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The collective term industrial labels refers to all types of special labels that perform one or more labelling tasks to support the industrial mass production of products, machines, goods or systems. In addition to their most important function, product labelling, the control of logistical processes is also one of the tasks of industrial labels. Industrial labels are used in purchasing, production, storage and shipping.
1.1. How do industrial labels differ from other labels?
Industrial labels differ from other labels, such as those used in retail or in the office sector, in their special structure and material quality. These differences are due to the general conditions to which industrial labels are subjected during their use.
These complex framework conditions include the high requirements for the safety of industrial product labelling and product tracking, the environmental conditions as well as a large number of industry-specific or cross-industry legal regulations and label standards. Examples include the GHS Hazardous Substances Regulation, the GMP Directive or the LMIV (Food Information Regulation).
To put it in a nutshell: Industrial labels must always be one step better and function more reliably than labels for other industries.
1.2. What are the requirements for industrial labels?
Industrial labels are hard workers:
Industrial labels often do their job under extreme external conditions and in complicated environments. They must still adhere firmly and remain legible for a long time outdoors, in wet or greasy environments, in heat, cold, strong vibrations or high UV radiation, because these are conditions typical of industrial mass production. The construction of industrial labels, therefore, requires particularly high-quality materials, e.g. scratch-resistant films, firmly adhering adhesives for difficult substrates or toners suitable for foodstuffs. Label production must also be of a particularly high quality; and all this in mass printing, see GMP. Those who economise here are saving at the wrong end and may have to reckon with expensive additional costs.
Industrial labels are drivers of innovation:
In order to further optimise industrial labels and adapt them even better to their intended use, new, innovative technologies in the area of label production, logistics and application are constantly being tinkered with. Industrial labels are the innovation drivers of the label industry; terms such as RFID or printable electronics are primarily associated with industrial labels.
Industrial labels are not fashionistas:
For many industrial labels, it's not so much the beauty that counts, but the "inner values". What good is the most beautiful silver print if there is hardly any space left on the labels for legible product information? This focus on practicality, however, does not exclude the fact that a good label design can particularly support the marketing function of industrial labels in product labelling, for example in the food industry. Especially in the case of products for the end consumer, the advertising effect plays a decisive role in the purchase decision, but not so much in the case of alkalis, acids or other chemicals.
Industrial labels are navigation masters:
Without functioning logistics, industrial production would not work. Logistics labels ensure an optimal flow of goods from the supplier to the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and within a company. Every transported good is marked with them and can be securely tracked if required. Logistics labels are available in many versions: as barcode labels, with consecutive numbering or as RFID labels with electronic readability.
2. Selected sectors in detail
The leading industrial sectors in Germany include the automotive industry, mechanical engineering, the chemical industry and the food industry. The greatest value added is achieved in these four key industries. This is where most employees work and where the largest number of products and goods are manufactured. As much as these four industries differ from each other, they all have one thing in common: a great need for industrial labels. Other sectors may include the construction industry, the electronics industry, the metal and steel industry, trade and services.
2.1. Industrial labels for the automotive industry
From A for exhaust to Z for cylinder head: an average car consists of about 10,000 parts; but it can be more. The individual parts are manufactured by suppliers from all over the world, transported to other suppliers or directly to the OEM, where they are grouped into numerous different commodity groups (electrics, engine, transmission, bodywork, brakes, lighting, etc.).
Each of these 10,000 parts must be identified in some way by automotive labels and be traceable throughout the supply chain in the event of damage. Labels for the automotive industry therefore come in many varieties:
Technical labels provide product identification, facilitate logistics and spare parts supply and guarantee reliable tracking of the many individual components of a car, bus or truck.
Most labels for the automotive industry have to meet high-quality requirements. Mostly required are a very long service life, reliable adhesion at high temperatures, such as can occur in the engine compartment. To ensure that they are still easy to read after many years on the road, automotive labels must be scratch-resistant and lightfast and resistant to petrol, diesel and battery acid.
Labels with UL approval (UL=Underwriters Laboratories) optimally fulfil the properties required for automotive labels: whether proof of originality, traceability or protection against tampering and theft. With the right parts labelling, maximum security is ensured for the supplier, the OEM, the car dealer and ultimately the car or truck driver.
