To say that the supply chain has been a rollercoaster the past few years is an understatement. First, manufacturers experienced shortages and unprecedented lead times. Next came inflated material prices that have strained the budgets of both OEMs and consumers.
Thankfully, the supply chain has shown signs of stabilizing in recent months. But don’t get too comfortable because you never know when the next twist or turn will appear.
That’s why companies are taking matters into their own hands by seeking innovative strategies for managing their supply chain and ensuring operational continuity. One approach quickly gaining popularity is implementing smart labels to track real-time data, optimize distribution, and lower costs.
What are smart labels?
Smart labels are a broad category that includes any label offering functionality beyond printed information. Often, smart labels can store or transmit data using technologies such as quick response (QR) codes, bar codes with variable data printing, and radio frequency identification (RFID).
Thanks to the advancement of hybrid flexible electronics, smart labels have become more compact and powerful than ever. With printed electronics that eliminate some or all rigid components, smart labels can be designed to capture a wide range of information, including location, product condition, temperature, and more.
Ways smart labels improve the supply chain
Just about every type of product is getting “smarter” these days. Adding functionality and connectivity to labels can help OEMs improve their supply chain management in several ways.
Real-time visibility – Smart labels provide complete visibility into the supply chain, enabling immediate identification of bottlenecks or interruptions.
Improved traceability and inventory management – By providing real-time data on the location and status of goods, smart labels significantly enhance inventory management, preventing overstocking or understocking.
Quality and safety validation – For sensitive materials and components, smart labels can verify that items arrive in good condition. For example, temperature and humidity can be monitored during distribution.
Anti-counterfeiting – Disruptions in the supply chain have led to an increase in counterfeit materials and products. Smart labels protect both OEMs and consumers with unique digital identifiers to ensure product authenticity.
Sustainability – Every manufacturer is seeking ways to improve sustainability, whether to meet industry requirements or customer demands. By providing accurate data about the product lifecycle, smart labels can help optimize resource utilization, reduce waste, and lower the environmental impact of the supply chain.
Enable enterprise labeling – Smart labels can eliminate manual and antiquated processes, allowing companies to realize the benefits of enterprise labeling. By integrating label data throughout an organization and leveraging automation technology, enterprise data can streamline processes, prevent delays, reduce errors, and further improve supply chain visibility.
Choosing a printed electronics partner for smart labels
It’s abundantly clear that smart labels can simplify and improve your supply chain management. But producing smart labels also introduces new complexities, which is why it’s a good idea to bring in a manufacturing partner early in the development process.
At Tapecon, we have extensive experience with the technologies and processes used to manufacture smart labels, including variable data printing and printed electronics. Our team can provide design and material selection, consulting to ensure your smart label is manufacturing-ready and help you navigate any regulatory or compliance challenges relevant to your industry. We also offer a full range of converting capabilities, including roll-to-roll equipment for high-volume production.
Let’s make something great
With over 100 years of manufacturing experience, Tapecon works with product teams to solve challenges, create products, and enhance lives. Learn more about our flexible printed electronics applications.