The Latest Trends and Innovations in Label Manufacturing

Label manufacturing is a highly competitive sector, which is why it’s important to remain fully informed of shifting trends and the latest innovations developed. Here, at GSM Graphic Arts, we make sure to regularly review our sector and find the best ways to adapt and remain the leading label, graphic overlay and nameplate manufacturer in the country. Read on to explore the recent changes we’ve observed.

Increased Automation with Industry 4.0

Many areas of manufacturing are adapting their processes to automated alternatives to remain competitive despite shifting industry trends. Over the past year, several factors have been pushing businesses to embrace automation; here are the two main ones affecting our industry currently.

Compensating for Workforce Shortages

Whilst label manufacturers in the UK are not alone when it comes to reduced recruitment numbers, our industry is currently being affected by the fewer recruits. Supporting the next generation of designers and technicians is an essential goal that was normally fulfilled easily, but since the pandemic, there has been a noticeable reduction.

The solution is to encourage upskilling our talented staff to learn multiple skills and disciplines whilst automating various simple and repetitive tasks. This tactic is commonly known as Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 in Label Manufacturing

Industry 4.0 is a title for the current industrial revolution; where coal-powered machines dominated the first, this current one is focused on integrating more computer-controlled processes into manufacturing with less staff needed to monitor the progress and results.

One evident example of us embracing Industry 4.0 is our fully automated anodising aluminium plant that will prep and print the intended design onto the metal autonomously; unlike the screen, this printing will apply multiple colours without any interference. Our broader digital label printing service is another example of the benefits of automation; once prepared, it will print complex designs without assistance and create reliable results every time.

As the industry continues to adapt to these changing trends and incorporate them into our existing processes, we are not only compensating for the emerging workforce shortages but also finding new, unexpected ways of making our operations even more productive than they were before.

Increased Complexity with Label Designs

Increasing design complexity with reliable results has always been a consistent competition between label suppliers in the UK, and this year is no different. But what has changed are the capabilities of labels once they are made.

Digitally printed labels have already proved their immense possibilities thanks to the convenience of the designs we employ for making labels and more. Despite the complexity of the design, our outstanding printers will fulfil them to the exact specifications provided by our art studio.

However, the use of labels will be improving over the coming years as more businesses realise the potential of variable data labels. These bespoke and tailored labels are printed with unique data so that each label will have information encoded that is specific to it alone. Personalised information often comes this way in the form of QR code stickers for increased marketing value, or for e-commerce sites, the customer’s name could be automatically printed onto the label before shipping to create an additional personal touch. Additionally, QR code labels are also used to provide users with detailed product information and user guides and provide an efficient delivery mechanism for complex information that cannot be added to a physical label.

Apart from the aesthetics, the data encoded on labels is set to be more complex as businesses require labels with more information. They are also used for product identification, tracking, inventory control and even security measures.

Increasing Sustainability with Label Materials and Inks

The most impactful trend we’ve seen in our sector is the move toward increasingly environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and materials. This goal didn’t originate at a manufacturing level; it is the last phase of a long transition to an eco-friendlier economy that started with customers wanting more sustainably created options from businesses. This inspired businesses like ours to actively improve the sustainability of our label manufacturing so you have sustainable choices available. These eco-friendly initiatives are supported by either the processes, recycling or sourcing better materials.

Converting to Water-Based Inks

Older inks that were commonly used for many years for silk screen labels were solvent-based. These solvents would contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that would evaporate during the manufacturing process. Apart from contributing to general air pollution, there was the added risk to the health of nearby workers. These VOCs have been eliminated in recent years with water-based inks, making printing operations more sustainable and safer.

Materials Supporting Circular Economy

As much as the inks for printing, the materials used are also an important factor. This is why we expect to see the label sector continue to refine our choice of materials with recycled options. Raw materials sourced from around the world have a significant impact on the environment and incur higher costs than choosing recycled options such as recycled plastic labels or recycled steel for our metal decals. For example, for our aluminium nameplates, we only use 5251-grade aluminium. This has 88.6% recycled content and is fully recyclable, making it a far more sustainable choice than alternatives.

Two innovative materials presented at the Label Summit 2024 are sugar cane and grass. It was revealed that by removing the traditional wood pulp from product label production and replacing it with either sugar cane fibres or dried grass hay fibre, your result is a label that is 70% sustainably sourced and biodegradable. Depending on the success of this invention, we expect it to have an impressive impact on the commercial label sector.

High-Quality Digitally Printed Labels at GSM Graphic Arts

We continually improve our manufacturing processes as we monitor the wider changing trends and newly introduced technologies being created. Our labelling solutions cater to the ever-evolving needs of our clients, supporting diverse sectors as they strive for excellence.

Trust us to provide the industry-leading manufacturing practices required to create outstanding products for your application. Contact us to discuss the needs of your next project.