Use Formulas to Prevent Faulty Labels from Printing. Reducing Errors Series – Article #4

Summary

Is your label design smart enough to know that a user entered Use by Date needs to be at least 1 year or more after the Manufacture Date?Depending on what software application you use, you may be able to train it!  Some industrial labeling applications have the ability to use formulas built into the label design (e.g. UsebyDate > ManfactureDate) and then use those equations to warn the user and/or stop the label from printing.

Why Use Formulas?

Using label software features and techniques like Input MasksClearing Variables and Validating Dates, can help eliminate many typos.  Generally these errors occur when the user entered (or failed to enter) something other than what was intended.  However, sometimes the error is a logical one.  The value entered by the user is what they intended but, what they intended does not make sense in the context of that particular label.

For example, a prescription label will have a Drug Expiration date.  Taking the medication after that date, might have serious consequences to the patient and perhaps legal consequences for the manufacturer. In some operations, that date must be entered by a person based on a work order or job order.  In those cases, it is entirely possible for the print user of the software to enter a valid but yet incorrect date.

Let's say the company has a 'freshness guarantee' promise to their customers to never ship out anything with less than three month expiration date from the time of shipment.  So an expiration date entered by the print user just before shipment, may be a valid date.  It may even be a valid expiration date.  However, being a valid date and valid expiration does not mean they are meeting the freshness guarantee.  Using a formula to take the date entered by the user at print time and comparing it to three months past the current date pulled from the computer system clock can tell us that this product should not be shipped.

Using a Formula to Stop an Invalid Label

If your labeling software supports this feature, you can use that formula to stop the user from printing a label and/or send a warning message from within the software. Typically this involves some creativity on the part of the label designer.  However, most industrial labeling software has the flexibility to do what you need if you know where to look.

Generally the feature will require that you first build and test your logical formula.  The formula typically will reference human input variables, data from a database, data pulled from the computer (e.g. system clock, computer name, etc.), and sometimes from other formulas.  You will want to test this formula extensively to make sure it behaves as you expect in different possible situations or use cases.

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An example of how to use CODESOFT by TEKLYNX to validate label prints using formula can be found in the EBI Knowledge Base: Use Control Variable @validforprint to Prevent CODESOFT from Printing Labels – CODESOFT Instructional Article

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