Labelling on all scales plays a vital role in product packaging due to the information it has the ability to hold.  

Industry experts believe innovation is key for the packaging industry moving forward and the way in which the Internet of Things (IoT) is used could lead to it being a vital cog for surpassing sustainability targets. The environment is a pressing issue and business growth correlates with consumer concerns.

A recent survey conducted by cloud labelling specialist Loftware states that 90% of business leaders surveyed recognise that standardising and centralising labelling will help them to keep pace with business growth. 

Packaging Gateway’s Ryan Ellington speaks to Loftware’s Josh Roffman, vice president of marketing and product management about the importance of cloud labelling for the wider sector.

Josh Roffman has over 25 years of marketing and product management experience with leading enterprise software companies.

What is your role at Loftware?

I’ve been with Loftware for about 12 years. I focus on marketing and product management life. When I joined, we transitioned the company to be more of an enterprise-focused software company, focused on selling to large companies across all sorts of industries. We define and educate people on labelling, why it’s important and its main challenges. 

One of my roles in the product management area is helping to define the product and I work with our software development team to build products that are specifically designed to meet the needs of our customers and the market.

What are the main challenges within labelling?

The main challenge is being able to identify solutions and a label, most notably a barcode label, is a fundamental way of doing that throughout the supply chain and within the company’s global operations.

In the past, we’ve called it a passport. It tells you what the product is and if there are risks with it. It may describe what it is in different languages for different regions or different regulatory things such as warnings. Primarily, it includes a lot of product information that helps it go from one step in the supply chain to the next, allowing communication from the start of the supply chain right through to the end consumer. 

It’s really this end-to-end process that Loftware focuses on and we would certainly consider ourselves as the leaders in a category that we call enterprise labelling. Enterprise labelling is labelling that has all the attributes that you have to deal with in today’s world, managing the complexity in terms of the number of products, multiple languages, regulations, and regional considerations.

We provide solutions for the biggest companies in the world, all the way down to small shops, and along the way we do a lot of partnering with different people within that ecosystem. If you imagine a label, the content on the label has to come from somewhere and often it will come from big business applications and enterprise applications like SAP and Oracle. These different systems is where that data resides. 

We connect to those systems and bring together the data they provide and deliver the labels that can get printed outs.

There are a million different variations of print devices and a lot of them have to print really fast to keep up with production lines. We handle the full process from designing the labels, putting them together, dealing with the nuances, different complexities and the rules and regulations for different regions. We integrate with the people on the front end that provide us with the data and the hardware on the back end that outputs those labels.

What is cloud labelling?

The cloud is not a new concept. It’s something that software companies SAP, Oracle and others have touted for a long time. We’ve seen a general move to the cloud with systems like Salesforce and the whole notion behind the cloud is to have something you don’t have to install and manage locally. Software that can be deployed in the cloud and be accessible everywhere.

Over the past decades, we’ve seen a great deal of adoption of the cloud from a lot of big enterprise applications. We’ve seen a dramatic shift in terms of the adoption and acceptance of the cloud when it comes to labelling as many companies believe cloud is the future. 

It is seen as the preferred solution platform for software products. A stat from consulting company Gartner says that by 2024 45% of all IT spending will shift from traditional on-premises solutions to cloud solutions. That shows it is embraced and is the solution of the future. Covid has had an impact with people at home using more Subscription as a Service (SaaS) based models.

Cloud labelling is the idea of taking labelling solutions that were once deployed onsite in premises and installed in multiple different locations, to being able to deploy them in a centrally deployed cloud so the labelling can be used by customers from anywhere. 

What are the benefits of cloud labelling?

It means you don’t need to have IT staff to update the software as cloud-based labelling software updates automatically. For example, if we have a new release, it can be applied by us automatically. Customers don’t have to wait to install the software and update their systems. It cuts down the downtime and takes the weight off IT staff so businesses can have the latest software sooner.

Cloud labelling also provides more financial predictability. With a traditional approach, customers get a one-time lump sum that is typically higher to buy upfront. They pay for maintenance over time and pay for the hardware to run, however the cloud means all of this is done for them.

The cloud-based solutions are sold as subscriptions (SaaS) so customers have a yearly subscription for the label and software. Customers sign up for a subscription plan that’s predictable and reliable. It moves the spending from more of what is called a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure. Customers get instant access so they can deploy users right away and use the software capabilities as well as extend it to other partners within the supply chain. 

Why does the report suggest three-quarters of companies (73%) see the cloud as the preferred method for labelling applications within the next three years?

There is a huge spend in cloud in general and IT teams increasingly want to adopt the cloud so that’s one of the backbones behind this. 

On top of that,  the cloud is attractive for companies because they can deploy quickly using fewer resources, have financial predictability and a lower initial investment cost. Companies are not losing anything and are still able to produce at the same speed to keep up with production. 

How can cloud labelling help companies reach ESG targets?

We are talking about less software installed on hardware at multiple, different locations. This flexibility limits the amount of waste. Waste is a big topic when it comes to labelling, particularly preprinted labels. You preprint the labels then a change happens, and you have to scrap all that waste. 

Through our cloud-based labelling we provide dynamic labelling’. This means that rather than having to pre-print labels, it can be done on-demand. If a change is required, it can be done in the labelling so the pre-printed stock doesn’t need to be changed, which reduces costs.

How does cloud labelling avoid the issues associated with mislabelling? 

This is one of the major reasons that companies look for an enterprise labelling solution. If you get labelling wrong, it has a big impact. In the food and beverage or life science industries, if you get the wrong allergen or a drug that’s mislabeled, it could cause death or serious physical issues. It can simply be by mislabelling that causes recalls, which are very expensive as well.

With a cloud-based approach, you’ve got the central. Your risk goes down dramatically because you’ve got one place, one deployment, all centralized versus leaving it up to each region to do the right thing.

How easy is it for companies to get involved with cloud labelling?

One of the greatest parts about it is that it’s immediately accessible. Companies can find the software, have it installed , design labels and be printing labels all in the same day.

This can be scaled to great levels of integration, complexity and workflow, but the starting point is really easy. We see a lot of companies start small and as they grow they expand. In some cases, even larger organisations start with a couple of locations and see how well they work before scaling to other parts of their operations, and eventually it becomes the standard used across the whole enterprise.