It grows and grows and grows - mechanical engineering is one of the most important export sectors of the German economy. In and on every machine that leaves the factory, industrial labels also go on the journey. It is typical for labelling in mechanical engineering that industrial labels are not required in mass quantities, but in a particularly high quality.
Machines and plants pay off when they are running. They are used under all weather conditions and often around the clock. Engines, turbines, conveyor systems or machine tools are therefore subject to constant wear. The special industrial labels for machines and plants must also take this continuous running and wear into account.
Information and safety - these two requirements are paramount for industrial labels for mechanical engineering. On the one hand, they provide information on the identification of machines and tools, and on the other, they often contain safety and operating instructions. Sometimes machine labels also have to fulfil the function of an advertising medium; the logos of Heidelberg, HP or CAT have a high recognition value in the respective industry.
Since machines and systems are often operated outdoors or come into contact with a lot of dirt, grease, oil, dust, chips and cleaning agents in factories, warehouses or workshops, firmly adhering adhesives are used for the corresponding industrial labels. Machine labels must also be able to withstand vibrations without peeling off. The labels should be very durable and resistant to abrasion and scratching so that they are still easily legible even after years of operation.
In mechanical engineering, there is a wide range of label types:
Transport container labels
Spare parts labels
2.3. Industrial labels for the chemical industry
Labels for the chemical industry and its many products must provide comprehensive information and meet different requirements depending on their use and classification. In this context, the labelling of products in the chemical industry is subject to strict regulation (e.g. GHS). Depending on the operating process and storage of the goods, different resistance levels are required. To learn about these types of industrial labels, take a look at our existing blog article on chemical labels.
2.4. Industrial labels for the food industry
Food labels are mostly stickers for bottles, cans, cartons and are mostly used as paper. For food labelling, special regulations must be followed and must not be violated. To learn about these types of industrial labels, check out our existing blog article on food labels.
Type plates are the "identity card" of a technical system or machine, a clear and complete identification. The information on a type plate informs the buyer, user, importer, etc. about the manufacturer, year of manufacture and CE conformity and provides important technical information such as performance data and safety instructions.
The Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC of 29.06.2006 regulates what must be on a type plate and which machines must have a type plate. Type plates should be appropriate to the tasks of the respective machine, i.e. resistant to the mechanical and chemical stresses during use. A type plate must also withstand the expected influences of light, heat, cold, weather, etc. Materials and design should be such that all information remains permanently legible under normal operating conditions. Type plates are therefore often made of anodised aluminium or stainless steel, and increasingly also of plastic or plastic film. The respective information is embossed, etched, engraved or printed on. It is the manufacturer's task to select the appropriate materials and methods to suit the machine.
3.2. RFID labels
RFID tags are radio tags used to identify products in the movement of goods, e.g. pallets, consumer units or on the shelf. RFID means "Radio-Frequency Identification". RFID tags enable the automatic identification and localisation of objects and thus considerably facilitate the collection of data. An RFID system consists of a transponder, which is located on or in the object or living being and contains an identifying code, as well as a reader for reading this identification.
3.3. Product safety labels
The name says it all: product safety labels ensure safety on machines and systems. Printed with mandatory, prohibitive and warning information, they show the operator the correct behaviour to ensure smooth operation and protect man and machine. Due to the available space, detailed safety and usage information cannot be displayed on product safety labels. One possible solution to this space problem would be electronically readable, printed codes.
3.4. Roll labels
Roll labels are stickers that are supplied "as a roll". Often, continuous rolls are manufactured on which the label is produced in one to five webs next to each other, depending on the format of the artwork. Label rolls are usually produced using thermal transfer printing or an ink jet printing process. For a handy delivery to the customer, the label rolls can be cut lengthwise and crosswise. The label rolls can be quickly applied by dispensing systems, e.g. for hand dispensing systems, table label dispensers, but also for mechanical devices. The most common variants produced on rolls include shipping labels, packaging labels, blank labels and many more.
3.5. Blank labels
Blank means "empty" or "unprinted". Blank labels serve the purpose of being printed by the consumer with a special printer and are therefore supplied unprinted or pre-printed in several colours, on continuous rolls or on sheets. They are often used for price labelling, special discount campaigns, as information carriers, for inventories or for the production of address labels. Blank labels can be made of adhesive paper, thermal paper or all kinds of plastic films. They also come in different shapes: rectangular, round, star-shaped, oval, arrow-shaped and many more.
