Good organization is integral to productive and efficient warehouse operations. An excellent way to improve organization is the use of shelf and racking labels. Below is a guide to racking labels and how they can be used effectively in the warehouse.
WHAT ARE RACKING LABELS?
Racking labels are organizational tools that provide information about an item and its location on a racking system. These are typically plastic or adhesive labels found on or nearby a rack. Rack labels let workers know where to put and find items in a warehouse, allowing for easier sorting and organization of inventory.
TYPES OF RACK LABELS
There are many types of racking labels. Color-coded labels are common but can also be organized by symbols, barcodes, locations, etc. Examples of racking labels include:
- Pallet labels/license plate numbers. These are labels used to track items moving within a warehouse, commonly found with pallets, cartons, or bins. Pallet labels are made of paper and come on pre-printed rolls with adhesive backing to accommodate various applications and temperatures.
- Rack beam labels. These labels are found most commonly on rack beams at bay locations. Rack beam labels typically have a one or two-dimensional barcode for scanning and letters or numbers for identification. Beam labels are often made of polyester or polypropylene because these materials are more resistant to tearing and fading.
- Rack upright/totem labels. These are vertical labels found stacked on top of one another. They contain information for each level of racking within a system. Upright labels are often color-coded and accompanied by location labels (used on the different racking levels to organize inventory).
- Tote and bin labels. Warehouses often have plastic bins or totes to hold or move items within the warehouse. These must also be properly labeled to allow for easy sorting and retrieval. Tote and bin labels are often made from paper and are easily removable and replaceable.
- Bulk storage labels. These labels help identify bulk storage locations within the warehouse. They are often similar to tote and bin labels but are larger and commonly accompanied by other signage (e.g., overhead signs).
- Floor labels. These labels are found on the floor, generally used to identify storage or bulk locations. Durability is integral to these labels as they are frequently subject to foot traffic, machine handling equipment, pallets, and more.
WHY USE RACKING LABELS?
Racking labels are excellent tools for improving warehouse management. Benefits of using rack labels include:
- More efficient sorting, identification, and retrieval. Racking labels eliminate the guesswork associated with inventory organization. In addition, labels allow workers to quickly identify and locate product information and locations, making sorting simpler.
- Reduced mistakes caused by human error. Rack labels provide all relevant data about inventory. Information is also often encoded with a barcode that workers can scan to retrieve information and ensure items are in the correct locations. This minimizes the chances of inventory being misplaced.
- Optimization of warehouse space. Proper organization ensures warehouse space is used effectively, minimizing wasted space and time.
- Cost-effective solution. Rack labels are typically inexpensive but provide excellent value to the organization of warehouse practices and workers.
- Improved inventory management. It is essential to keep products moving in the warehouse. Implementing tools or practices, like rack labels, make moving items quicker and easier, improving overall efficiency and productivity.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING RACK LABELS
Rack labels can be easily tailored to the unique needs of a warehouse. Therefore, there are no universal standards or practices for racking labeling. However, there are essential factors to consider to optimize labeling practices. These include:
Warehouse organizational needs
Organizational needs must be identified and examined before selecting labeling. A good place to start would be to look at how things are organized currently and identify the racking systems and sections that need to be labeled.
Different labeling materials and adhesives are better suited for specific warehouse environments. For example, if the warehouse is outside, labels must withstand various weather conditions and temperature fluctuations. Therefore, paper labels would not be the best option, but they would work fine for most indoor storage environments.
Label materials must be catered to the warehouse environment and needs. Examples of labeling materials include:
- Paper. Not very durable, but easily removable.
- Polyester/polypropylene. Durable and highly readable, which is excellent for short-range tracking.
- Magnetic. These labels can be easily moved around, which may be preferred for temporary storage areas.
- Self-adhesive. These labels can be placed directly on rack. They are often durable and resistant to different environments. A drawback of self-adhesive labels is that they can be challenging to remove. Block-out labels can help by covering old or torn labels.
- Reflective. Durable and highly visible, making it a great choice for long-range scanning.
The two most popular picking methods are:
- Standard. Workers go from location to location for picking and may need to double back for inventory retrieval. Labeling is often sorted numerically or alphabetically.
- Serpentine. This method involves workers picking products along a path. Essentially, new shelves of products are close to where the last shelf left off, so pickers can weave up and down aisles instead of doubling back.
Labels are used to identify different areas but are also vital to labeling the different levels or shelves within a racking system. It is optimal to label from the bottom-up, using double digits (in case more racking levels are added down the line). For example, the level closest to the ground could be labeled “01”, the second row “02”, etc.
Barcodes are one-dimensional (1D) or two-dimensional (2D). 1D barcodes have vertical lines and spaces, and 2D barcodes (e.g., QR codes) are square-shaped and look like television static. 1D barcodes are more common in warehouses. Barcodes are easily customizable to individual needs, but warehouses must consider compatibility with warehouse management software.
Keeping labeling somewhat consistent throughout the warehouse is vital to minimize confusion and improve efficiency. This also makes it easier to train new workers on the labeling system.
WHERE TO BUY RACKING LABELS
You can purchase a variety of warehouse racking labels from Lean Inc., which operates this warehouse supply store.