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Just In Time Labeling – How Do I Choose My Printer?

As lean manufacturing has become a more prevalent practice, there is a growing demand to bring a just-in-time (JIT) label solution onto the factory floor. If you are looking to design your own custom labels and implement a JIT solution, choosing the best printer for the job becomes one of the key considerations. Below are some guidelines to help you answer the question: “How do I choose the best printing process for my facility?”

First off let’s get the options clear…common just-in-time options include:

– Direct thermal
– Thermal Transfer
– Ink Jet
– Dot Matrix
– Laser Toner

Each machine listed above has different pros and cons including color options, cost, durability, speed, and ease of use. That said, here’s the secret: looking at the printer, application, and material holistically often yields the best results. In other words, figure out what you want the label to be and word backwards.

For example, each printing process needs to be matched to compatible label material to function optimally. If you process requires a specific material, performance attribute or label type, it may dictate or narrow down the number of printing options. Often overlooked, but equally important, are the physical capabilities of your machine. If the printer can’t handle the custom labels your production team demands, you have a problem. Questions to ask yourself include:

– What is the maximum width of labels that I want to be able to run through the printer?
– Does my process require labels on cores, sheets, or fan-folded?
– Does it matter what core size the labels are finished on?
– Do I want to handle fewer big rolls or are more small rolls acceptable?

In the end it boils down to the final product. No just in terms of print quality and durability, but form factor. Once you have that sorted, then you can choose from amongst the printer options that you know will already work.