Pallet Labeling Requirements

Large retailers have strict pallet labeling requirements. Here’s what you need to know to meet them every time. 

  • Accurate pallet labeling is a must to avoid costly chargebacks, retailer-imposed fees and rejections. Yet it happens far too often.
  • Automated print and apply pallet labeling greatly improve labeling accuracy and enables scalability while reducing labor expenses.
  • The MPERIA A-Series labeler from Matthews offer simple operation, low operating costs, and full ERP and PLC integration.

The events of the past few years have shown the world that necessity truly is the mother of innovation, with rapid changes happening across almost every industry, including shipping and distribution. Consumers and businesses alike are dealing with the double-edged sword of expected “next day delivery” while also grappling with supply shortages and delays. Distributors are feeling similar pain points as they try to get their goods out to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. And the promise of Industry 4.0 is driving manufacturers to accelerate their digital transformation with smart factory technologies to increase agility and flexibility at every level of the production, packaging, and shipping process. 

No where are the implications of this more pronounced than when shipping finished products and goods to large retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Once you have your product ready to go, there is no room for error when it comes to packaging and labeling. The strict, yet different, requirements for pallet labels from these and other global retailers mean that any mistakes – such as incorrect information, poor label stock that doesn’t adhere properly, print contrast issues or improperly or misapplied labels – could result in costly fees, a rejection of goods, or the wrong items going to buyers. Any of these issues could have a significant impact on both your reputation and your bottom line. 

Requirements vary by retailer – are you ready to change on the fly?

For example, Walmart requires domestic suppliers to create pallet labels that have the SSCC-18 barcode (along with other recommended information, such as ship from/to addresses, department number, PO details, and number of cases on the pallet) and place them on “two adjacent sides of the pallet, preferred on the upper right corner,” ideally between layers of stretch wrap. Similarly, Amazon provides FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) label templates for pallets via their shipment creation workflow, and businesses must “affix [the] FBA pallet labels to each pallet (four per pallet, one on each side in the top center) and FBA box ID labels to each box on the pallet.” Pallet labels must be on the outside of the stretch wrap for Amazon. 

Providing the correct information and placing it according to guidelines enables better scanning and traceability and reduces any negative impact to your business. In Australia, according to Matthews Australasia, bad SSCC pallet labeling is the second highest cause of delay and rejection of goods with major retailers (behind pallet issues). It should come as no surprise that many major retailers…need to return pallets to the supplier.” 

Getting it wrong is costly

Retailers are quick to issue fees and chargebacks if carton coding doesn’t meet their requirements. Mistakes can result in rejected deliveries, delays, extra charges, and rework to get the products on store shelves – all of which eat into your bottom line and damage customer relationships. If it keeps happening, brands are likely to start looking for a replacement packaging partner.

For example, Costco conducts random performance compliance audits to confirm that packaging meets specifications. If the packaging is non-compliant, the item may not be stocked or will be subject to a 2% chargeback to reimburse the retailer’s extra operational and handling costs. Also, Costco will not bring new products into the system unless they comply with its packaging requirements.


Matthews MPERIA pallet labeling upgrade ebook featured image.

For more insights and detailed guidance, be sure to
download our Pallet Labeling eBook.

 Efficient label application is a must

Once you have the label content and location figured out, there’s still the challenge of applying the label to the pallet itself. Since machine readability is so important for traceability throughout the transportation and distribution process, problems such as label creases or wrinkles can distort barcodes, making them unreadable. Ideally, labels should be placed smoothly with no worse than a five degree angle or tilt and no protruding corners.  

Implementing each retailers’ pallet label requirements to the “T” and ensuring you have high quality label print and apply systems or industrial label printers is incredibly important. But equally as important to your overall efficiency is the ability to get labels printed and affixed to pallets quickly and accurately – and with as little human intervention as possible. This means having integration with PLC and ERP systems as well as scanners and cameras so the correct messages are printed and applied automatically for each retailer as pallets go through your system with no downtime.  

Placing the correct label on the correct pallet  

This is where Matthews Marking System’s A-Series automatic pallet labeling system comes into play, with the scalable, extensible MPERIA platform. With this platform, manufacturers can easily create the right formats for shipping to large-scale retailers like Amazon and Walmart and automate the process to create, code, verify, and change messages for pallets. The MPERIA platform also allows companies to centrally control a single or multiple print heads and labeling systems across single or multiple production lines, including vision systems, third party printers, labelers and other equipment. This ensures that the right message is put in the right place on the right pallet with much more consistency and accuracy. 

Matthews A-Series pallet labeler close up of label track. For blog post on pallet labeling, pallet labelling, pallet labeling standards.

When it comes to placing labels on pallets, the Matthews MPERIA A-Series sets the standard for ease of operation and maintenance. Featuring a tactile arm and capacity of five pallets per minute on two sides, the A-Series FlexWipe Pallet applicator offers safe, accurate, and efficient operation. The applicators include the ability to verify barcodes while labeling up to three sides of a pallet. 

The rise of supply chain automation in recent years is a fantastic example of how necessity has driven innovation, and Matthews’ A-Series automatic pallet labeling system with the MPERIA platform was designed with this in mind. Automating your pallet labeling by using a centralized, single-interface significantly reduces the amount of human and coding errors, along with eliminating the need for middleware and extensive employee training. From driving a single A-Series at your palletizing station to seamlessly integrating with your ERP, MES, or other backend business systems, the A-Series and MPERIA platform deliver the traceability your customers expect while improving production line efficiency and reducing product scrap and rework.

For more information, simply give us a call at ​​800.775.7775 or complete the contact form below.

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