What are automatic labelling machines?

An automatic barcode labelling machine accurately and rapidly applies labels to the secondary packaging of goods and products, in a single process – without the need to stop a production line, with minimal human involvement. Automatic labelling machines are also known as print and apply machines and are an important part of any modern production line.

The information printed onto the labels contains variable data, static data or a combination of the two. Most commonly for our customers, labels are printed with barcodes containing variable data relating to batch production information. This enables a product to be traced and identified throughout the supply chain.

The information to be printed is pre-formatted to the correct size and design using specialist labelling software, for example, Loftware NiceLabel. Label data can be transferred to the machine in a number of ways, most simply using a USB stick to allow label files to be stored locally and accessed via a built-in touchscreen interface.

Label data can be communicated to machines via direct PC connections or can even be integrated with ERP systems like SAP, Microsoft Dynamics or IFS, further automating the process.

How do automatic labelling machines work?

Automatic labelling machines work by combining a dedicated label printer with an applicator mechanism. Machines are often integrated into a production line and are pre-configured with their own section of a conveyor belt. As a product passes along the conveyor, a label is printed in real time, dispensed and applied to the packaging.

Labels can be applied on one, two or three sides of an outer pack which can be the front, sides, top or bottom. The method of application varies depending on the type of surface material and where the label needs to be positioned.

Label machines often use compressed air to activate extendable arms to reach out and apply labels but can also be powered by electricity only and use alternative methods such as rollers or a wiping motion to stick the label on.

Benefits of automated labelling machines

Once you’ve decided to move to an automated pallet labelling system, the next step is to specify how you want it to work for your business.

The obvious key benefit of automating your labelling process is saving employee time. Manual labelling processes are very labour-intensive and the return on investment with a print and apply machine tends to be very rapid as a result.

But the benefits go far beyond cost savings and recovered staff time. Automatic labelling machines are built to deliver a consistent output, which means the placement of a label will always be in the same place, in the same orientation and correctly aligned.

Additional equipment can be included in a system that checks to see if the print quality of a barcode is good enough to be read by scanning equipment. Secondary checks can also verify that the barcode is the correct one for the product. Accuracy of print and certainty over barcode content is very important to overcome products being rejected further down the supply chain.

Automatic labelling machines can also run much faster than a manual or semi-automatic labelling operation giving you the ability to increase production output and scale up operations as required.

If you currently run a manual labelling operation and would like to understand more about how automatic labelling machines can be integrated into your business, get in touch with our team for a short discovery call today.