Five important considerations when specifying variable data labels

Getting traceability labelling right

Variable data labels and tags are used widely across many industry sectors primarily to track and trace goods, parcels and reusable containers and, increasingly, for product authentication and consumer promotions. Each unique piece of variable data can be printed in the form of a 2d code, barcode, QR code or set of sequential numbers to suit your individual application. Each variable data label or tag contains its own individual piece of data to allow unique identification.

Producing variable data labels can be complex and, in order to make the process run as smoothly as possible, some forward planning is needed. We’ve put together some of the key considerations you’ll need to think about to get exactly the product you want:

1.    How will you manage your variable data?

There are two ways to manage your variable data and, depending on which you choose, this could have an impact on the cost

100% batch integrity – ie every code on your database must appear on a variable data label

Oversupply of codes – ie each label produced contains a unique code and no codes are repeated, but there is no need to replace any codes lost in the manufacturing process

If you don’t need 100% batch integrity, this could mean a cost-saving.

2.    How will your data be provided?

Variable data labels are printed directly from a database which can either be generated by us or provided by you. It’s important to consider what is the best option for you and, if you decide to generate a database yourself, let us know exactly the format it will arrive in and if we will need to manipulate the data.

If, for example, you are running a scratch card promotion we can help you determine the codes required dependent on the win rate you want to achieve and the card sales you anticipate.

Read how we partnered with Northampton Town FC to develop their Golden Goal scratch card game.

3.    How do you want your codes printed?

There are various combinations available and each can be customised to your exact requirements. Here are the most common variable data label configurations:

Repeating codes – that is small quantities of each data variant, produced in a large batch eg 64 variations, with 1000 labels in each repeat as part of a batch of 50,000 labels

Sequential codes – codes are printed in order to make up a complete batch of variable data labels

Random codes – codes are randomly generated or selected from the database and printed once only onto each data label

4.    How do you want to handle missing labels and data?

Inevitably some labels will be lost during the manufacturing or application process and it’s important to work out the best way to manage this. Here are a few options to think about:

Lead-in and lead-out  labels – blank or void labels can be included in your batch to maintain 100% integrity if this is your requirement

Data labels lost at the roll end – sometimes labels are lost when removing the roll end seal; removable adhesive can be added to seals to minimise the chance of losing labels

Are part rolls acceptable or do rolls need be joined ?– if rolls need to be joined you’ll want to think about how to replace the data labels lost in the joining process; alternatively you can specify no part rolls or joins

5.    How do you want your label rolls packaged?

Packaging options are completely customisable so it’s worth considering exactly what you want to make things easy for you:

Wrapping rolls inside poly bags – it’s important to protect the variable print on your data labels so wrapping each roll in individual poly bags may be necessary

How should cartons be labelled? – if your labels are destined for use at multiple destinations then external carton labelling needs to reflect that

What order should rolls be packed in cartons and cartons be packed on pallets? – we can help speed up your processes no end by understanding exactly where each roll of variable data labels needs to be and packing them accordingly.

Specifying variable data labels can be a complex process; we are here to help you through it so please contact our team for advice.