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Four Important Things to Know about Labels

GS1-128 and Shipping Labels

Did you launch your business so you could really dig deep into the finer points of labels? Are you a connoisseur of shipping information? Do you wake up in the morning and think, “Will I have as much fun creating labels as I did yesterday?”

Unless you’re in the business of label-making, probably not.

For most suppliers, labels get made when most of the work has already been done — you’ve made the sale, the order was confirmed, and it’s time to ship.

The reality is that it’s not just a label going on a package. It’s your reputation, your relationship with the retailer, your brand — and it could be the difference between getting another order or not. If the label is 100% accurate and the shipment goes smoothly, you build a better relationship with your Trading Partner.

To help you handle it, here are four important things to know about labels. Call it the Starter Guide to Labels from eZCom.

It’s all about, that’s right — labels! Because they’re not just for label geeks anymore.

1) Know the GS1-128. Or The Label Formerly Known as UCC-128.

The Big Kahuna of labels. The Main Event. The Alpha Dog.

The GS1-128 is important because it is an essential link as your item moves through the supply chain. The information it contains identifies the contents of the carton. If you want to impress a crowd of label fanatics, just say, “Well, I put on the GS1-128 with its Serialized Shipping Container Code and man, did that feel good. And yes, I call it the GS1-128, even though I know some people still call it the UCC-128. I’m just that knowledgeable about labels.”

Or, maybe not. Whatever the case, here’s how things go down with the GS1-128. With our software, Lingo, a serialized number is created when the carton is packed. When the label is printed, it turns that number into a bar code.  When the retailer receives the carton, they scan the bar code, which needs to match up with the ASN they have received for the shipment. (That’s why you need to get that ASN to the retailer prior to the shipment, or else the whole thing falls apart like the end of a good game of Jenga. The ASN has the information about the exact contents of the container, so the GS1-128 needs to match up.)

To create GS1-128 labels, you do need to buy a GS1 Company Prefix. Buy a GS1 Company Prefix that will accommodate the number of UPCs you need for your products. But take note — the length of your prefix will affect the cost — a shorter prefix is more expensive, since it allows you to generate the most number of UPCs.  In other words, buy the right-sized Company Prefix — don’t spend more for one that’s shorter than is required for your product line. Even if you have plans or dreams of owning a company with millions of products, be realistic about your needs. Your GS1 Company Prefix will also be used as part of the number that will be on your GS1-128 labels, which you will adhere to your cartons and pallets as required by your retailer.

2) FedEx, UPS, Endicia — make it easy to create shipping labels.

So you have all this information about your orders and you need to get it into a label — without mistakes and without taking a week to get it done. Sure, you could have that energetic intern spend her day transferring information into the systems of FedEx or UPS but, well, that’s a terrible idea and a waste of her time. Or anyone else’s, for that matter.

Whatever you do, find a way to make it easy to transfer your shipping information to labels automatically. Cutting and Pasting might be fine if you’re only moving a couple of items a month but it doesn’t work when you really start to grow your business. Features like Batch Processing allow you to create hundreds of labels in just a few key strokes, while a solid integration plan means the information in your backend system can be transferred to labels without errors.

We’re so committed to making shipping easy that we created a direct connection in Lingo to FedEx, UPS, and Endicia. When information is automatically transferred, errors are dramatically reduced and speed is increased. After all, you want to sell your products, not spend your days creating labels so you can get orders out.

3) Decide how you’ll get your labels printed.

  • Print the labels yourself. Maybe you’re old school or you just like doing things on your own. Or you don’t need to print a lot of labels. You can create them in Lingo and print them with either an ink jet or thermal printer. We won’t get too deep into which kind of printer you should invest in — just understand that if your label volume is low, you’re probably fine with an ink jet. If you start shipping more products, you’ll want to consider investing in a thermal printer.
  • Create a PDF and send those labels out into the world via the web. With software like Lingo, you can create a PDF version of your label and route it directly to your warehouse. They take it from there.
  • Have someone else print your GS1-128. At eZCom, we print GS1-128 labels at our headquarters. Our clients start by submitting a label request in Lingo. Once that’s done, they select the ASN and choose “Order Labels.” A few simple questions later and our printer is spitting them out — then we ship the GS1-128 labels to our clients via UPS, FedEx, or the USPS.

4) Understand Paired and Combined labels.

Here’s the thing with labels. Getting them right doesn’t take a lot of time — until you’re doing a lot of them. Add up every second when your volume is high and, well, they all turn into hours. A whole bunch of hours.

That means anything you can do to speed the process and reduce errors will make a huge difference.

With Paired labels, your GS1-128 and your shipping label are printed consecutively. That means you’re not trying to match the right GS1-128 with the right shipping label — and hoping you don’t get it wrong. It might seem like a small thing until you’re printing hundreds of labels and worried about errors that could lead to costly chargebacks.

The Combined Label is something we offer exclusively to customers who ship to Bed Bath & Beyond, and it goes one better than the Paired version. Combined is just what it is — the GS1-128 and the shipping label are one. That means you can print once, stick once, and go home happy. Not only is it fast, it does even more to eliminate errors.

Paired Labels

Combined labels

Go ahead and label us.

We’re into labels. We know that.

But that’s because we know how important they are for your business and how time-consuming they can become. Within our Lingo software, we make it easy to generate labels and get them done without costly errors.

Want more information? Reach out to us with any questions and watch this space in the future for news and updates about making the label process more efficient.

Learn more about Labels here!