Last month, we published part one of a two-part series on the top enterprise labeling trends affecting the supply chain. This month, we'll take a look at the role analytics and cloud technology play.

    Trend 3: Analytics Is Bringing Improved Visibility into Labeling Processes

    Companies today understand the value of obtaining important business metrics whenever and wherever you need them. For years now, companies have used Business Intelligence (BI) and reporting solutions with many of their enterprise applications to improve business operations. Given the mission-critical role of labeling, it’s only natural that business is expressing the growing need for advanced analytics and reporting from their enterprise labeling solution. This is especially true because labeling has a direct impact on production and supply chain investments. Our recent survey revealed that although a majority of companies don’t currently have BI for labeling, over 71% of $1B+ are interested in leveraging real-time analytics and reporting to help drive improvements to labeling solutions.

    Taking Labeling One Step Further with Interactive Analysis

    When it comes to labeling, there have traditionally been limited reporting options to assess activities and drive efficiencies. However, companies are beginning to demand the tools needed to understand and optimize their labeling environment. Successful businesses are looking to go beyond simple reporting and leverage interactive dashboards so they can drill down to get specific insights into labeling trends and activities. They are seeking real-time visibility that enables them to make better labeling decisions and allow better planning, so they can quickly adapt to changing business scenarios and become more competitive.

    Analytics Are Driving Improvements to Labeling Processes

    Visibility into labeling is enabling new levels of efficiency. When users have access to advanced analytics and real-time reporting, they are able to gain visibility into constantly changing and vital information including labels, printers, print jobs, users, and audit data. Users are looking to leverage analytics to drive improvements to labeling processes by asking questions like: Which printers are doing the most work? What labels are being printed the most? What label templates are not being used? How can I gauge the impact of my labeling efforts? Is there a more optimal way to route my print jobs? Who is making label changes? Administrators now want BI to monitor labels printed across facilities to make sure that the quantity of labels printed are in line with the expected output of a facility. They are also looking to use this insight to establish better maintenance schedules for printers and to analyze trends in label production to fine tune labeling environments.

    Audit Reporting Is Critical for Regulated Industries

    Stringent regulatory requirements include heightened demands for accuracy and auditability. This is why companies today are looking for enterprise labeling solutions with comprehensive audit reporting capabilities. This enables them to comply and, in the event of an audit, easily provide the required data. Our results show approximately 80% of $1B+ companies say it is important to have audit capabilities. This is especially meaningful for customers with validated environments that demand real-time access to a complete view of all user labeling activity and changes. Ultimately, BI enables users or auditors to have complete visibility so they can see the status of labels, workflows, print requests, configurations, and users’ actions from the process of creation to approval to publication to print. BI provides both labeling professionals and auditors the assurances that label processes are operating in accordance with key performance indicators.

    Trend 4: Cloud Technology Is Disrupting Labeling

    More than ever, businesses are embracing the cloud as a preferred deployment method for enterprise applications. Our survey showed that 45% of respondents report cloud technologies are impacting plans to deploy and maintain enterprise applications and 74% of $1B+ companies are leveraging private cloud technologies today. Not surprisingly, companies are also looking to integrate their labeling with their cloud-based enterprise applications and, in many cases, deploy their labeling solutions in the cloud. Cloud-based labeling simplifies maintenance and support, reduces cost and IT involvement, and expands global use. However, cloud-based labeling must not sacrifice the flexibility and print performance that are both essential. This demonstrates the importance of deploying enterprise labeling solutions that are built for cloud deployments, including remote printing capabilities that use native print drivers to optimize printing from the cloud.

    Cloud Deployment Offers Seamless Upgrades, Maintenance and Scaling

    Businesses today are moving more of their IT infrastructures to the cloud to focus more on their core businesses, simplify maintenance, improve total cost of ownership, and streamline their on-demand provisioning of hardware and software. Along with these benefits, cloud deployment also provides flexibility to scale, eliminates the need for extensive disaster recovery plans, and facilitates automatic software updates. It’s clear that is a growing trend with 92% of respondents reporting that three years from now they believe cloud technologies will impact their plans for deploying and maintaining enterprise applications. This dramatic move to the cloud also impacts labeling as companies look for their enterprise labeling solutions to be both built for cloud deployment and able to integrate with other cloud-based applications.

