In recent years, theres been a considerable rise in interest in switching from contract label printing to in-house production of product labels, packaging labelling and other product related printed material. But are there limits to this trend? Are some firms better suited than others? Are there some sectors of industry for which in-house production doesnt make sense?
To answer this, its perhaps best to look at some of the advantages of switching from contract printing to keeping production in-house.
As with any sub-contract or outsourced work, leaving your label and packaging printing production to a third party contractor necessarily entails some loss of flexibility and control. In some ways, this downside risk is balanced by the economies of scale which can be accessed for firms with long runs of standard batched products. Theres also an argument that contracting to a specialist firm with purpose built professional-grade printing equipment implies a higher standard of finished label with lower average costs.
By contrast, the conventional perception has been that smaller, more flexible manufacturing firms with shorter production runs are better suited to in-house production due to a greater need to make changes after a relatively short print run and the reduced opportunity to access economies of scale.
So, in summary, in-house label printing works for smaller firms but isnt so attractive for larger ones, right? Well, actually, changes in technology and availability of digital colour label printers has left this received wisdom somewhat outdated.
How modern digital label printing has changed the game.
There have, in recent years, been a number of changes in the world of bespoke, in-house label printing which have made making the change from sub-contracting a much more attractive proposition for a much wider number of businesses.
Firstly, the technology associated with digital and industrial quality inkjet label printers has improved immeasurably, to the point that the speed, quality and average production costs of label production has largely eroded the advantage of the subcontracted option. With production speeds of over 7000 units per hour and the capability to link with production and ERP software, as well as incorporating barcode printing, modern in-house label printers really have come of age.
Secondly, the fall in real-term price of owning or leasing dedicated label printing equipment has made the switch an attractive option for a much wider group of manufacturing businesses. The type of businesses which use products produced by QuickLabel, one of the sector leaders in in-house label printing, shows the extent to which meeting your own label and packaging printing requirements has penetrated across the manufacturing and service sectors.
And, of course, the advantages of flexibility, better monitoring of quality standards and just-in-time production remain as real as ever. The ability to take control of creative marketing and branding, especially for short seasonal or promotional production runs, highlighted in this recent article from the UK Design Council, are also greatly facilitated.
In short, it seems that the barriers to using in-house digital colour label printing to meet the product labelling and packaging requirements of an extremely wide range of manufacturing industries have been eroded to the point of insignificance. The quality and flexibility of taking control of this important aspect of production, coupled with the enhanced opportunities for creative marketing and brand development has meant that more and more manufacturers are taking the opportunity to seize the initiative. What sort of firm prints its own labels? It would be easier to ask what sort of firm doesnt.
About the author
Mike Moore was, until recently, MD of his own industrial heating and ventilation company. He is now fully occupied as a consultant across a wide range of the manufacturing and construction sector. Apart, that is, from Saturday afternoons where, Mike, together with his two sons, will invariably be found on the terraces supporting Charlton Athletic.