Digital labeling in SAP – An integral part of the new normal supply chain
Today we are experiencing massive fluctuations in consumer demand patterns and workplace practices that slightly over a year ago would have seemed farfetched. Economic downturns are threatening the livelihood of many companies and businesses need to not only ensure continuity today, but also a foundation for the future. To this end, streamlining supply chain efficiency and visibility has never been more vital.
This is where labeling in SAP systems can have a large impact. But for many organizations using SAP to manage extended supply chain operations, labeling is not optimized. While this may seem like a minor issue, it can seriously impact consumers and organizations’ bottom lines.
Common SAP labeling problems
Outdated SAP labeling methods, such as hard coding label templates in SAPscript or using complex form layouts in Smart Forms require IT intervention, which can delay operations longer, especially when a limited number of IT staff are on-site due to social distancing. This challenge is compounded when relying on paper-based quality assurance, which can further complicate label changes and increase the chance of human errors or potentially disastrous recalls.
Printing labels can also be a challenge in and of itself. One legacy method of SAP labeling is sending raw data via the spooler to legacy software. The spooler is built for batch printing of documents and slows down the printing process if on-demand label printing is required.
It also offers no return path for print previews or a final quality check before label printing, often resulting in errors and costly reprints. Another approach involves building custom, in-house SAP integrations, but this can take months and be cost intensive.
When a business’ success hinges on optimal performance – speed, efficiency, and accuracy – organizations can’t risk delaying supply chains and reducing visibility via subpar labeling.
A path to better SAP labeling
So, how can you improve a labeling system that may be a bottleneck for supply chains and organizational growth? While there is no singular approach, there are a few labeling best practices I believe every organization using SAP can follow.
- Provide digital anywhere collaboration and reduce IT & QA work burden– For labeling, no one should have to sort stacks of physical paperwork, perform repetitive manual tasks or be on premise to troubleshoot issues. Centralized, cloud-based tools can enable any business user with the right access to create, update, track and print labels from anywhere. This can reduce the number of templates to maintain, reduce the burden on overtaxed IT who may have had to hard code label designs and changes, enable digital quality assurance processes and even speed up time-to-market.
- Deploy and scale instantly – A modern label management system can be deployed very quickly and enable seamless, on-demand printing with print previews available in SAP’s user interface. This will reduce the need for error-prone legacy approaches and timely integrations, and will enable easy, secure printing with any type of printer (e.g., label printers or thermal inkjet printers) and any label format, whether it’s barcodes or something more complex like RFID.
- Business rules automate workflows – Business rules can decide which language to use for a region, which label to print for a customer, or a variety of other decisions. This reduces human error and enables organizations to quickly customize workflows for a specific customer, industry, or local regulation.
For industries like pharmaceutical manufacturing, this can make complying with certain requirements around aggregation easier. But beyond regulation, a digital approach provides clear visibility without having to unpack pallets and boxes as they move between manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Realizing this benefit, many contract manufacturing organizations are implementing this change ahead of regulatory requirements to gain a competitive advantage.
Streamline labeling for tomorrow
Amidst constant status quo disruptions, agile, digital business systems like SAP are crucial to supply chain efficiency and business continuity, but equally so is the label management system. Luckily, for those who depend on SAP and other business systems, deploying and integrating a modern label management system can be much simpler than it appears.
At the end of the day, we all need to reduce labeling errors and shipping delays. And a modern approach to labeling can be the key to efficiency for your business, as well as happier customers for years to come.