3.6. Barcode labels
The barcode (or bar code, bar code, identification code) consists of various wide, parallel bars and gaps that are read and processed by machine with the help of a barcode scanner. Barcode labels can be used to control flows of goods, automate warehousing, optimise processes, track goods or shipments, or verify IDs and tickets. With barcode labels, products can be read in quickly, avoiding input errors. Barcode labels can be made of a wide variety of materials. For short-term use, e.g. for deposit receipts from deposit machines, the direct thermal process on thermal paper is used.
3.7. Warning labels
Warning signs can be used to quickly recognise and avoid dangers. Warning signs are depicted as signal yellow triangles with the tip pointing upwards and a black border. The specific warning message is conveyed by a pictogram in the yellow inner area of the triangle. Pure text signs should be avoided because they are often misunderstood by children, illiterate people or foreigners, but can be made more specific by additional text. Warning signs are also available as tactile signs for blind and visually impaired people. The warning signs are used in hazardous areas by companies to protect their workers from hazards. Hazards can include hazardous substances, electrical voltage, falling loads, trip, fall, crush and impact hazards. The "Safety labels" are made of plastic or self-adhesive foil. For surfaces that become hot, there are also warning labels made of temperature-controlled foil. Warning signs are mainly used on machines, production sites, in warehouses, in areas where lasers and hazardous substances are used and on company roads.
3.8. Cable labels
Cable markers or cable labels can be used to mark and structure cables and cable harnesses. Cable markers are not only used to mark cables, but also circuits, components, pipes and control cabinets. Wherever cables are laid or electrical current flows, it makes sense to affix them, e.g. in domestic electrical systems or in network technology. Cable markers can be labelled or printed, can be self-adhesive or self-laminating, or have fixing eyelets. The cable markers are available as self-adhesive or self-laminated foil labels, which are first printed or inscribed and protect against moisture and other environmental influences thanks to the transparent protective laminate. Furthermore, the labelling of the cable markers can be differentiated due to different coloured bases.
3.9. Inventory labels
Inventory labels are stickers used to inventory items in a company. Inventory labels are available in different designs. You can either print them with company-specific information or write on them yourself with a pen. They can also include barcodes, company logos, equipment numbers, number ranges, etc. For inventory labels, materials such as document foil, VOID foil, security foil with chequerboard pattern, foil with security punching, foils for self-laminating and high-performance foils can be considered. Items that have to be inventoried by companies can be e.g. IT equipment, tools, sports equipment, whiteboards, small furniture, etc.
3.10. Temperature labels
Temperature labels are used to show, monitor and measure the surface heat on components or machines. But they are also used to monitor cold chains during transport and shipping. When heat exceeds a certain value, the white display area turns black in a matter of seconds. Several temperature points can be defined within a label with different values. Even if the temperature of the product drops back to its target temperature, the discolouration remains. Temperature labels are used wherever it is necessary to control temperatures for safety and quality reasons, e.g. for foodstuffs, paints, chemicals, adhesives or medical goods.
4. Industrial label materials
4.1. Industrial labels from foil
Film labels are best equipped for most industrial labelling tasks. Foil labels are somewhat more expensive, but are characterised by higher durability. The film materials used here include plastics such as polyester (PET), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and special high-performance films.
For these materials, there is the possibility of different finishes. Most labels are white or silver, but matt or glossy label films can also be produced. For a special design for the end customer, the products can also be upgraded with round, square, oval shapes or even special shapes.
Industrial labels on circuit boards, boilers, on the test bench or in the engine compartment have to withstand very high temperatures. If they also have to adhere perfectly to damp, oily or very rough surfaces, then industrial labels made of PET film, so-called high-temperature labels, are used. The special surface coating of PET films ensures optimal printing with all printing methods, such as laser and thermal transfer printing. PET films are extremely robust and therefore particularly suitable for a wide range of temperatures - from -50 to 140 °C, and even up to 150 °C for short periods. The high resistance of PET films to chemicals and strong tensile forces opens up a wide range of applications for plastic labels.
4.2. Paper industrial labels
It is not always necessary for industrial labels to be particularly resistant to environmental influences and to have a very long shelf life. For example, shipping labels and address labels are only needed for the short period of transport, or identification labels for machine or spare parts are not stored outdoors, but dust-free and dry in warehouses. For these and other types of industrial labels, label paper is perfectly adequate.It is the solution with the best price/performance ratio. If required, the surface of the paper labels can be additionally lacquered or laminated after the motif printing to improve durability.
