Warehouse Labeling Guide
Running an efficient warehouse requires ensuring your workers can find the right items and retrieve them in as little time as possible. That’s where warehouse labelling comes in as it provides warehouses with an effective way to quickly identify products in a warehouse. It’s important to have a proper warehouse labelling system in place to ensure that inventory is organised for your fulfilment processes to function seamlessly.
In this post, we take a deeper look into warehouse labelling, the different types of labels you can use, and the best practices to improve efficiency.
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Why we’re talking about warehouse labelling
Warehouse labelling is the process of assigning unique codes to inventory and storage systems so that warehouse storage and processes can be more organised. A label may contain essential information about the inventory such as the item code, weight, volume, and so on. This allows warehouses to correctly identify inventory along with related logistics and storage elements.
Labels may also be assigned to different rack bays and storage bins to streamline the process of picking and replenishing inventory. This enables warehouse workers to quickly identify where certain items are stored, which will speed up the putaway and picking processes. As a result, a proper labelling system for warehouses is crucial to improve organisation and efficiency as well as to reduce error rates.
When these processes are optimised, it has a positive impact on other aspects of fulfilment. If items are picked quickly and accurately, it allows you to quickly pack them and get them ready for shipment with a minimal risk of errors. This will improve your fulfilment and warehouse KPIs, eventually contributing to your bottom line.
Different types of warehouse labels
There are several types of labels that can be leveraged in a warehouse ranging from traditional barcodes to sophisticated RFID tags. Each has unique benefits and drawbacks that should be considered when deciding on the best warehouse labelling solution for your business.
Traditional labels typically make use of barcodes, which have been around for decades. These are made up of a series of parallel lines with a few numbers written below. They’re cost-effective and accurate, making them one of the most widely used labelling systems for warehouses. The widespread adoption also means that they can easily be integrated you’re your existing warehouse management systems.
Barcodes need a physical scanner to read them, so they work very well with manual scanning processes. One of the biggest challenges with traditional labels is that they have a much shorter scanning range. Plus, they need to be scanned in a straight line, which might slow down the process. Moreover, traditional barcode labels can only store a limited amount of data, so they’re not ideal for labelling items that contain a lot of information.
QR codes or quick response codes are a two-dimensional coding system that can encode almost any type of data. Their versatile nature makes them ideal for a number of uses. They can be scanned using smartphones and pull results very quickly. What gives them an advantage over traditional labels is the ability to store a much larger amount of information. Plus, they have a longer scanning range so workers can scan them without staying close to the product.
However, QR codes can still be labour intensive to use since they need to be scanned individually. Moreover, there may be some privacy and security risks since they can easily be scanned by unauthorized parties.
RFID or radio frequency identification tags are a warehouse labelling system that make use of radio waves to identify objects. With this type of label, the tag is attached onto an item, which can then be scanned using an RFID scanner. As such, they can read data from long distances and can even read multiple tags at the same time. This makes them incredibly efficient for larger warehousing operations.
On top of this, the data is secured with passwords, adding to the security of this labelling system. The biggest drawback is the higher upfront cost combined with the time-consuming implementation. However, this can prove to be more cost-effective in the long run as they can be reusable.
Best practices for efficient warehouse labelling
An optimised warehouse labelling system can improve organisation and efficiency while reducing the risk of errors in your warehouse operations. Here are some best practices to follow for more efficient warehouse labelling.
Consistency is key
The whole point of warehouse labelling is to support easy identification of products and shelves. This makes it crucial to maintain consistency when creating labels so there’s a proper system in place to help your workers identify the right storage locations for certain products. Make sure to use the same format in your labelling system so it’s easy for everyone to recognize the pattern.
For every product, the SKU number and UPC code should be easily identifiable. Moreover, there should be a proper system in place for floor labels, rack labels, bin labels, and other location labels. Once you decide on the labelling system that works best for your products, it’s important to use it consistently across the warehouse and for all your product categories. Avoid the unnecessary complication of using one labelling system for a specific category and another system for another category.
Clarity is another important consideration if you want to keep things organised and minimise human error in your warehouse. This means that everyone should be able to see and understand what your labels are saying.
Choose fonts that are easy to read and print them in a size that makes them easy to identify. That way, you prevent the risk of people accidentally misreading letters and numbers on your labels. For example, small letter “L” won’t be accidentally mistaken for big letter “I.”
Using the right colors is an effective step to improve clarity. Your labels should be bright and bold so they’re easy to see even from a distance, allowing your workers to quickly locate what they need. Some may make use of colour-coded labels to organise warehouse rack labels and warehouse floor areas by category. Plus, there should be a clear contrast between the text colour and the background colour to improve readability.
