It’s no secret to anyone who prints barcode labels, but inevitably you’re going to spend more on labels and printing supplies than you spend on your label printer. This is especially the case if you’re printing a high volume of labels and you’re using a highly durable and reliable printer, such as Zebra devices.
Some businesses try to get around this by buying cheaper labels, ribbons, and supplies. They just choose whatever costs the least, and they don’t pay much attention to the labels they’re using and whether they’re the right match for each job and their printer.
In the short run, this can seem like it will save you money, but, in the long term, it’s a disastrous approach that virtually guarantees that you’re going to pay much higher costs. Here are some key reasons why:
Low-Quality Label Materials
Low-cost labels are typically produced with substandard, inconsistent materials. This means they’re much more likely to cause issues such as poor print quality and adhesion failures. Their low-quality materials tend to be rougher and more abrasive as well, so they damage your printheads and wear them out prematurely.
In some cases, the combination of substandard label materials and your printing supplies creates excessive buildup on your printheads, which requires more cleaning and can further wear out your printheads. When you consider how much it typically costs to replace your printheads, this alone could break your printing budget and far exceed whatever short-term savings you achieved by buying cheaper and lower-quality solutions.
Barcode labels seem pretty simple. You just need to print a barcode and maybe some other information on your labels, and you just need them to stick and be scannable and readable. But getting those results is a lot more complicated than you think.
Unless you’re labeling items for shipping or short-term office use, where you can use a standard direct thermal label, you’ll almost certainly need a thermal transfer label designed specifically for your application. You need to make sure you’re using the right label with the right topcoat, facestock, adhesive, coating, and release liner to match your specific job.
For example, if you’re labeling a rough, curved or round surface, you need to use specialized labels with materials and adhesives for those specific surfaces. Otherwise, they can fall off or peel off due to adhesion failure.
If your labels will be used outdoors in conditions such as sun, rain or snow, then a thermal transfer synthetic label is best, to ensure that it withstands the elements and your barcodes and printed information don’t fade, smear or get smudged.
It’s also very important to consider the temperature of the environment where you’re applying your labels, and the temperature where you’ll be using them long-term. The application temperature is the temperature at which you apply your label, and the service temperature is the temperature at which it will be used and where you’ll need it to adhere and be readable and scannable.
Standard label materials perform well at a minimum of 25°F, and service temperature ranges from -65°F to 200°F. But labeling outside these ranges requires thermal transfer labels and probably a specialty adhesive, to ensure that your labels remain adhered and withstand your environmental conditions.
Similarly, if your label will potentially be exposed to abrasion, rubbing or scratching, you might need to use a printer ribbon with higher resin content, which creates much more durability for your printed barcodes and information. If your labels might be exposed to water, moisture or chemicals, then you’ll need specialized labels. For example, moderate to extreme chemical exposure requires thermal transfer labels, and harsh and extreme chemicals may require a high-durability resin ribbon.
There are other application factors that can determine the right labels to use as well, such as whether you’ll be using a label applicator or you need certain print speeds or print darkness. Never assume that a basic label will work for the task at hand. Always make sure to match the right label to your specific application, and consult a label expert to help you, if needed.
Scanning and Workflow Disruptions
Many things can go wrong when you ignore application factors and use cheap and lower-quality labels, but the common denominator is that you end up with scanning and workflow disruptions.
Whether it’s your labels falling off, turning black, fading, or causing print darkness issues, you can end up not being able to read or scan them, which means you might lose track of valuable assets or bring business-critical workflows to a halt.
You can also end up wasting time and labor on reprinting labels when your print quality ends up being too low, or having to constantly adjust your darkness settings to make up for an application mismatch, or even having to remove adhesive residue that’s left behind by low-quality labels.
Above all, though, the wrong labels with the wrong materials and surface can cause printhead building and wear out your printheads far too soon, requiring more frequent cleaning, servicing, and expensive printhead replacements.
In all of these cases, you end up dealing with scanning and workflow disruptions and added labor and costs that are typically completely hidden to your organization. Your up-front spending on labels is typically easy to document and track, but almost no company has any way to accurately track and quantify all the time, money and effort that’s wasted when labeling goes wrong. Hence, none of them are aware of their true long-term label costs.
This is why it pays to take some extra time to figure out the right label for your application and your hardware, and invest in higher-quality labels and printing supplies to save you a lot of hidden costs and obvious headaches in the long run.
The best way to do that, especially if you use Zebra barcode label printers, is to invest in genuine Zebra labels and supplies.
Why Zebra Labels and Supplies Are the Right Choice
Zebra labels and supplies are manufactured according to ISO 9001 quality standards and are produced with consistent and specialized materials, adhesives, and ribbons. This means you can get exactly the right label with the right characteristics to match each specific application.
Additionally, Zebra supplies are pre-tested on Zebra printers, to ensure the best possible performance, minimal printhead wear, and protection of your hardware. They’re also pre-tested for crucial application, service and environmental factors such as indoor/outdoor conditions, extreme temperatures, abrasion, chemical exposure and more.
Zebra offers more than 1,000 combinations of labels, tags, receipts, wristbands, and ribbons, including over 500 stock products, so there is a virtually guaranteed match for you application. But even if you need a non-stock specialized label, Zebra’s R&D team can help you develop a customized label, adhesive or ribbon solution to meet your specific requirements.
Above all, with Zebra’s 100% printhead protection plan, if you sign up and agree to buy Zebra supplies exclusively for use with your Zebra printer, your printheads will be replaced at no cost to you, whenever they need to be replaced due to normal wear.
To learn more and find the right label for your applications, connect with our team at Vantage ID now. As experts in labeling, data capture, and mobile technologies for decades, we’d be happy to answer your questions and provide recommendations, and as partners with Zebra in bringing the best available labeling solutions to companies throughout North America, we’ll work quickly to help you find the right match and save on your long-term costs.