4.3. Adhesives for industrial labels
The most beautiful label motif and the strongest label film are of no use if the industrial labels fall off the container or component again. A key role in industrial labelling is played by the label adhesive. The same applies to the adhesive: always play it safe! The choice of industrial adhesives is immense and ranges from removable glues to ultra-strong adhesion under the most extreme conditions. The requirements placed on label glue for industrial labels include:
Extremely good initial adhesion
Good adhesion to dusty, porous, greasy and wet substrates
Suitable for food / low migration
Minimal adhesive bleeding
An example of a high-tech adhesive suitable for industrial use is the acrylate-based pressure-sensitive adhesive. Industrial labels with a permanent acrylate-based pressure-sensitive adhesive are characterised by their processing properties. Due to its aggressive adhesive behaviour, an acrylate-based pressure-sensitive adhesive is used in particular for critical surfaces, such as rough cardboard packaging or for labelling ampoules, metal containers, chemical drums and hot filling. In combination with PET films, it is ideal for use at higher temperatures. A classic application for this type of material mix is type plates.
5. Important laws, standards and certifications
What does GHS mean?
The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) of the United Nations is a globally uniform system for the classification of chemicals and their labelling on packaging and in safety data sheets. In the European Union, the regulation must be implemented by 1 December 2010 for substances and by 1 June 2015 for mixtures.
In the USA and Canada, the label standards OSHA, WHMIS, FIFRA and PIMRA apply..
What is a UL Mark?
UL means Underwriters Laboratories and is an independent testing organisation in the USA. Underwriters Laboratories tests various products, materials and components for standards and product safety that meet the strict standards in the USA. If this is the case, you get a UL mark. UL certification is necessary for all manufacturers and suppliers who want to sell their products or components in North America or Canada. Industrial labels are also components of products that are sold in the USA or Canada.
Was ist die LMIV?
The Food Information Regulation (LMIV) prescribes in detail how food must be labelled and lays down rules for advertising, presentation and sale of food via the internet. In particular, many requirements must be met with regard to product labelling by means of food labels or industrial labels and the dissemination of information. The purpose of these European regulations is to strengthen the rights of consumers and to create more transparency. Secondly, the different national regulations of the individual EU countries are to be standardised.
What is GMP?
Good Manufacturing Practice refers to guidelines for quality assurance of the production processes and environment in the production of medicinal products and active ingredients, but also cosmetics, food and feed. These guidelines also include conditions (rooms, personnel, quality management, documentation) that must be fulfilled in order to produce industrial labels for products from the above-mentioned sectors.
6. A look into the future of industrial labels
Digitalisation and automation are the two magic words that describe the future of industrial mass production. Industry 4.0 is also often mentioned in this context. The technical basis for the industry of the future is intelligent, digitally networked systems that enable largely self-organised production; machines, plants, logistics and products communicate and cooperate directly with each other. The Internet of Things is finding its way into all industrial sectors, trade, crafts and the home.
For this digital networking to work, industrial labels are needed that (a) allow access to enormous amounts of data (b) and are able to communicate wirelessly with corresponding systems - the smart labels. Via QR codes and radio technologies, such as NFC (Near Field Communication), smart labels can be used to establish new fast communication channels with customers and at the same time analyse data on their behaviour.
Industrial labels with NFC chips: NFC near field communication is a further development of RFID technology. In contrast to RFID, NFC has a cross-industry standard. The chip on the industrial labels can be read directly with any smartphone without downloading an app and can be used for logistics, security and marketing purposes. Each chip has a unique identification number ex works and is therefore forgery-proof. NFC technology is currently already used as a payment medium and for authentication.
Assuming falling toner prices, new high-tech inks (e.g. for printed electronics) and even better print quality, ever larger market shares of industrial labels will be produced digitally in the future. A development that has long been at the forefront of labelprint24's investments in new technologies.
Multimedia will not stop at industrial labels in the future. Multimedia labels can contain information such as speech, music, small computer programs or images. The user can also save the data on a computer via an interface. Such labels, placed on machines or equipment, can contain maintenance instructions or repair plans.