800.775.7775 or simply fill out the form below.