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 just six months 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Outdated SAP labeling methods, such as hard coding label templates in SAPscript or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.

 Pharma: digitize serialization and aggregation – When serialization and
aggregation are properly integrated with a label management system, supply
chain traceability and efficiency increase. Additionally, with a digital approach,
organizations can handle the design and verification processes for serialization
and aggregation off the production line. Label approval processes can also be
configured to automate the deployment of the correct layouts for the right
products to the lines. Moreover, hard-coding label templates for serialization and
aggregation systems will not be required.

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.

About the author:

Lee Patty, NiceLabel HeadshotLee Patty is VP and General Manager at NiceLabel Americas. In this role, Lee oversees the company’s sales, project delivery and operations in the Americas. Prior to NiceLabel, he co-
founded Niceware International, LLC, a NiceLabel distributor, where he was responsible for marketing, healthcare product development and professional services. NiceLabel acquired Niceware in 2013, adding Lee to the global executive team.  Lee has over 20 years of AIDC industry experience and has also held sales, marketing and technical roles at Brady
Corporation and Innovatec Communications.

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