New technology spotlight: On-demand printing
When shipping and distribution facility decision-makers consider new investments in technology, they often overlook how significant an element printers can be in a warehouse’s technology product fleet.
Many businesses still think of printers merely as office equipment used by a third-party to centrally produce labels for pick-pack operations, goods receipts, packaging labels and delivery documents such as bills of lading or MSDS sheets, as well as invoices and inventory or financial reports.
However, an on-demand process close to the actual product or delivery fulfillment is more fitting with today’s always-on, real-time logistics environment. Customers and clients expect immediate results, transparency throughout the process and heightened security, while suppliers and distributors want to meet these needs as cost-effectively as possible. Businesses looking for a solution to meet these demands should consider investment in, and implementation of, on-demand printing in their facilities to help them achieve greater real-time control and flexibility of inventory management.
Increased speed and agility
As the industry continues to move toward real-time updates and tracking, the bulk-order business model is no longer adequate to match the speed of packaging and delivery. In addition to being much faster for warehouses to print labels on demand, bringing printing technology in-house also can help operations remain agile to accommodate last-minute changes and the most current information.
The ability to reprint materials and labels, or originate them just-in-time upon a product’s final assembly reduces the opportunity for edits to delivery addresses, new-order bundles, refreshed packaging design, and other changes to delay production and allows facilities to align document availability with delivery workflow. Relying exclusively on preprinted, outsourced materials is naïve and a potential risk for companies competing in an environment of 2-hour delivery windows, overnight shipping and real-time order tracking.
Another often overlooked benefit of on-demand printing is the document security advantage. In a 2017 survey of CIOs and IT decision-makers conducted by research intelligence firm IDC in partnership with Canon U.S.A., content security on premise was one of their top security priorities. As facilities often work with consumer personal data, intellectual property information, financial details and other sensitive data, bringing printing in-house can assist with content-protection efforts. Minimizing the number of middlemen and third parties involved is a smart strategy for companies guarding trade secrets, such as new product launches, which are increasingly vulnerable to data breaches across multiple access points. Fortunately, many of today’s leading printers offer different authentication, encryption and audit-logging features for an additional layer of access control.
Reduced waste, storage space and costs
Finally, having on-demand print capabilities closer to the actual fulfillment activities can help reduce waste of time, material and cost. There are various reasons why pre-printed labels and documentation may no longer be valid at the time of application, including damage, order changes and updated information in today’s always-on digital age. Bringing these printing services in-house eliminates the problem of prepaid materials no longer being valid for use and, as a result, facilities can better utilize space that was previously used to store bulk labels and documents. Furthermore, manufacturers can rein in expenses by reducing duplicates or multiple iterations of prints which can help reduce inventory management costs and can lead to smaller, more cost-effective facility spaces.
The advantages of on-demand production of printed documents that are business-critical to manufacturing, warehousing and supply operations are multifold, and a technology investment in this area can reap financial and operational returns almost immediately. Before making a purchase, look for a reliable brand and service partner that has a reputation for maintaining an on-demand installation and can deliver the highest possible uptime with best-in-class local support. Whether you are looking for devices to print high-definition bar codes and labels, a document printer with advanced security protocols or a multi-function machine that offers both while saving on space, the options are plentiful.