Can our Labels Be The Solution for Walmart Boxes? April 14 2016

Can Labels Be The Solution for Walmart Boxes?

Much has been made recently about Walmart's box labeling requirements and how it will effect their supply chain. Walmart is the dominant retailer with long supply chain roots throughout the world.

It takes extreme organizational skills to move massive amounts of products from manufacturer to the store shelves. Any weak link in that system can lead to confusion and financial losses. So when Walmart wants to upgrade the efficiency and accuracy of the shipping cases they receive at their stores, thousands of companies must take notice.

Walmart-ink-jet-bar-code-Tide.jpgApparently most companies are now switching to Brown Kraft 11" x 17" Laser Label Stock print variable information on their boxes. Walmart requires Interleaved 2 of 5 GTIN14 bar codes on every box shipped to their vast array of distribution centers and stores. But when these boxes are stacked in the store stockrooms, it can be hard for employees to find what they need in a timely manner due to the current inkjet labeling.

Walmart is trying to solve this issue by requiring suppliers to have the GTIN14 bar code on all four sides of the carton so that, no matter how the boxes are stacked, a readable bar code is presented.

But here is where we start scratching our heads. According to what we have read from a few sources, some of Walmart’s new rules are going to cause a few headaches with dry grocery and food item manufacturers (excluding fresh meat, fish, poultry, and produce).

Walmart’s New Requirements

As we mentioned, each master box must have a GTIN14 bar code on each of the four main sides of the carton and on the top.

  • Each box must also include the brand name and sub-brand name, best with the brand logo. This information also needs to be on all four sides plus the top of the box. Visuals like logos help store employees recognize the brand and find what they need faster.
  • Walmart-master-carton-artwork.jpgInitial box quantity must be on all four sides of the box along with a blank square where employees can update the quantity of the box with a marker as it is emptied.
  • A vendor stock number must appear on at least two sides.
  • Walmart wants indication of the type of box printed on the top: Single Stock, Shelf Ready/PDQ or Box Cut Capable.
  • There must be a statement of temperature requirements on the top for refrigerated or frozen products.
  • And the box must have a Lot Number and Best-By Date on all fours sides for refrigerated products, and on at least two side for other products. Date format is to be MM/DD/YYYY.
  • For shrink-wrapped trays, Walmart wants the GTIN14 printed on each of the four sides of the tray and will allow the rest of the required information to be printed on the tray or on a pressure-sensitive label that is applied to the film wrapping.

These new Walmart requirements will provide important information that should be readily available to store associates whose job it is to organize, inventory and restock their stores.


A Case for Box Labeling 

Walmart-ink-jet-bar-code-2.jpgWe all agree that Walmart needs this information on each case to maintain or improve their store efficiencies. But we are not sure that pre-printing boxes will make sense in the long run. Isn’t that what companies used to do 20 years ago and we moved away from it? Now Label Sheets will be more efficient.

Flexographic label printing of required information on boxes would increase costs for manufacturers. Instead of being able to use the same box for a wide range of products and imprinting the variable information, a company would have to have a pre-printed box for each product that's why Label Sheets make more sense. 

Let’s say you are a manufacturer of flavored drinks.You would like to use one generic carton for everything and just imprint the variable info via labels. If you have 5 different flavors, you would now just print labels for each flavor using a generic box. That  will lower the cost using generic cartons, less warehouse space for the empty cartons, and, when you no longer produce one of the flavors, no more obsolete cartons that end up in a landfill or get recycled. This seems efficient and very environmentally sound.

We believe in using the kraft label option for efficient box labeling. This is what Walmart believes, and wants high quality laser printing that can produce bar codes that are ANSI/GS1 compliant. When used correctly, they can produce highly legible bar codes, logos and other variable data that would meet the requirements of the new Walmart mandate.

Walmart-ink-jet-bar-code-1.jpgPerhaps this is the reason Walmart wants to move away from high resolution ink jet coding is that many times production lines will not get the maintenance or oversight needed to keep these ink jet systems working in top form. Often the marking can be of poor quality if the manufacturer does not maintain their production line. But simple bar code scanners could reject non-compliant coding before it gets shipped, allowing only compliant labeling to be delivered to Walmart.

Using pressure-sensitive labels is an even more reliable way to ensure that the correct information is added to every case. Variable information can be printed onto a variety of label sizes and applied to each of the sides of a carton. All of the Walmart required data can be printed on either blank white or custom printed Kraft label media that contains a company’s logo and other non-variable information.

Label printer-applicators are available that can either 5300_Corner_Wrap_Full.jpgapply labels to two adjacent sides or apply one long label that wraps around the corner of two adjacent sides. Two of these systems would be required per line, but the ROI on this investment vs. flexographically printing boxes would be fast. Changes to product descriptions and bar codes could be made quickly.

Walmart already has a mandate in place for frozen baked goods that requires the variable information be printed on a white  or Kraft corner-wrap label that is applied to two opposite corners of a carton. This allows the information to be seen on all four sides clearly with excellent bar code scannability.

Walmart will allow for box labeling, a proven solution, to ease the burden and still solve the problem they’re encountering.  If you have questions about Walmart box labeling, call Roy the Label Engineer for your custom Labeling solution.