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Clean Labels from A Packaging Facilitys Viewpoint

<p>Five tips to decrease the risk of having labels slow production, increase efficiency and decrease the cost per unit.</p>

Consumers in today’s market are putting growing demands on supplement brands to provide clean labels. In an effort to enhance the quality and consumer appeal for clean labels, a brand may find itself in the midst of a label change. Here is wonderful opportunity to also “clean" the label from the production line point of view. Often, production rates can be increased by creating a graphically clean label. A company will already be incurring plate charges, die line fees and graphic art design costs; why not include some cost saving elements into the re-design to off-set the cost?

A brand owner may be surprised to learn how a poorly designed label can slow down a production line. Poor design could potentially be the cause of a line shutdown, delaying the production process for several minutes, possibly even hours. Any time a production line is shut down, it costs money and decreases efficiency. This is true whether production lines are run and maintained in house or outsourced. When a production line must slow or shut down, the lack of efficiencies translate into a measurable expense. This expense will decrease the profit margin.

What if incorporating a few simple graphic changes could eliminate many of these label issues? Here are five simple ways to decrease the risk of having label graphics “shut you down," increase efficiency and decrease the cost per unit.

Tip 1: Eliminate Horizontal Lines that Run the Entire Width of a Label

Whenever possible, avoid decorative boarders or horizontal lines on pressure-sensitive labels. This is especially important if the label either overlaps or has a small gap; the slightest shift while the label is adhering to your container can appear much worse than it actually is. To a production line team member, this graphic will make the label appear crooked and will be classified as unacceptable. This can result in the label being pulled off, the entire product being scrapped or a production line shut down. All of these results are costly, so eliminate those border lines.

Tip 2: Prevent the Smile and Frown

If the label is a shrink sleeve and the packaging is a bottle or other curved component, try not to place important eye catching logos near the very top and/or bottom. When a shrink label forms around tapered or curved areas of the packaging components, the artwork in these areas will take on the same shape. The “warped" label will appear to have a smile at the top and/or a frown at the bottom. Shutting down a production line to adjust the heating elements will not fix the problem. By shifting this artwork below the shoulder or curved areas of the bottle, you can prevent this costly issue from happening. Keep the graphics on the top and bottom of the label simple.

Tip 3: Leave Appropriate Space for Lot Coding and Expiration Dating

Label space is valuable, and many brand owners try to use every possible inch of it for copy. Unfortunately, that can make it difficult for a production line operator to have ample space left for lot coding and expiration dating. For maximum efficiency, try leaving the buffer space when setting up the alignment. The code(s) should not overlap copy or be cut off by other graphics on the label. If production line operators cannot read the lot code, the label will be scrapped, and the production line will be shut down to make adjustments. So it is best to provide adequate space for the coding and save those labels.

Tip 4: Give Tube Labels Room to Shift

Tube fillers depend on accurate alignment of the eye mark in order to crimp labeled tubes properly. The eye mark, even if placed properly can become misaligned. This causes the crimp to be offset and the tube label may look off center—grounds for scrapping the entire tube. To help reduce the amount of scrap for labeled tubes, the graphic designer should widen the parameters of the front panel artwork. Allow at least a one-fourth inch shift from left to right so the “visual appearance" will be within specification even when the eye mark laser is slightly off.

Tip 5: Chat with the Production Team

The best ideas for improving the label application process come directly from the team members responsible for applying them. Spend some time on the production line floor and ask the team if they can suggest changes that would make their job easier and/or more efficient. As basic as it sounds, this valuable resource is often unused.

If an art change for labels is on your horizon, make the most of the opportunity. Try incorporating some of these helpful tips to assist in making the production line run smoother, and decrease the high cost of label scrap. A company can have a cleaner looking label and save money in the process.

For more information on best practices and manufacturing considerations, check out INSIDER’s Contract Manufacturing Content Library.

Kimberly Daly is responsible for business development and account management at PJ Noyes ( She is a graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in business administration.

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