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  Cloud-based labelling - Helping sustain business continuity in challenging times

30  April  2020

  by Ken Moir, VP, NiceLabel

“In the current COVID-19 climate, having a business continuity plan in place to successfully navigate times of disruption is a key requirement for any organisation. To support this need, businesses are increasingly moving systems and processes to the cloud. Cloud-based systems enable critical data to be made available on demand and accessible from any location. More specifically, cloud-based label management systems allow organisations to adjust and print labels remotely and ensure supply keeps moving through the warehouse without delays.

Why Labelling Matters

Labelling is core to the operation of many organisations today. For many businesses, it is a key process that is widely used internally and externally, across many organisations. From streamlining logistics and distribution, to helping manage production, labelling is an essential process, but it can also be a challenging task, especially in legacy environments.

There are multiple issues to consider; the hardware involved, ability to design labels, maintaining accuracy of information, and making the correct labels available to the right departments. Accuracy, for example, is key for organisations working in regulated environments such as pharmaceuticals or medical device manufacturing. On the other hand, businesses with international offices and distribution centres may find it challenging to cost-effectively design and deploy labels in different languages for different regions.

Such issues can be common in an ‘on-premise only’ environment – and at a times of crisis when systems and processes are under great strain, these issues have the potential to disrupt workflows and business continuity as a whole.

One of the biggest challenges today is that legacy labelling processes are still wedded to on-site and manual based processes and that potentially can make them a risk to business operations. Many businesses are running multiple systems, across multiple departments that do not necessarily work together. If a label needs to be changed, or designed from scratch, many times already over-stretched IT teams need to do it, an even greater issue in the current crisis with some staff likely to be off work.

As a result, the necessary work may not be done quickly enough which can hinder the rest of the process. Even before the crisis, it wasn’t unusual for manufacturers to complain that getting a label changed would require many weeks’ wait for the IT department to do it and would incur payments for each change to be made. This means important business opportunities may be lost and in certain circumstances the very future of the business itself could be put in jeopardy.

Keeping labelling workflows moving

Moving labelling to the cloud eliminates many of the problems with traditional legacy methods. The result is reduced risk to the smooth running of the operation. Adopting a cloud approach means there is no additional specialised (and expensive) IT infrastructure needed and there is therefore no need to spend money maintaining it. As a result, businesses of all sizes — not just business with IT departments — can afford label management systems and benefit from the productivity gains.

The advantages of digitalising the labelling process do not stop at cost and ease-of-use. There are wider benefits, especially when it comes to the accuracy of labelling information. A digital approach to quality assurance of labelling effectively removes the human element from the process which also takes away risk and cost. It is also easier to secure the process and provides an added measure of traceability. Firstly, only people with the right access can amend data or change the label templates. Secondly, digitalising the label management system provides users with an extensive audit trail, which details which changes have been made, who they were made by, when labels were printed and what was printed. This traceability is vital for meeting compliance requirements for regulated industries such as food and beverage and life sciences.

Building on quality assurance, a cloud-based label management system enables businesses to centralise the label management processes and be able to store, change and approve all labels in a central, digital location. This ensures that everyone can access the right, most up-to-date label templates wherever they may be located across the business or across the country. This also applies to global operations, making information available to suppliers, partners or affiliates, if needed. This remote access is a key benefit of cloud-based labelling at all times, but especially during the current lockdown where getting IT engineers or maintenance staff out to specific locations may be highly challenging. It is yet another example where labelling in the cloud can help support business continuity.

Cloud-based labelling is all about centralising and standardizing processes and making them more efficient. In that sense it can go beyond business continuity to positively drive business success. A cloud-based solution negates the problems associated with wrong label versions or multiple template formats. And as changes and printing are tracked across the whole supply chain, compliance can be assured. This means less time spent managing inventory and more time ensuring that end products are being manufactured and sent out to the customers where they are needed.

In the current COVID-19 era, keeping business processes running is more challenging than ever for many organisations. If they rely on labelling processes, they must ensure these are a driver of agility rather than a block on growth. The latest cloud-based systems can help ensure labelling is a positive asset to organisations, helping to guarantee business continuity and long-term business health.”

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