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Do you need to print and apply barcode labels to packages in your logistics system?Our guest for this episode is Steve Finn, Director of Sales and Marketing at Panther - a ProMach product brand. Panther is a leader when it comes to labeling systems for warehouses, distribution centers, fulfillment centers, and more. In the podcast, you'll learn how Steve came to be at Panther, how the company's products are ideal for logistics labeling, labeling for 3PLs (Third Party Logistics companies), and more. With the nationwide ID Technology technical service team now supporting Panther equipment, things are even better for our mutual customers. Learn more about Panther here: Panther Web Site and feel free to contact Steve to talk labeling here: Steve.Finn@ProMachBuilt.com 
When your company has to comply with GS1 barcode specifications for your secondary packaging, it can be hard to meet your production demands while also reducing downtime, improving barcode print quality, and improving productivity. In this episode, David discusses a new concept in high-speed print apply labeling with Mark Bowden, VP of Sales and Service at ProMach Labeling and Coding. 
In this episode we are going to explore using barcodes on consumer packages for customer engagement and look away the same barcode can possibly be used to be scanned at the point of sale.This idea is certainly not new - here is a link to a Packaging World article on this very topic from 2011:https://www.packworld.com/article/package-design/interactive-mobile-marketing/smart-packaging-stronger-customer-engagementThe article specifically mentioned that QR codes would provide the ability to download coupons, enter contests, play games and other fun activities – all powered by those little barcodes.  This all seemed quite exciting, but QR codes got old quickly and the concept seemed to fade away.  Fast forward to today and there is renewed interest in using packaging to actively engage with customers.Traditional ways to communicate to customers such as TV and print advertising are not performing as well as In the past.  They are also a one-way form of communication. In addition, engagement on brand-owned social media pages is in decline.  AS a result, brand owners have a renewed interest trying to set up a direct connection to their customers based on the product packaging Enter smart packaging – a means to allow brands to connect directly with their customers. Generally, a smart package will allow the customer to scan a barcode (yes, usually a QR Code) and be connected to an interactive website. So QR codes are back - a lot of brands are using them – some quite creatively  Currently, there isn’t a standard to use QR codes  (or any type of barcode) for customer engagement so brands are tending to encode them in different ways - often just a URL, sometimes other data. Of course, the package’s UPC  barcode still needs to be there so most items would have to have multiple barcodes – rather messy and takes up more space on the package. In addition, barcoding for point of sale hasn’t really changed for 45 years, when it was first introduced.  Wouldn’t fit be great, if one small barcode could handle point of sale, customer engagement and much more Last year, GS1 our favorite standards organization came out with a new concept: GS1 Digital Link.  While the name might not be too exciting, Digital Link has the potential to revolutionize how barcoding is used, to add true customer engagement and to (yes really) provide item-level serialization and traceability.  For primary packaging (what we would buy in a store), GS1’s barcoding is built around the concept of the Global Trade Item Number – GTIN. This is what is encoded in the common UPC barcode that is scanned at the checkout.  The GTIN in the item barcode basically consists of a company prefix and an SKU or stock keeping unit number. The GTIN identifies a type of product – a 12oz can of Pepsi Cola or an 8 oz bag of salt n vinegar Lay’s chips for example. Every item sold at retail and many other products that use the GS1 system (such as pharmaceutical or medical products) has a GTIN. It is important to note that a GTIN doesn’t identify an individual item – every 12oz can of Pepsi will have the same GTIN. In the GS1 system, each level of packaging has its own GTIN. So in the Pepsi example, there might be the following Single Can GTIN6-pack of cans GTINTray of 4 6-packs GTINEtc.  Also, no additional data can be encoded in the product barcode – only the 12 digit UPC in the US or 13 digit EAN code internationally. This is why additional barcodes must currently be added to a package in the event a brand owner wants to encode more data.  Other GS1 barcodes such as GS1 128 that are usually used on logistics items such as shipping cases or pallets can be encoded with a lot more information.  Traditionally, barcodes in the GS1 system have been used in the supply chain from manufacturer to point of sale. GS1 Digital Link promises to extend the reach of the GS1 system all the way from the manufacturer to consumer and to provide a means of interaction between the brand owner and the consumer. So How does it work? For the first time, GS1 is allowing a 2D QR barcode to be used as the barcode for point of sale.  Encoded within the barcode is a URI (unique resource identifier – an example of which is the familiar website URLs we use every day) and a number of other possible data fields that include:GTINLot numberSerial numberThe expiration date and many more The ability to include all this data in one barcode means that only one barcode needs to be printed on the package and it can be used for point of sale, traceability, anti-counterfeit and for customer engagement by sending a consumer who scans the code to an interactive website. GS1 Digital Link could prove to be the biggest revolution in barcoding since the first code was scanned in a store 45 years ago.  When will this start? It is going to take a while and we can expect to see both traditional UPC codes and the new QR codes used side by side until the infrastructure is in place to handle the new 2D barcodes.  A survey carried out by the food marketing institute found that in the US nearly 40% of POS scanners are capable of reading 2D codes today and that will increase to about 55% by 2022.  The POS systems to handle the data are running somewhat behind, with an estimated 20% of systems being able to handle this data.  There is clearly a ways to go.  In the same survey, stakeholders saw the advantages of switching to data rich solutions such as follows: 60% better inventory accuracy40% better customer engagement36% anti-counterfeit35% recall control33% expiration date control. Finally, 85% of stakeholders see 3-5 years to get a higher data density solution to the current UPC established.  So there is certainly a lot of interest in GS1 Digital Link. While I’ve discussed the use of QR codes in this podcast, other data carriers that could be used (and be very interesting) are NFC RFID tags and the Digimarc system that turns the complete package into the barcode. Digimarc will be the topic of a future podcast.  Should be interesting days ahead. Links:GS1 Digital Link FactSheet: https://www.gs1.org/sites/default/files/digital_link_factsheet_2019.pdfGS1 Digital Link Specification: https://www.gs1.org/docs/Digital-Link/GS1_Web_URI_Standard_i1_r_2018-07-17.pdf
