In labelling, deciding between automatic and semi-automatic application is anything but… well, automatic. Various factors must be considered, and the choice affects other aspects of your packaging operation.
Before diving in, let’s clarify the terminology.
Semi-automatic labelling requires direct human interaction with a dispenser, which holds a wound roll of labels and feeds them individually. A wide variety of dispensers employ differing techniques for various packaging formats – bottles, bags, cartons, etc. But generally, this process involves a person placing the package on the dispenser, which in turn affixes the label. Here’s an example:
With automatic labelling, a pressure-sensitive label is dispensed directly to the product. Typically, this occurs utilizing one of three techniques: Merge, in which labelling takes place at a point of convergence between unwinding labels and conveyed products; Tamp, which applies pressure from a fixed position to a conveyor line of products; and Blow on, which is similar to tamping but doesn’t apply pressure to products.
In selecting between automatic and semi-automatic, two key factors to consider are your operation’s size and scope.
By and large, semi-automatic is best for limited production runs, or for those involving many SKUs – in other words, different labels in small batches. Typically, semi-automatic labelling produces less than 1,000 finished products per day.
Automatic labelling is preferable for running labels of similar size on similar products for extended periods of time. In addition to speed, automatic operation also allows labellers to reallocate personnel who might otherwise be assigned to handle semi-automatic labellers.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Semi-automatic labelling has clearly defined pluses and minuses. On the plus side, it’s less expensive, and makes it simpler to switch out labels or products. The drawbacks are decreased production speed and, of course, increased potential for human-caused error.
Automatic labeling has a broader set of issues to consider. Despite its higher initial investment, its speed and label placement consistency are huge benefits, as is the aforementioned manpower reallocation. Automatic labelling also allows for integrated date coding, which is more complicated to incorporate into semi-automatic operations.
Automatic labelling’s drawbacks mostly involve complementary needs. It requires a conveyor system with product control features, and operators generally need specialized training. And though faster than semi-automatic operations, speed can still be a factor, as applicators may have difficulty keeping up on high-speed production lines. If line speeds vary, an encoder-based system is necessary.
Finally, floor space can be an issue, as is proper label orientation – remember, mistakes made at higher speeds tend to get amplified.
Here’s an estimate of what you can expect to pay for each type of applicator:
- Basic semi-automatic label applicator: $1,800.00 – $4,000.00 CAD
- Automatic print & apply applicator, with stand – $ 25,000.00-$30,000.00 CAD
Where to Buy
Our sister company, Jet Marking Systems, provides premium application equipment ideally suited to the labels we print here at Jet Label. We even have the same phone number: 1-866-440-5135.
The process is both turnkey and comprehensive. An expert from Jet Marking will visit your facility, pinpoint your requirements, and provide a quote for the applicator that best meets your needs. They handle the install, initial set-up and ongoing maintenance, and are available for emergency service 24/7.
Jet Marking Systems also offers barcoding and date coding equipment, as well as vision systems and RFID readers. Working with Jet Label and Jet Marking Systems provides a seamless labeling process from design to printing to application.