Good news, if you’re wondering how to label for success in your warehouse’s inbound process, you’re in the right place! This post is all about warehouse labeling for raw materials and goods for production/resale in the most efficient way possible.
Components of a label
Okay, let's review the components of a label. Labels must have at least one of the following:
- Part number
- PO (or purchase number)
- Sales Order
- Production Date
- Lot # and/or serial #
- Unit of measurement (for example: each, pieces, lb, kg)
Okay, so once you’ve received products and labels at your warehouse, what’s next?
Alias tables and support for the supplier’s part number
Your warehouse labeling system is going to need to include an alias table which functions to cross-reference the manufacturer’s part number to yours. In some scenarios, you can request that the supplier put your part number on the label, though this isn’t typical (large businesses like Walmart implement this). In the case that you use the same part number as the schema manufacturer, you can ignore this.
Create legible barcodes only
Using a barcode font that isn’t readable by your barcoding equipment will cause you problems immediately. There are two particularly important points here:
1. The symbology of the barcode.
2. The width of the black and white lines (as measured in 1000ths of inches or millimeters).
Tip: A good rule of thumb is that a 10-15mil* barcode = 1-foot scanning distance.
We’ve experienced suppliers sending labels with part # half that size and it causes lots of scanning issues.
In terms of symbology, be aware that Europe and Japan use different fonts (EAN-13) than the UPC-A standard in North America.
Parse the barcode
Parsing a barcode includes separating and analyzing the various parts of a barcode. Many traditional barcodes are simply one long uninterrupted list of numbers. An example of this is a 42-character UCC label. The numbers in these barcodes correspond to all sorts of product details like:
1. Part #
3. Date of manufacture
4. Expiry date
Manufacturers often don’t use all the data included in a barcode, so to simplify things, you should only include the data you really need in a barcode.
Maybe this sounds familiar: You receive an important shipment from a manufacturer. You need to be able to trace the material through all the stages of production – so you need to create new labels and relabel the goods.
If you require traceability or QA tests this is going to be a concern for you. Here are a few things that may save you some headaches:
1. Portable printers will reduce travel time
2. Using ASN to print the labels beforehand will save you time
3. Ensure your WMS supports printing labels while receiving (this is important!)
4. Print the minimum information required because there are already lots of details included on the supplier’s label.
5. Lastly, if you aren’t going to use the supplier’s label, then cover (or remove) it. You don’t want to confuse your team, so ensure that it is fully covered with your new label.
Create a label’s action committee
Often the responsibility of figuring out barcoding requirements falls to a project manager. The problem with this is that they generally don’t have the expertise to understand the full extent to which the labels can be used. To get the most bang for your buck with barcodes, build a team with people from various departments to tackle labeling in your warehouse. The best practice is to build a team comprised of at least one individual from each of the following departments:
Your inbound process is extremely important as it is where everything begins in your warehouse. Labeling efficiently ensures that your warehouse operations start off on the right foot. Keep your inbound process consistent with these five steps, and your team is sure to benefit!
For more reading on best practices for warehouses, check out this "Guide to Effective Raw Material Management."