When to Use Preprinted Labels

Written By: Larry Sportello and Ken Booth

Published By: ISIT.com

The day is coming when any business of 25 employees or more will have at least one bar code printing machine on location. Why? The printers will be generating bar coded shipping labels mandated by customers. Compliance with AIAG, TCIF, HIBCC (automotive, telecommunications, and health care industries bar coded label standards), and other “quick response” product and shipping label standards will facilitate EDI transactions between trading partners. On-site printing equipment will be useful in generating certain criteria-oriented bar codes for document tracking and inventory control. Work in process may need to be tagged with detailed, on-demand information that two-dimensional symbologies are designed to encode. The usefulness of on-site thermal transfer, laser, thermal direct, and dot matrix printers will expand as businesses become more automated.

Will on-site printing solve all our bar code automation needs? No-it doesn’t follow that using these omnipresent machines to print labels in-house can meet all of the ever-growing bar coding requirements. On the contrary, as bar automation and the information superhighway expand into an ever-broadening range of demanding industrial and commercial applications, pre-printed bar code labels developed by an experienced label vendor will, in many cases, continue to be the prudent and cost-efficient choice.

Case by Case Seven actual case histories may help to illustrate why use of vendor-developed preprinted labels will continue to grow.

So…what approach should be taken when considering a new bar code application? Consider the similarities between solving this problem and determining how to tackle an electrical problem in the home.

In considering the electrical problem, you might or might not choose to do it yourself. Is the application straightforward, like replacing a two-way outlet or adding an outdoor spotlight, where the tools and time are readily available? Or is there more to the project than you might initially consider, like high voltage or complex circuitry, where a professional electrical contractor, experienced in avoiding potential pitfalls and providing cost-effective solutions, can assure success in a more regulated fashion?


One of the best reasons for purchasing preprinted labels is to take advantage of the expertise of the label vendor. A label vendor can provide design, symbology, and materials ideas to enhance your application that may not be available for on-site printing.

Vendor applications testing and experience can be invaluable in problem avoidance. Verification procedures that go beyond bar/space and modulation measurements to matching the bar code to the scanner and the end use environment are a very cost-effective insurance policy. Just as an experienced, trained electrical contractor can provide results, satisfaction, and peace of mind, so an experienced label vendor can provide value and insight beyond the price of the labels.

What is the significance of the seven mini-case histories outlined at the beginning of this article?

In summary, use on-site printing where it meets the basic requirements. Where performance or cost advantages indicate preprinted labels, there are many qualified suppliers ready to help. Evaluate both options for any project that will require time and capital expense. When the words “harsh environment,” “rapid change,” “demanding requirements,” or “millions of labels” enter the conversation, consider these clear signals to evaluate preprinted bar code labels from an experienced bar code label vendor.