Most organizations use one or a small handful of label designs to print labels for hundreds and sometimes thousands of different products. The consistency in label design makes reading the labels easier and projects a professional image for the company. It also makes label maintenance and customer / government compliance easier.
At the same time, however, it makes it easier for print users to get labels from different products confused. Larger operations, with several jobs running at once, that pre-print labels before starting the job can be particularly vulnerable. Printing a special "Start" and "End" label before and after each print job can be an effective strategy to reduce mixups and thus mislabels.
Why Does Printing 'Start' and 'End' Labels Help?
Printing a 'Start' and 'End' label before and after each print job helps print users to:
Keep Similar Print Jobs Separate
Often printers are networked and shared throughout the enterprise. When more than one user sends a print job to the printer at the same time, the printer interface queues the print jobs. When one job ends, the printer immediately starts the next print job. In many cases, a print user is not aware when another print job is printing. When they arrive at the printer to pickup their print job, they may assume all labels belong to them.
Looking for the Start Label - If trained to look for a 'Start Label', they can learn the habit of double checking the first label. If missing, someone else took the start of their print job or they are looking at the tail end of someone else's print job. In both situations, the missing 'Start Label' is the flag that causes the print user to investigate further.
Looking for the End Label - Similarly, if the print user gets in the habit of looking for the 'End Label' before taking the print job, they can instantly identify other problems that may not be so easy to see otherwise. A missing 'End Label' can alert the print user that the print job is not complete. Perhaps the printer ran out of labels and the remaining labels are still in the printer memory. It might also indicate that someone else accidentally took part of their print job. This gives them the opportunity to find those missing labels immediately before those labels travel too far away and possibly get applied to the wrong products.
Comparing Smart and End Labels - Further, if the Start and End labels both contain critical and unique information about the label (e.g. job number, user ID, time printed, etc.), the print user can compare the two to make sure they both match. For long print jobs that may require several changes of label rolls in the printer, this can be an effective way of keeping parts of different but similar print jobs from getting mixed up.
Easily Identify THEIR Print Job
Most industrial labeling software applications will allow label designer to create label templates with customizable Start and End labels. On those labels, information specific to the person, job, printer, etc. can be printed and used by the print user to identify which job THEY printed from jobs printed by other print users.
For example, the Start and End label could be created to print the user's name and job number. When they go to the printer to pick up their label job, they can immediately look for their name. When they see it, they can then check the job number to match it to the correct work order.
Using the Start and End Labels
To create the Start and End labels, the labeling software needs to support the feature. Some software applications call this feature 'Layers' (e.g. CODESOFT) and allow the user to create the Start and End label as layers of the print job that sandwich the print job. Others see the Start and End label as different labels and therefore refer to it as a 'Batching' feature (BarTender) to pull them together at print time.
After making sure your software supports Start and End label printing, you can design your Start and End label designs. Smart design can allow you to leverage this feature. The Start and End labels should, if possible, include key information about the print job, the user that printed it, and a date and time stamp. If using both Start and End labels, use similar data points on both to allow the print user to match them as a way to verify the start AND end of the same print job.
Once the Start and End label design is complete, you can typically save them to your label design template. This makes it so all users who print can automatically get the Start and End labels for every print job regardless if they remembered it or not.
Good label system design creates an environment that prevents errors. A common problem, especially when labels are pre-printed before products are made, is making sure the product gets the correct label. Designing a Start and End label into your label design files can help prevent this error. To take advantage of this feature, study your labeling system carefully and consult with a labeling system integration expert.