Editor's note: What do the users of labels want from their suppliers? Successful label converters know their customers well, and knowing their wants and needs is a full time proposition that requires skill, creativity, intelligence, and the ability to execute without a flaw. Label printers need to know what is taking place upstream from them at the supplier level, but they truly want to know how the end users think, what plans they are making for their packaging, and what they want from label suppliers, today and tomorrow.
Label & Narrow Web is pleased to introduce a series of articles by Larry Arway that will focus on label converters and their customers. A 35-year veteran of Standard Register in Ohio, USA, Arway brings a wealth of sales and marketing experience to our pages.
In this and future articles, he speaks to customers about their needs, and how they solve problems with the help of label printers who understand what they are trying to accomplish. This introductory piece features interviews with two well known North American consumer products companies that have widely divergent labeling uses and requirements. In succeeding columns Arway will report on a variety of companies and how, working with their converting suppliers, their label and packaging needs are fulfilled.
Denise Clark has a big job. She is in charge of all the labels for the American Honda Motor Company's distribution center in Troy, OH. How does anyone keep track of, pick, package, and ship out 180,000 different car parts currently stored in the 680,000 square foot distribution center in Troy? The key, says Clark, is the company's Warehouse Management System (WMS), which allows it to maintain a constantly changing inventory, easily locate parts for picking and packaging, and ship them efficiently.
First of all, location helps. Troy is within minutes of Interstates 70 and 75, two major US truck routes. Clark also points out that the distribution center is conveniently located just south of Honda's Sidney, OH, cross-docking operation for timely access and delivery of the parts.
Clark says she uses three different label suppliers to supply the products needed to perform the inventory, picking, packing and shipping tasks. Because many of the parts are covered by various government and transportation agencies, each with its own individual labeling requirements, Clark has the local option of purchasing the hazardous material (hazmat) labels from Labelmaster, a Chicago company.
Labelmaster has a reputation for keeping abreast of compliance issues in industries worldwide, and translates these to labels that some companies must use on particular products. Some consumer product companies have an internal staff whose jobs are to track regulatory compliance and the attendant application to products, but others, including Honda utilize the services of outside compliance professionals. Honda relies on Labelmaster, which knows the constantly changing requirements of various federal, national and international agencies and can give Honda what it needs. These agencies can include the Department of Transportation, the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the International Maritime Organization, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and many others. When a regulation changes, Labelmaster will know, and when it is time for Honda to reorder, their new labels will be in compliance.
The other two label suppliers are the local offices of firms that have national contracts with Honda. The local office of Relizon handles production of the bar coded license plate numbers which are an integral part of the WMS operation. These labels are on the various totes used for picking and identify the Honda customer. By using bar coded labels affixed to magnetic plates on the various bays and bins, Honda is able to use its bin location labels over and over, simply moving the magnetic plate to a new location.
The shipping operation utilizes direct thermal printers, the labels being supplied by the local Moore-Wallace operation. Shipments primarily go out via UPS and the destinations include Honda operations in Belgium, Mexico and South America. While the thermal labels are not complex, quality is paramount due to the far reaching destinations.
Clark mentioned that the Troy Parts Distribution Center is Honda's largest, one of 10 strategically located around the US. The Troy facility is currently being expanded by 500,000 square feet, which is slated to open in 2007 to handle even more parts and shipments.
Just a few miles south of the Honda operation, even closer to those two major highways, is the Evenflo Company, located in Vandalia, OH. Parents and grandparents around the world have seen some of the 300 Evenflo products. They make everything from a 3-D design drinking cup with an integrated straw to familiar items such as baby strollers, infant and booster car sets, cribs, gates, and a whole line of feeding and healthcare products.
Randy Kaiser, Evenflo's director of product safety, research and development, spoke at length about Evenflo's label requirements. "We have instructional labels as well as safety labels," Kaiser says. "And many of our products are covered by either a national standard or a government regulation - or both - and this will drive the contents of the label."
Kaiser mentions, as an example, a new baby seat with a handle. It has an ASTM label plus three warning labels. Evenflo has used a single vendor for some time, Dot Label of Cincinnati, OH. The text of each is generated 100 percent in-house by Evenflo and the content and layout are then given to the converter to try to specify a standard die size, avoiding the purchase of a new die. While Evenflo will specifiy paper weight, the outer clear coat, adhesive and performance characteristics, Kaiser says that the company depends on Dot Label for input -especially in bringing new materials, adhesives and other products to Evenflo's attention for consideration. He says that Evenflo is always open to better ways of doing things, and one of its supplier's strengths is in bringing new materials to them to evaluate.
Similar formats and the same process is used for all of Evenflo's North American operations. While Asian suppliers use their own materials, they conform to the same high standards as used in the US operations. Kaiser notes that some of the labels are inventoried at the print supplier, others at the various manufacturing locations.
There's an in-house generated "date of manufacture" label printed the day prior to manufacturing to accommodate work order changes, use available colors, and so forth. The various accessories are treated like finished goods in the assembly process.
The only variable printed labels, he adds, are the 1" x 3" laser printed "date of manufacture" label and the thermal shipping labels.
The next time you spot a parent with a youngster in a baby stroller, keep in mind that there are likely several labels discreetly located on the frame, a "care label" on or under the seat, and several instructional labels for folding and adjusting.
This is the first in a series of articles about our customers, the label end users. Just remember - the customer cannot buy from you if she or he doesn't know it is available. Show them new ideas and applications, and they will appreciate it!
Larry Arway recently retired from Standard Register, where he worked for 35 years in a variety of positions, among them sales promotion manager, product manager, label marketing manager, and technical consultant. Over the years he was involved in the design and development of new products, and has worked closely with many of the major consumer and industrial products companies in North America. He lives in Dayton, OH. His e-mail address is email@example.com.