Strategic label placement
Where your labels are placed on products, boxes, bins, pallets, and shelves is another crucial element in warehouse labelling. Durability and visibility are equally important for strategic label placement. This means labels should be placed in a location where they can easily be accessed and read whether by human eye or by the label-reading tools used in your warehouse. It’s counter-productive to have workers dig through shelves just to locate the label. At the same time, your labels shouldn’t be so easily accessible that they’re prone to getting damaged or rubbed off with frequent use.
Use the right label material
Making use of labels with durable material can also help to address the challenge with durability. If your labels accidentally get torn or partially rubbed off, it’s going to spell disaster for your warehouse productivity. So make sure to choose materials that are durable enough to withstand frequent use. Ideally, look for high-quality materials that are resistant to water and exposure to other warehouse elements. Some warehouses make use of labels made from retro-reflective material to allow for easy identification.
Leverage advanced labelling technologies
You can significantly improve efficiency and accuracy in your warehouse labelling process by making use of advanced technologies. This may involve the use of labelling technologies such as RF-based smart tags and scanners to help you streamline the process of identifying and recording inventory data. Warehouse and inventory management systems can further support your labelling efforts by automatically generating codes and providing you with real-time visibility to keep track of your inventory data.
Technological advancements in warehouse labelling
With significant advancements made in warehouse labelling technology, traditional labels have been gradually replaced by QR codes and RFID tags. Although traditional labels were easy and inexpensive to implement, they had a number of drawbacks.
Not only were they able to hold only a small amount of information, but they also didn’t explicitly contain the information and needed to be connected to an inventory management database, which could only be accessed via the internet. This meant that warehouses with notoriously bad connectivity often had trouble pulling up inventory information, which caused significant delays and productivity issues.
Traditional labels also required a lot of manual scanning at close proximity, which significantly slowed down things in larger warehouses. Moreover, the need to scan them at precisely the right angle further added to the delay.
QR codes and RFID tags helped to address these major challenges with the ability to communicate much more complex data. They’re far more efficient to use and have a lower chance of error. For instance, QR codes support long-range scanning and only need to be 30% intact to be scanned, so they can still be read even if they’re badly damaged or placed in an area that’s hard to access.
Even more impressive are RFID tags, which store all the data in a microchip, allowing you to easily access all the info about a product even without an internet connection. They can be scanned from any direction even from a distance, which significantly speeds things up for your workers. They even allow bulk scanning, which is ideal for processing and fulfilling large orders in a short amount of time.
These technological advancements, when integrated with other solutions such as warehouse management systems, allow warehouses to automatically capture inventory data and enhance automation. This provides you with real-time inventory tracking and minimizes the risk of human errors. By being able to quickly read product information, workers can avoid mispicks and other types of errors that could affect fulfilment accuracy.
The ShipBob advantage in warehouse management
Warehouse labelling plays a small but crucial role in ecommerce fulfilment. At ShipBob, we use barcodes to improve the speed and accuracy of our fulfilment process. We advocate for the use of barcodes on every unit of products stored at our fulfilment centers so our Operations team can accurately handle the receiving, counting, picking, packing, and returns processes.
When products are scanned through these processes, the information is automatically recorded in our inventory management system. This means that inventory data is automatically updated in real-time, which also allows for real-time inventory tracking in the warehouse using our WMS.
Moreover, ShipBob integrates with major ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Amazon, where you can create barcodes for specific products. The product-specific labels generated on those platforms can then be automatically recorded into your inventory database on ShipBob.ShipBob supports you in your warehouse labelling efforts by giving you the option to make a Kitting request and ask us to apply stickers to your stored products. You can even request that the label be placed in an exact position–that’s the level of personalisation you can expect with ShipBob.
Warehouse labelling FAQs
Below are answers to common questions about warehouse labelling.
How do ShipBob customers ensure their warehouse labelling system remains up-to-date?
ShipBob customers may generate WRO labels to send their inventory to ShipBob. These WROs provide our team with information on exactly what has been sent to our fulfilment centers, which is crucial for accuracy. They can then add barcodes in the ShipBob dashboard so that when our Operations team scans your barcode labels, they can automatically access important inventory information.
What are some common mistakes businesses make with warehouse labelling?
Some of the most common warehouse labelling mistakes include not having a proper labelling strategy in place, using the wrong type of label, improper label installation, and not keeping labels up-to-date.
Can efficient warehouse labelling systems be adapted to smaller storage spaces or is it only suitable for large warehouse?
Efficient warehouse labelling systems are suitable for warehouses of any size. They can be implemented to improve organisation and efficiency.