As we focus our attention on 2020 and the coming years, it is more evident than ever that labeling is changing in a big way. To many, this should be no surprise as the nature of business itself has rapidly shifted with the addition of new technologies that are digitally transforming the way we work—from cloud infrastructure models to increasingly connected devices, as well as societal demands for greater consumer safety and organizational transparency.
To capture the state of labeling technology and where the industry is trending, here are five predictions that will not only impact 2020 but also countless years to come.
1. Integrations and migrations—the key to efficiency.
The evolution of labeling will be driven by broader information technology (IT) trends of digitization and modernization. These trends will encompass evolving technology and processes in solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES). And many businesses will not only have to prepare for today but make their systems scalable and competitive for 10 years down the road.
When an enterprise updates its ERP, one result of this is that the organization must then modernize its labeling system, which often means implementing or migrating to a new standard and centralized global labeling solution. As changes to enterprise systems accelerate and new technology is adopted, a new pipeline of opportunities for label management or global labeling solutions is creating a watershed moment. This trend will likely speed up beyond 2020, and increasingly persist throughout the next decade.
One particular component involves cloud technology. According to recent Statista reports, the cloud ERP market revenue worldwide will jump to $40.5 billion in 2025. As a result of the rapid cloud adoption already underway, cloud labeling solutions are already operating in the field. This change is often not done all at once though and, many times, organizations place some elements on-premise, and components like printer drivers that generate printer command languages may still operate on local servers, even though they will likely migrate over to the cloud soon.
With the increase in cloud-based labeling, there will also be higher levels of cloud-to-cloud integration both in general business systems and with label management systems. This will reduce the complexity of the process for businesses and make label management more efficient and simpler.
Photo courtesy of NiceLabel
2. Say hello to a simpler and connected IoT ecosystem.
Along with software, the hardware involved in labeling—such as printers—will also become more streamlined and modernized. For example, as mobile Windows computers are nearing end-of-life, many organizations are switching over to Android-based devices instead.
But it’s not just PCs—printers are also being standardized. Among the benefits, this requires fewer spare parts to stock, results in less unplanned downtime, streamlines operations and reduces admin work as well as the need for support for basic tasks like changing printer settings, loading media and training operators.
While many organizations are adopting a “less is more” mantra by standardizing their equipment, greater adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is also drastically reshaping the hardware environment.
One report estimates that the manufacturing industry will spend $310 billion by 2023 on IoT and other Industry 4.0 products and services, and following this, the printers themselves will likely become increasingly connected. The technology making this possible has been available before, but the evolving market is now becoming advanced enough to take advantage of this, and over the coming decade, we will likely see businesses profiting from key benefits like driverless printers in the cloud.
3. One system to rule them all: The convergence of labeling and direct marking.
Historically, most label printing has been done with traditional thermal printing, while direct marking has typically involved continuous laser etching and inkjet printing. While many organizations have managed the two separately in the past, they are now converging to use one system for both technologies.
Supporting this transition is centralization through a label management system, which makes using one system to print both easier. Modern label management systems can interface with a range of direct marking and labeling printers, regardless of manufacturer. This interoperability will prevent discarding products, reworking of labels or large upfront capital expenditures on products that won’t integrate with other systems.
4. RFID goes mainstream.
The apparel and garment sectors have already become a hotbed for radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. But in 2020, you can expect to see greater adoption from others as well. It’s clear why: Among the benefits, RFID can streamline operations by providing greater visibility and immediate insights into inventory. Don’t just take my word for it—a recent Future Market Insight report estimates that the global RFID market will grow 14.5% annually from 2018 to 2028.
5. Stricter regulations (and a simple solution).
As times change and governments and consumers alike try to ensure safety and protect consumer rights, regulations around accurate packaging will undoubtedly get amended. Following this trend, labeling regulation across countless industries has become more stringent. This will surely continue into 2020 and beyond.
It’s especially evident in the pharmaceutical industry, where organizations must adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices, as well as local regulations, and in the Food and Beverage space, where new nutritional facts guidelines will be enforced by the Food and Drug Administration by 2020 (or 2021 depending on business size), the rules around allergen labeling are being tested with instances like Illinois adding sesame as a recognized allergen, and controversies over how meat substances should be labeled are changing regulations.
Adding to this, we are seeing new international regulations that will impact organizations that operate around the globe. For instance, Russia is introducing serialization requirements on everything from fur to pharmaceuticals and the European Union will introduce new medical device regulations in May 2020. In a time when mergers and acquisitions are rife and many businesses are reaching a global level, international businesses will have to customize their labeling by location to comply and keep up with these regulations.
To protect consumers and account for changing regulations, businesses will need to ensure their labeling is completely accurate, not only for compliance but for the public’s trust in their brand. Again, this will push organizations to adopt a label management system that provides a reliable method to maintain compliant and accurate labeling.
Looking to the future
Already, 2020 is shaping up to be a compelling year for label management and the entire labeling industry. Trends like stricter regulation will continue to challenge organizations and the growth of RFID will continue to speed up. All the while, movements towards modernization, digital transformation, the adoption of cloud technology, and increasingly connected hardware will have a dramatic impact on labeling and are propelling the industry into the future, today.