CIJ printers are used throughout production lines to add numbers, logos, text and barcodes to products, packaging and labels. But what about the software behind the machines? We take a look at label management software and other software options that can help your production line run more efficiently.
What industrial label printing software comes as standard?
Most CIJ printers and label printers are available with print job or label design software - this is the essential application that enables you to create the print jobs so you can see what you are printing. It consists of a graphics tool complete with the functionality to enable you to create barcodes or other design options, such as logos or QR codes. A typical example might be a barcode label that carries product information that can be scanned by distributors, retailers or customers.
Ensure that the industrial label printing software you use is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) - this means that characters and images will appear on labels exactly as they appear on the computer screen: perfectly predictable label design every time.
Labeling software and other computer printing software for creating print jobs should also enable you to store jobs for future use. You can create an inventory that can be archived or adapted as your coding, marking and labeling needs change.
Multiple printer set-up
Need to manage more than one printer? Most production facilities will have many machines used to print labels – or directly onto products or packaging – at different stages of the production process. For example, one may be used for individual products, while another is needed when products have been batched together - and each will need to print different information onto different types of shipping labels. Equally, multiple printers may be used simply to increase throughput. It is useful to have barcode software that can give you centralized control over these multiple printers, even if each printer is printing different data.
WINJET3 from Leibinger is a typical example of coding and label software that can control a whole network – and also monitors label printer status and allows you to start or stop coding, marking and labeling processes with a single command. Managing the labeling function in this way can bring business benefits by reducing downtime and improving the overall efficiency of the production line.
What about variable data?
Barcode labels often need to include variable data. Information such as batch numbers or ‘best-before’ dates need to go on label templates or direct onto packagings, so that the product can be identified across the whole supply chain. This labeling software or control software – such as Leibinger’s WINJET3 Mailing – can be connected to business databases to extract data files and send them to multiple printers, and thus onto a barcode label or software label. Typical applications include addressing packaging labels or printing numbers, such as on lottery tickets or vouchers.
Labeling systems are not only linked to databases of static data – they can also be linked to ‘live’ data, enabling the printer software to automatically update information. A prime example of this is to calculate a ‘best-before’ date, based on the date and time that a certain product passed through the production facility.
Controlling other equipment
Software is also used to manage label design when using XY-traverse systems such as Leibinger’s own JETmotion, where the print head moves both vertically and horizontally. The software controls the movement, enabling products or barcode labels to be printed from left to right or top to bottom. The software analyses data to calculate the optimum travel path in order to save time and make production as efficient as possible.
The best industrial label printer can be controlled remotely...
Production facilities can be huge places, and printers often have to be fitted into the tiniest and least accessible of places. Indeed, many printers can be customised with print heads that operate at unusual angles and with smaller footprints to fit in with the rest of the production infrastructure.
Production managers can find it a difficult and time-consuming task to walk around the facility, checking the status of printers and ensuring that labels are being printed properly. Remote control software typically links to the main control software on a PC. With it managers can have control over the entire printer network from a mobile device. They can view status, adjust label design, create labeling jobs and stop or start production – wherever they are.
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Third-party label management systems
Labels are frequently managed via a label management system - such as the market-leading system, NiceLabel. It is important to ensure that your printers have drivers that support the label management system you use. Leibinger, for example, is the first continuous inkjet printer with its own NiceLabel-supported printer driver. All coding, marking and labelling processes, from CIJ printer to label printer, can managed with only one labelling software. Barcodes, QR codes, text or logos can be easily printed onto labels or directly onto products or packaging, controlled and managed through NiceLabel.
What else do you need your industrial label printing software to do?
Every organization is different. That’s why most printer suppliers will work with customers and partners across the supply chain to address any business needs by developing bespoke software. Whether you need extra functionality in terms of print job and label design or integrating data, you will find most experienced suppliers willing to help you. The software may be produced and the rights reserved to you, or you may reduce your outlay by allowing your supplier to sell that functionality onto other customers and create a new business revenue stream.
The many functions of the software available to you can enhance your manufacturing in many ways, whether by enabling you to maximise throughput, helping you to control a complex production environment, or simply by making life a little easier for the people who work for you. Whether these are software functions that are already available “off-the-shelf” from your supplier, or whether you need to work with them to develop something new, there are opportunities to improve efficiency, boost quality and enhance the way your business runs.