Warehouse Labeling Guide

In the same way that a map without labels is nearly useless, a warehouse without labels is nearly unnavigable. Your warehouse workers need to be able to find the right items and retrieve them in as little time as possible, and warehouse labeling provides everyone with an effective way to quickly identify and locate products. 

To keep your warehouse operations running smoothly, it’s important to have a proper warehouse labeling system in place to organize inventory and help your fulfillment processes to function seamlessly.

In this post, we take a deeper look into warehouse labeling, discuss the different types of labels you can use, and share some best practices to improve efficiency. 

So, what do you want to learn?

Different types of warehouse labels

Best practices for efficient warehouse labeling

Technological advancements in warehouse labeling

The ShipBob advantage in warehouse management

Warehouse labeling FAQs

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Why we’re talking about warehouse labeling

Warehouse labeling is the process of assigning unique codes to inventory and storage systems so that storage and warehouse processes are more organized. 

A label on a unit of inventory communicates what that item is, and may contain essential information about the item such as the item code, weight, volume, and so on. Labels may also be assigned to different bins, shelves, pallets, and racking systems

Labeling individual inventory units or storage locations may seem overly complicated, or like a waste of time – but it’s not. A proper labeling system is an absolute must for an organized and efficient warehouse, and positively impacts every aspect of fulfillment. 

If inventory and storage are labeled clearly, warehouse workers can quickly identify where certain items are stored. This not only speeds up the putaway and picking processes, but also reduces the chances that pickers will pick the wrong item by mistake. Similarly, the faster items are picked, the faster they can be packed and shipped. This will delight customers, improve your fulfillment and warehouse KPIs, and even eventually contribute to your bottom line.

Different types of warehouse labels

An ecommerce brand can leverage different types of labels in a warehouse. Each has unique benefits and drawbacks, so consider the following options carefully when deciding on the best warehouse labeling solution for your business. 

Traditional labels

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In warehousing, even basic labels are more than simple white stickers with words on them. Traditional warehouse labels typically feature barcodes, which represent an item’s SKU number or UPC code. Barcode labels are cost-effective and accurate, making them one of the most widely used labeling systems for warehouses. As long as your workers carry barcode scanners, they can scan any of your barcode labels to instantly retrieve key information about that product or storage location. 

On the other hand, barcode labels do present some challenges. Traditional barcode labels have a shorter scanning range and must be scanned in a straight line, which might slow workers down. Moreover, traditional barcode labels can only store a limited amount of data, so they’re not ideal for labeling items that contain a lot of information.

QR codes

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QR coding (or “quick response” coding) is a two-dimensional coding system that can encode almost any type of data. The versatile nature of QR codes makes them ideal for smartphone scanning, and for pulling results very quickly. 

What gives them an advantage over traditional labels is the ability to store a much larger amount of information. They also have a longer scanning range, so workers can scan them without staying close to the product.

However, QR codes still need to be scanned individually. Moreover, there may be some privacy and security risks since they can easily be scanned by unauthorized parties.

RFID tags

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RFID tags (short for “radio frequency identification tags”) are a warehouse labeling system that use radio waves to identify objects. An RFID tag is attached to an item, which can then be scanned using a special RFID scanner. These scanners 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 labeling system. While these labels involve higher costs upfront and require a lot of time to implement throughout your warehouse, they can be reusable and more cost-effective in the long run.

Best practices for efficient warehouse labeling

An optimized warehouse labeling system can improve organization and efficiency while reducing the risk of errors in your warehouse operations. Here are some best practices to follow for more efficient warehouse labeling.

Consistency is key

The whole point of a warehouse labeling system is to help workers identify products and shelves. If your labeling conventions change from product to product, your employees may have a hard time understanding what’s what.  

That’s why it’s crucial to be consistent when labeling products and storage. From the beginning, your brand should decide on a set of rules for creating, positioning, and using labels, and stick to it. That way, workers can learn the labeling system and use it easily. 

Some best practices for consistent labeling include:

  • Prominently displaying the SKU number and UPC code identifiable.
  • Developing a proper system for floor labels, rack labels, bin labels, and other location labels. 
  • Labeling all products (not just for a handful of specific ones)
  • Implementing the same labeling system across all product categories

Prioritize clarity

Even if your labeling system is consistent, it won’t be useful unless it’s also clear and intuitive. 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, an undercase “L” won’t be accidentally mistaken for a capital “I.”

Color is also key to your labeling system. 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 color-coded labels to organize warehouse rack labels and warehouse floor areas by category. There should also be a clear contrast between the text color and the background color to improve readability.

Strategic label placement

Where your labels are placed on products, boxes, bins, pallets, and shelves is another crucial element in warehouse labeling. 

Labels should be placed in a visible and accessible location where they can easily be read by a human eye or by label-reading tools. It’s counterproductive 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

If your labels accidentally get torn or partially rubbed off, it’s going to spell disaster for your warehouse productivity, so make sure that your labels are made of durable material that can 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 labeling technologies

You can significantly improve efficiency and accuracy in your warehouse labeling process by making use of advanced technologies. This may involve the use of labeling 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 labeling efforts by automatically generating codes and providing you with real-time visibility to keep track of your inventory data.

Technological advancements in warehouse labeling

Warehousing technology is constantly evolving – and that includes warehouse labeling technology. 

Over the last few decades, many warehouses have shifted away from traditional barcode labels in favor of QR codes or RFID tags. Although traditional labels were easy and inexpensive to implement, QR and RFID technology offers:

  • Larger data storage
  • Less dependence on internet connectivity
  • Longer-range and easier scanning capabilities
  • Higher durability (in that scanners can read them even when the label is significantly damaged)

Other brands have also started innovating labels to suit their unique needs. For example, some businesses have adopted magnetic labels, which are easily applied, removed, and repositioned on metal surfaces. This is ideal for a brand that is constantly shuffling their inventory storage locations to maximize space utilization, and is more economical than reprinting labels constantly.

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These technological advancements, when integrated with other solutions such as warehouse management systems, allow warehouses to automatically capture inventory data and minimize both manual labor and human error. This provides you with real-time inventory tracking, as well as better visibility into how products are moving through your supply chain.

The ShipBob advantage in warehouse management

Warehouse labels may be small, but they are hugely important for operational efficiency. That’s why expert logistics partners like ShipBob leverage thorough and detailed warehouse labeling systems to facilitate fast and accurate ecommerce fulfillment. 

Every one of ShipBob’s dozens of fulfillment centers uses barcode labels to streamline receiving, counting, putaway, picking, packing, returns, and more. When our team scans your products at each stage of the fulfillment process, the scan is automatically recorded in our inventory management system and inventory data is updated in real-time. You can also implement ShipBob’s proprietary warehouse management system (or WMS) in your own warehouse, and leverage our labeling system to streamline your existing operations. 

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.

Our team can also apply barcode label stickers to your products for you. By submitting a kitting request, you can outsource an otherwise tedious task to experts, and even request that the label be placed in an exact position. 

For more information on how your brand can leverage ShipBob’s warehouse labeling system, click the button below. 

Warehouse labeling FAQs

Below are answers to common questions about warehouse labeling.

How do ShipBob customers ensure their warehouse labeling 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 fulfillment 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 labeling?

Some of the most common warehouse labeling mistakes include not having a proper labeling strategy in place, using the wrong type of label, improper label installation, and not keeping labels up-to-date.

Can efficient warehouse labeling systems be adapted to smaller storage spaces or is it only suitable for large warehouse?

Efficient warehouse labeling systems are suitable for warehouses of any size. They can be implemented to improve organization and efficiency.