Labeling best practices: use variable data to populate your label

August 13, 2019

Label System Management

By Peter Hernandez, BarTender® enterprise sales engineer

You’re managing too many label files

One of the strengths of enterprise label software is that it can connect label files to data sources and then use business logic to print the right variable data on the right label at the right time.

Many companies use only the design component of their labeling software, though, so when they need to create a new label, they open an existing label file, substitute the appropriate data, and then save the result as a new label file.

This leads to exponential growth in data storage, along with associated costs and security problems. For companies that create a different label for each SKU, shelf tag or shipping address, the result is an ever-growing — and ultimately unmanageable — library of thousands of static label designs and formats.

This approach also builds complexities and waste into the system by needlessly duplicating data, making it impossible to implement a single-source-of-truth data strategy. When data changes, every individual label that includes that data has to be located, opened, updated and saved.

Best practice: Connect to trusted data sources

Rather than storing static data in each label file and managing one label format for each SKU, shipping address or production date, design each of your labels with variable data fields that link to your existing sources. The data can come from virtually any data source — ERP systems (such as SAP or Oracle), local spreadsheets and text files, system calendars or clocks, image databases or even weighing scales. The enterprise label software will automatically insert the correct information into the label fields at print time based on your own business rules.

Best practice: Use layers and conditional printing, powered by business rules

If your enterprise labeling software includes layers, you can use them to hold different kinds of information and variable data, and then hide or display each layer based on user-defined conditions when a label is printed. By using design layers and conditional printing of data thoughtfully, you can dramatically reduce the number of label files you need to create and manage.

For example, one chemical manufacturer needed its hazard labeling to comply with the regulations of eight different countries. Instead of building and maintaining eight individual label formats, they built a single format in which each country’s data fields and layout were stored on a separate layer. At print time, a rule in the label populated the fields on the appropriate layer and printed only that layer.

Use conditional printing to create multiple labels from a single label design, and reduce the number of label you need, enabling a lean, secure, economical system.

Best practice: Configure, don’t code

Enterprise labeling software should provide different approaches to managing variable data — not all strategies will work in all situations, and the more choices your software offers, the more complex the business rules managing the variable data can be.

Visual Basic scripting can be used with most enterprise labeling software to add different ways to incorporate variable data, but the most powerful enterprise labeling software has these capabilities already built-in, with no additional programming required to add conditional printing via templates, layers or even individual objects. Rules can be based on a single data source or database field, or based on multiple conditions, no technical or coding skill required.

About BarTender and data management

BarTender’s native XML handling and seamless integration with ERP systems like Oracle, SAP, HighJump, Epicor, Sage, Infor and IBM WebSphere enables automation at the enterprise level, providing support for mission-critical processes, increasing labeling accuracy and improving efficiencies throughout the supply chain.

BarTender’s native integration platform, Integration Builder, makes it easy to create integration files from scratch, no custom coding required. Capabilities include:

  • Initiating printing automatically at “trigger” events, such as the arrival of an e-mail, a saved file or a modified database
  • Connecting to and communicating with clients via TCP/IP, UDP or HTTP
  • Performing basic file operations, such as move, rename, delete or copy
  • Integrating with ERP systems with support for direct connectivity.

BarTender’s Intelligent Templates™ offer powerful design and data management

BarTender’s Intelligent Templates provide unmatched versatility and control over label design and automation:

  • Reduce the maintenance of hundreds of individual label designs to just a handful of flexible documents.
  • Automatically trigger the printing of design layers and even individual objects based on a single data source, database field, or multiple conditions — all without scripting.

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