You could say marking was coming to a crossroads just before the pandemic started.
For the longest time, nothing was simple about the operation of marking devices on a packaging line. It was (and still is) the rule for marking devices from different suppliers that did not talk to each other to be on the same line. Each device had its own proprietary software and often times required its own database. Well, that’s certainly manageable, right?
Until it wasn’t.
As Josh Roffman of Loftware explains, finally the unnecessary errors and operator training issues from such a cumbersome arrangement became too much. And as Loftware’s senior vice president of marketing and product management explains, those different marking systems in the same facility have posed real challenges for operators. Hmm.
Today, 96% of end users “see an advantage of using a single platform to support thermal transfer as well as direct marking and coding systems.”
Roffman says that’s according to this year’s annual Loftware usage survey (nearly 1,000 respondents across all major industries in 55 countries). Benefits of a single platform include cost savings, minimizing the risk of non-compliance with critical regulations, and a shorter time to market.
Fortunately, that desired single platform, unified approach has become a major industry reality in marking, coding and labeling. Some of that advancement is due to a greater degree of openness on the part of marking and coding providers to driving their devices with industry standard, enterprise-class software.
Credit also goes to Loftware that supplies a unified software platform, helping to eliminate human involvement while reducing mis-marking and mis-labeling in distribution centers and manufacturing facilities.
Roffman goes so far as to say that the latest version of that platform, Spectrum 4.6, is a single digital solution that enables “businesses to seamlessly deploy, maintain and scale all their marking, coding and labeling operations across multiple locations.”
The platform supports more than 5,000 drivers for devices from companies including Videojet, Domino, Markem-Imaje Epson, Eltron, Avery Dennison and others. And it can all be done in the Cloud. That’s a long, long way from having different devices with their own software deployed across a facility or even on the same line.
The Cloud is especially important here.
That same Loftware survey also shows users have become much more accepting of the Cloud. It says that 42% of respondents “have already embraced a Cloud-first strategy for enterprise applications.” And 73% of companies with more than $1 billion in annual sales say the Cloud will be their preferred method for managing labeling applications within three years. Actually, what better way than the Cloud to implement and manage a single unified system for marking, coding and labeling?
There’s an added motivation, says Roffman. It isn’t easy for companies to deal with all the challenges in supply chains ranging from changes in suppliers and materials to “interrupted workforces.” Those and other uncertainties could use some counterweights. And right about now, wouldn’t it be nice if something got easier instead of harder in the supply chain?