by Jeffrey BRADLEY
Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Expert Insider: How the Print and Apply (P&A) labeler is helping companies adapt to current and emerging challenges

Print and Apply is at an interesting point in its development. As the biggest global solutions provider of the Print and Apply labeler, we are seeing some notable changes. These are trends that are well documented in the industry press – but what may be less obvious is that they have direct implications for P&A. For example, industry sectors such as logistics and warehousing distribution are increasingly moving towards ecommerce-related distribution. In response, we are developing Print and Apply labeler products which provide even greater capacity to companies, allowing them to keep pace with a huge consumer behavioral shift which will only continue to grow.

Another trend affecting P&A and other areas such as Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO) is that the classic production factory distribution model is now becoming increasingly automated – with manufacturers taking advantage of the operational opportunities presented by digitalization and connected working.

Digitalization has increased opportunities for label printing machine technology outside of its traditional secondary packaging space, especially given the increased requirements within the area of product traceability. Particularly within areas with a high and ever-increasing demand for traceability and authentication, such as artisan, or organic producers, the use of P&A label printing machines on primary substrates is now an attractive option, especially in terms of price, for the small-time producer, who may only need one printer for their entire primary and secondary purposes.      

As an innovation-driven organization, we thrive on evolving our solutions to adapt to the rapid changes in the marketplace, helping our customers to operate as efficiently as possible.

A recent example in industrial label printer innovation is Markem-Image’s cutting-edge AI-powered eTouch-S® applicator for the 2200 Series Print and Apply system. This development prevents labeling errors and protects products whilst operating at the highest production line speeds of over 150 packs per minute and helping to improve sustainability KPIs. The eTouch-S® removes the need for plant air for contact operations without impacting supply chain traceability or increasing the risk of retailer fines for returned cases. The eTouch-S® won an award for Innovation in Packaging Machinery, just two weeks after launch in Q4 2022.  

Print and Apply Labeler: Taking the long-term view

Driving up quality and mitigating against costly errors continues to be a key priority in many industries. P&A is helping to fulfill this need, being the only end-of-line technology that meets the Grade A GS1-128 compliant barcode standard. GS1 codes are becoming increasingly complex with the introduction of the 2D serialized barcodes and the GS1 Digital Link, which the P&A industrial label printer is well placed to mark, culminating in the eventual phase-out of 1D static barcodes.

More and more we are seeing companies take a long-term view in their investment decisions, including in print capacity. Because it provides a complete solution, the label printing machine is well suited to this more strategic approach. This is helping in a number of important ways. Due to the assured reliability and the low level of maintenance offered by our P&A range, companies benefit from the best total cost of ownership and investment payback on the market.

A key building block in the end-to-end journey

Businesses are always looking to invest to reduce downtime and drive efficiency, and this will only become an even bigger priority in the medium- to long-term, as the operating environment adds downward pressures on organizations.

We can support our customers in this goal by leveraging all the advantages of P&A in our end-to-end solution which intelligently integrates applicators, user interfaces, our CoLOS® information management system, right through to our Blue Bite offerings for direct consumer engagement. This allows our customers to capture data at every stage of the supply chain and provides the consumer with a compelling product story. The Print and Apply labeler can be a critical building block in that journey.

Solving emerging supply chain challenges with the industrial label printer

Not surprisingly, amongst the many challenges faced by our manufacturers, supply chain issues continue to be a major concern. Customers are looking to procure bigger quantities of labels and seeking to put more consumables in stock. Rather than relying on a very lean just-in-time operation, they are recognizing the value of having stock on shelves to smooth out their supply chain. In Print and Apply labeling and in other areas of the business, our customers rely on us to demonstrate that we can continue to take care of their requirements, whatever’s happening in their industry.

Market conditions are constantly changing, but through our P&A technology and broad portfolio of solutions, we’re staying firmly focused on meeting the needs of our customers.

Product Division Director Jeffrey Bradley heads up two families of products within the Markem-Imaje portfolio: Print & Apply (P&A) labelers and Thermal Transfer Overprinters (TTO). Based in Nottingham in the UK, Jeffrey is responsible for the success of the two families, covering product strategy, life cycle, development, engineering, quality, marketing, technical support, and more.
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