6 Great Solutions to Manufacturing Labeling Problems

Labeling products, components, and other parts of the manufacturing process seems like a pretty simple proposition. But if you’ve ever dealt with UL certification, UDI, labeling small components and parts, or trying to track work in process and track manufacturing assets and tooling in bins or totes, you’ve probably experienced some of the challenges and headaches.

Things aren’t so simple when you’re dealing with specialized labeling requirements like these, and there are some common problems you can end up encountering.

In this article, we take a look at some of those common specialized labeling problems and 6 great solutions from Zebra Technologies to make your tracking and identification a lot easier and more reliable.

  1. Electronic, UL Certified and Small Component Product Labeling

When you need to label and identify electronic and UL certified products, including very small components, some common problems occur, especially when labels and printer ribbons aren’t matched correctly, and if you’re not using proper label materials for durability and readability.

Printed barcodes or other information on labels can end up becoming unreadable or unscannable due to abrasion, fading from environment conditions, or rubbing off as a result of the label and printer ribbon being incompatible.

This is why Zebra created its thermal transfer Z-Ultimate 2000T gloss polyester labels with matching 5095 wax/resin ribbon. Zebra matches the label and ribbon and pre-tests them to ensure readability when subjected to abrasion and most moderate-strength chemicals. The labels are certified to meet the UL 969 Labeling Standard as well, and Zebra is authorized to pre-print the UL mark.

  1. UDI Product Identification for Medical Devices

In medical device manufacturing, UDI is crucial since it ensures compliant identification and tracking for every labeled device. But many labels fail in UDI applications because they’re not resistant to multiple sterilization cycles, and they don’t withstand cleaning agents used to disinfect medical devices.

To ensure that labels remain scannable and identifiable despite these factors, Zebra recommends using the same Z-Ultimate 2000T gloss polyester label and 5095 wax/resin ribbon that it produces for UL and small component labeling.

The label and ribbon are matched and pre-tested to ensure smear/scratch resistance and withstand exposure to steam autoclave, gamma radiation and ethylene oxide sterilization. Print remains readable and scannable after being wiped down with common hospital cleaning agents for the product’s useful life, and Zebra’s labels are approved for UL969 and UL-IEC 60601-1 use.

  1. Automotive Component Labeling

Automotive component labeling is increasingly important, especially to suppliers who must be compliant with manufacturers’ traceability requirements. But labeling components that feature curved surfaces, such as a wire harness, can be difficult. Labels can fall off prior to components being delivered to the manufacturer, or printed barcodes and information can fade after exposure to chemicals once products are in use in vehicles.

To label small, curved components and ensure adhesion and print durability, our team at Tri-State Business Systems recommends Zebra’s thermal transfer PolyPro 300T gloss polypropylene labels with Zebra’s 5095 wax/resin ribbon.

PolyPro 3000T labels are pre-tested on actual surfaces to ensure the label will stay readable and adhered during a component’s complete life cycle. They stay adhered to most small, curved surfaces, and print on these labels is highly durable when subjected to engine oil, diesel fuel, anti-freeze, cleaning solvents and grease.

  1. RFID Tote Bin Labeling

RFID tags and labels are becoming an increasingly popular and cost-effective way to identify and track parts in tote bins without having to manually scan or have line-of-sight access to barcodes. But there are a few challenges that come along with this innovative new approach.

Certain RFID label inlays can’t encode a large amount of information, and some tags have encoding issues where there are too many voids. In some applications, manufacturers have problems with being unable to read their RFID tags at any angle, or being unable to read them due to densely packed items.

Zebra’s ZBR4001 inlays put an end to these troubles. The ZBR4001 is a high-memory inlay that enables encoding of a larger amount of information, and it’s optimized to be read from nearly any angle. It also performs well when placed on or near challenging materials such as pallets or freight, and it works great with densely packed items.

ZBR4001 inlays are pre-tested with Zebra’s RFID readers and printers to ensure high-performance, and Zebra follows an ISO:9001 quality procedure to ensure correct placement of inlays to reduce encoding issues.

  1. RFID Tooling and Asset Tracking

Identifying tooling in crates and bins is a great way to keep track of manufacturing tooling and make sure it’s available when needed for key production processes. But, similar to tote labeling, there are often problems with trying to use RFID to identify and track tooling due to encoding issues, limitations to RFID reading angles, and an inability to read RFID tags when items are packed densely.

For these applications, our RFID experts at Tri-State recommend Zebra’s ZBR4000 inlays. They have ultra-high sensitivity with read ranges up to 65 feet (20 meters) in free space. But they also perform well when items are densely packed or you’re reading RFID tags on challenging assets.

The ZBR4000 inlay is designed in conjunction with NXP, a leading RFID chip developer, and is certified by the University of Auburn’s ARC Program. It’s also optimized to be read from nearly any angle and pre-tested with Zebra RFID readers and printers for maximum performance.

And, like Zebra’s ZBR4001 inlay, it’s produced with an ISO:9001 manufacturing quality process to ensure correct inlay placement and minimize encoding issues.

  1. Work in Process Tagging

Many manufacturers and suppliers are looking to get better at work in process tracking, so they can have real-time or near-real-time visibility into their production. But many don’t have a means to track products through their production processes, so it’s hard to get that visibility and identify bottlenecks.

Barcodes are a great way to automate this process, but there needs to be a way to use and scan them throughout the entire manufacturing process, and it needs to be relatively inexpensive. This is why Zebra developed its thermal transfer Z-Perform 1000T tags with 6000 wax ribbon.

The Z-Perform 1000T is an economical paper tag with wax ribbon, providing durable barcodes and print that can be scanned throughout production without the higher cost of using a specialized label designed to last for many years.

Like all other Zebra labeling and print supply products, it’s pre-tested and produced with stringent quality controls, so you get the best quality and results in a cost-effective solution.

Learn More About Zebra Manufacturing Labeling Solutions

Looking to explore some of these solutions for your production processes? Have questions or need guidance on how to find the right solution for your application?

Contact Tri-State Business Systems now to learn more about our complete portfolio of Zebra barcode labeling solutions and get expert advice to find the right match for your business needs.