    Need for Certified Integration with Cloud-based Enterprise Applications

    The titans of the enterprise application market, including SAP, Oracle, and Infor, as well as many others, have fully embraced the cloud. Consequently, their customers are looking to determine how labeling will be addressed as they move from on-premise deployments to cloud-based deployments. These customers understand the benefit of moving their business applications to the cloud but often fail to think about how labeling processes will be affected. Not surprisingly, businesses expect to be able to print the same labels they print today, with the same printers and the same performance. The challenge for companies is to find an enterprise labeling solution that is designed and certified to integrate with applications in the cloud (like S/4HANA, Oracle SCM Cloud, or Infor CloudSuite) and to print from the cloud while meeting existing labeling requirements.

    Native Print Drivers Needed for Increased Performance

    Businesses have expectations for label printing performance based on their on-premise deployment of applications and their network of printers. Printing from cloud-based applications requires a different approach to ensure these expectations continue to be met as companies move to the cloud. Deploying an enterprise labeling solution designed for cloud printing using native drivers is essential to making these expectations a reality. By using native drivers, organizations reduce the size of their print streams delivered over the internet and dramatically increase print speed. The key here is to simplify the printing process, reduce the moving parts in the labeling solution and support a broad set of printers across locations. An enterprise labeling solution, which includes native printer drivers, reduces print streams to minimize network traffic, optimizes print performance and limits maintenance to meet high-volume print requirements.

    Trend 5: Labeling Demands More Attention

    As labeling has become vital for global operations, many more people, groups, departments, and regions are becoming involved in labeling. Each of these constituents have their own interests and requirements that must be appropriately represented on the label. For this to happen, individual departments need to collaborate across the enterprise to ensure accuracy, create efficiencies, and streamline mass label changes. More than 68% of $1B+ companies surveyed indicated that there is a significantly increasing amount of people in their organization getting involved in labeling – a 42% increase from last year’s survey. Additionally, 65% of companies also believe they will have even more people involved in labeling in the next three years. These companies understand the advantage of coordinating labeling throughout their enterprise as an increasing number of stakeholders are getting involved in the labeling process. Our recent survey showed that the most common groups involved in labeling are from IT, operations, regulatory, warehousing, supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, and sales.

    Multiple Departments Are Now Responsible for Labeling

    With the number of corporate groups and people involved in labeling growing rapidly, it’s becoming increasingly important to have different stakeholder requirements addressed and managed. Organizations are looking to empower stakeholders in the labeling process and use “layers” to segregate and manage the real estate on a label. This enables better control and consistency over the label design process by allowing different groups (e.g. regulatory, marketing, product management) to “own” and control specific layers of a label to streamline approvals and mass updates. It also helps to distribute the workload and speed up label creation. The use of layers can also improve label consistency and accuracy, while reducing the time and effort needed to manage large numbers of label templates.

    Globalization of Labeling Creates Added Involvement

    As businesses extend their reach across the global supply chain, they are looking to standardize their labeling solutions and maintain labeling consistency. As a result, a centralized approach to labeling has become more important. However, each region has its own labeling requirements and resources involved in the labeling process. As companies scale, they must consider how to efficiently deploy and maintain labeling solutions while meeting the needs of stakeholders in multiple markets and regions. Part of that challenge is to understand and address the unique requirements in each market or region. And to streamline maintenance and support enterprise-wide labeling changes, businesses must be more proactive in designating resources with corporate-wide responsibilities to coordinate labeling across supply chains and global teams.

    Regulatory and Customer Requirements Drive Labeling Involvement

    Labeling has become more complex as companies must meet critical customer and regulatory labeling requirements, while maintaining labeling consistency across multiple markets. This proliferation of customer and regulatory requirements has resulted in more stakeholders getting involved in the labeling process and recently companies have taken strides to establish a dedicated labeling function. This role offers oversight to ensure that the business is adhering to both regulatory guidelines in each international region, while meeting unique customer demands throughout the company’s global supply chain. At the same time, this global labeling function ensures that designated roles and departments are responsible for supporting corporate brand standards, while minimizing the threat of mislabeling.

    Josh Roffman is VP, Product Management, Loftware. Visit www.loftware.com for more information.

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