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State-of-the-art label management

 

Golden Artist Colors bottlesAs part of its commitment to customers, Golden Artist Colors Inc., a worldwide, employee-owned company dedicated to providing professional artists with high-quality paints, included a wealth of detailed health and safety information on every product label. 


Every Golden Artist Colors product label housed pigment identification, chemical characteristics, general guidelines for safe use and corresponding graphics, in multiple languages. Every label listed the data in a specific sequence that was determined by chemical composition and government regulations. Additionally, the paragraphs were translated into 18 languages for the company's international customers. 


"We have always believed that people have a right and need to know what chemicals they are working with," says Carol Diters, IT manager. Golden Artist Colors sells nearly 10,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs), including acrylic paints, gels, pastes, gessos, grounds and varnishes, to professional art stores and directly to artists.


To create and print labels for a growing international product portfolio, Golden Artist Colors needed a comprehensive system to manage data, design labels with the correct paragraph sequence and, finally, print short-run, professional labels in-house. The goal was to ensure that all labels were beautifully designed, technically correct and looked as professional and as crisp as the preprinted labels typically used for high-volume printing. 


It was important that the solution integrate with a state-of-the-art label printing software system and high-quality printer, so the end result-a professional label-would surpass Golden Artist Colors' high standards and also differentiate the products from its competitors'. 


The company turned to Peak Technologies for help. Peak is a systems integrator of supply-chain automation and inventory management solutions and services. Peak's portfolio of solutions and services include business process consulting, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integration, wireless professional services, project management, printing/media solutions and life-cycle support services.


After evaluating off-the-shelf options, Peak recommended a custom, dynamic data management solution that integrated with Seagull Scientific's BarTender software and high-quality printers from Zebra Technologies


It became clear almost immediately that Golden Artist Colors needed more than simply a new labeling software package. What the company really needed was a secure and centralized data/graphic repository that leveraged an industry leading labeling software package to generate professional grade, on-demand printing of labels. The targeted solution needed to allow for the maintenance of data and product relationships in one centralized place, affecting changes to all product labels via that change, all while sharing a common label format template.


"As a systems integrator, the only logical choice was to implement a solution that included a custom application, centralized database, best-of-breed labeling software, thermal printers, media and service," says Thomas Heitman, manager of solutions consulting at Peak.


Dynamic data management
Besides assisting artists with product selection, the information arranged on every product label also must fulfill a myriad of regulatory requirements, domestic and international. "Our goal is to be as thorough as possible and follow the letter of the law," Diters says. 


In addition, the label can contain any one of up to 60 graphics, including product logos, warnings that indicate a flammable or otherwise hazardous product and other information that must be displayed in a precise way to meet government and industry standards.


Golden Artist Colors also creates unique symbols for its products. For example, a playing marble symbol designates products that are safe to use but should still be handled carefully. In addition, a special part of the label—known as "the slider"—indicated where the product fell on a sliding scale from transparent to opaque. 


Golden Artist Colors labelFurthermore, after the label is printed, a sample of the product is applied by hand to the label, so the artist can determine the true color and texture of the product. "It's the best way to represent the quality of artwork that's possible with Golden Artist Colors," says Todd Leinbach, GAC's senior designer/web designer.


Each label had required its own separate template in a traditional publishing software program. When a paragraph had to be changed, the template was updated and a graphic designer merged the new copy with the existing text. Because many labels share the same kind of information, multiple templates had to be opened and changed every time there was an update to a single paragraph. "Any unique information on the label would have to be changed in every single template in the old system, which was extremely time consuming," Leinbach says.


Peak's custom solution includes a central repository for label information. Golden Artist Colors creates the label data and dynamically associates the product labels with corresponding paragraphs, images and translations. With the new, centralized database, changes only need to be made once and the most recent version is always used on the correct label, in the correct order. "Using the new system, I went into the database and made one change that was instantly applied to multiple labels," Leinbach says.


With its new database process, Golden Artist Colors has reduced the time spent managing label information by 50 percent. Now, one person can manage continual updates to label copy, streamlining the updating process. If the company had continued to use the previous system, two or three people would have been needed to update the labels due to their quantity and complexity. 


More secure label selection
Labels are printed on demand by warehouse workers. Before, when it came time to select and print the labels, there wasn't an easy way to determine which contained the most current info. 


Additionally, when labels were updated with new copy, they required graphic design to eliminate white space. Workers who printed the labels had to open the template in the software program to ensure an accurate design. However, a worker could unintentionally manipulate data before printing the label. Erroneous labels had to be reprinted, resulting in significant costs. 


Before a final product was shipped, the product label was scrutinized at several points throughout the plant to ensure the information was accurate and the label was designed correctly. "People on the filling floor would notice if a label was printed just slightly too low and would pull it," Diters says. "If one drop of paint ended up in the wrong spot, it got pulled. If the label was not placed correctly on the jar, it got pulled and would not go out the door."


With the new custom software solution, the correct label is chosen every time, just by selecting the product desired. The correct data is dynamically pulled from the database and the extra white space automatically eliminated—ensuring that the labels are accurate and flow seamlessly. 


Additionally, the BarTender software solution incorporates graphic design, allowing the company to manage label appearance more efficiently. Workers open one screen to print the labels, streamlining label selection and printing. The company also saves money because it does not have to reprint as many labels as it had before. 


The solution also makes the label-printing process much more secure. "Since the workers who print the labels didn't access the template, the risk for introducing inadvertent changes to templates was eliminated," Diters says.


Impeccable printing
Golden Artist Colors product labels have to be graphically appealing, reinforce the company's brand and differentiate the products from competitors'. Therefore, labels need to be printed at a high resolution, so all of the graphics and information are as clear and as precise as possible.


Although Golden Artist Colors uses preprinted labels for high-volume products, the company also needs the ability to print labels on demand for smaller runs and product label shortages. If the company were not able to print labels on demand, then it would have to wait up to three weeks for an outside vendor to process, print and deliver the new labels.


High-performance Zebra ZM400 bar code label printers integrated seamlessly with the BarTender software. Besides delivering outstanding print quality at 600 dots per inch, the printers featured the speed (10 in. per second) critical for high-volume applications. Peak provides labels, thermal ribbons and onsite repair service for the Zebra printers.


After implementing the solution, in-house labels looked virtually indistinguishable from those that were preprinted, retaining Golden Artist Colors' brand image and ensuring consistency across all SKUs. 


Continued commitment to quality
This custom-engineered solution has been in place for five years, with minor enhancements and improvements completed every year. "We try to provide the best, most accurate labels possible for our customers," Diters says. "We want our customers to be successful in what they do, and it's our job to provide as much information to the artists as we can, in the best way we can."


Working closely with Peak, Golden Artist Colors created striking labels that set its products apart from others in the marketplace. "Peak has been wonderful to work with," Diters says. "They're responsive to any changes or updates we have with the software, and have taken the time to help us learn the software and hardware."


The two companies clicked on another, more personal level, too. "We're an employee-owned company and we take pride in what we do," Diters adds. "We have a corporate culture of responsibility and perfectionism. Peak has a similar culture, in its dedication to its customers."


Peak Technologies, 800-926-9212. www.peaktech.com

Seagull Scientific, 800-758-2001. www.seagullscientific.com
Zebra Technologies, 866-230-9494. www.zebra.com


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