During a recent visit to Barcelona, I had the chance to chat with Peter Ramsden about the wide range of lasers Macsa builds (and that our company ID Technology sells in North America).Macsa is a very innovative company and introduced the first moving beam vector laser, that is the standard for coding and marking today. We discuss CO2 and fiber lasers as well as some of the more exotic types - UV and green wave - that are finding exciting applications in the packaging market. Towards the end of the conversation, we look at how QR barcodes are bringing a new level of customer engagement to consumer product packaging and how lasers can help with this. A good segway to our next podcast with is going to focus on using packaging for customer engagement. Links to items we discussed:Macsa website: https://www.macsa.com/ID Technology laser site: https://www.idtechnology.com/products/coding-solutions/laser-coders/ 
In this episode I take advantage of a visit to Macsa ID in Barcelona, to chat with Macsa's CEO Jordi Pinot on the topic of sustainability in packaging and how laser coding can help companies meet their sustainability goals. Before this, there is a quick update on the Loop circular packaging system. Kroger is now a Loop partner here in the US as well as Walgreens. I'm still somewhat skeptical about this, but it does seem to be making progress. On the topic of lasers for coding and marking products, Macsa has a very complete line up of laser systems for just about every application - see more info here: https://www.idtechnology.com/products/coding-solutions/laser-coders/ In the podcast, we discuss how laser coding allows for permanent prints to be added to all kinds of products. Lasers use no inks or solvents, making them an environmentally friendly way to add date and traceability codes as well as barcodes to many types of packaging materials. 
The craft brewing business has been growing at a great pace, but there are signs that the industry is becoming more mature. Dave France was recently working the ProMach booth at Craft Brewers Conference in Denver and took some time to share his thoughts on the event and the industry. Topics included:How the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) has changed over the years. The current situation in the craft brewing business.Packaging - bottles or cans.How shrink sleeve labeling is helping when it's hard to source printed cans in small quantities.Packaging and sustainability.Date coding for small brewers.Dave's thoughts on the next few years. Links:Coding and labeling for craft brewers6-pack rings from Roberts Polypro and the new organic onesThe Biodegradable 6-pack rings. Citronix date coding printersThermal inkjet printersLaser coders for chipboard cartons - great on glass, cans and labels too. Axon shrink sleeve labelers 
In this episode, I chat with Stephen Hull of SATO on a number of topics:A quick history of SATO and how they came to be a leader in the label printing business.General thoughts on the current label printer/applicator market.The current market for RFID solutions. We discuss the current status of this technology - including Kirk-Rudy high-speed hang-tag machiners and innovative retail companies. Linerless labeling - a potentially lower cost and more sustainable way of labeling that is used quite often in Europe, but not so much in the US. Alternatives to labels, such as DataLase - a SATO product. Links to topics in this episode:Sato America: https://www.satoamerica.com/ID Technology print/apply: https://www.idtechnology.com/products/labeling-solutions/label-printer-applicators/Sato RFID: https://www.satoamerica.com/products/rfidKirk-Rudy: https://www.kirkrudy.com/DataLase: http://www.datalase.com/
In this episode, we start with a quick discussion on the many great career opportunities we currently have at ProMach. Get more info over at our Careers Site. Then the first topic answers the question: "Do I need to go through GS1 to add a barcode to my serial number label?" The answer in this case is "no". If you want to add barcodes to your labels for your own purpose, rather than for any compliance reason, you are generally free to just get on and do this. For info on GS1 barcodes see our ID Technology GS1 Barcode Guide. Our second topic covers the concept of Clean Labeling. No, this doesn't involve sending your labels to the laundry, it is a concept that is gaining ground in the food industry to clean up the lists of ingredients and make shorter, cleaner lists of ingredients that we can actually pronounce. Examples mentioned include RxBar, Trader Joe's, HEB and Panera. Many other brands and stores are leading with similar ideas, often using different naming. 
Two things that are currently big in the packaging industry are sustainability (or the lack, thereof) and the huge growth of e-commerce. Sustainability is often in the news, as waste and pollution caused by product packaging become a serious issue. There are, however, some initiatives that are designed to help How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system for recycling information. The thinking is that due to the complexity of existing recycling labels, a lot of people find the process too difficult. Simplifying this will, hopefully, enable consumers to recycle more items. Another current concept is Loop - designed to be a zero-waste circular shopping system (just like our milk used to be delivered, back in the day). Check out the video on their site - it's a cool idea, Both of these concepts have signed up a lot of big brands: everyone wants to improve their green credentials these days. As I mentioned in the final part of this section, many brands such as Starbucks and Nestle are rolling out green initiatives. Every little help! E-commerce is growing quickly - and causing changes to packaging in the process. Manufacturers are having to change how they package their products to help keep e-commerce supply chains working efficiently. The ProMat show (just completed in Chicago) showed just how much technology is involved in these supply chains and also how much everything depends on labeling and barcodes. Our company, ProMach, has multiple solutions to help with e-commerce and logistics labeling and packaging, including this solution from Texwrap. I hope you enjoyed Episode 1. There is much more to come! 
The Labeling News Podcast is a project by me, David Holliday. of ProMach Labeling & Coding. Here is a quick preview. 
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