Automatic Print and Apply: Blessing or Pain?

Written By: Bastian Solutions

Automatic Print and Apply System

An automatic print and apply system installed for one of our retail clients.

Are there machines out there that can automatically print a shipping label for a container and apply it without anyone touching it? Why yes, there are. As much as that might seem like a miracle machine, they can come with their fair share of headaches, but let’s start with the positives.

Automatic print and apply systems not only take the labor out of someone having to manually apply the shipping label, but they can also reduce errors when confirmation scanners and a reject lane are incorporated with the print and apply system. This ensures that every label applied was applied to the correct box. The software will monitor this, usually through the automated routing software within the warehouse management system (WMS).

These machines are designed and meant to be run continuously all day, every day without flaw. When dealing with anything mechanical, you can usually expect to have a few hiccups in there somewhere, and print and apply machines are no different. However, when things go wrong, it’s not always the machine’s fault. There are other variables that must be taken into account.

Outside the Box

Let’s think outside of the box here and pretend there is a machine that exists incapable of mis-prints, jams, or any of the other issues that could be associated with print and apply machines. In order to make this golden machine work properly, you need to give it eyes, ears, and a clear head to think.

Print and Apply Machine

A typical print and apply machine within a distribution center.

This means scanners, confirmation scanners, and the proper software including a clear network. If any one of these items is failing, lagging, or not working properly, it can bring even the best machine in the world to a screeching halt. Most of the time upon print and apply system start-up, there can be bugs in all the components mentioned above, and it often gets blamed on the print and apply machine itself.

Late prints can be caused by a lagging network; double prints can be caused by software input issues, and no-prints and be traced to scanner issues. It’s the actual print and apply unit that often catches all the flack, and it can take a seasoned hand in order to properly diagnose the issues.

Bottom Line

It comes down to whether you’ve heard success or horror stories when it comes to automatic print and apply systems. Remember, it’s not only the machines; it is also the eyes, the ears, and the brain that allow the unit to perform well. So when implementing a print and apply unit, don’t go cheap.

Have you ever heard the phrase, you get what you pay for? Well, that is definitely the case when it comes to such systems. When purchasing a print and apply system, make sure to do some research and purchase it through and integrator that has experience as well as customer case studies and testimonials to back them up when it comes to print and apply.

A well-experienced integrator will choose a unit of high quality along with the proper scanners and scanner setup to act as the eyes. They will also ensure that they are either providing you with the proper software or will do the research to see if your software has the capability to drive such a system.

Bottom line is to not go cheap. Print and apply systems can definitely be a blessing, but you need quality machines, the software and scanners to go along with them, and an experienced integrator to setup the system properly.

Bastian Solutions is an independent system integrator dedicated to helping our customers increase their productivity through proven automation, information systems, and sound operating procedures.

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