No matter how carefully you plan, sometimes you just run out of things. And if it’s items like basic office supplies like pens and paperclips, that’s usually no big deal.
Depleting your supply of custom labels, on the other hand, can really put a crimp in your operations. No one wants to delay a shipment because of missing labels.
What if you had an insurance policy, in the form of someone else keeping tabs on your label inventory for you?
That’s the idea behind vendor managed inventory.
What Is Vendor Managed Inventory?
In the context of custom label printing, vendor managed inventory (or VMI) is just what it sounds like. Under a VMI arrangement, you would entrust your label printer to manage your inventory of custom labels for you, ensuring you always have an adequate supply.
Vendor managed inventory systems can take different shapes, depending on your needs, capabilities, constraints, and how comfortable you are ceding control to your label supplier.
For example, if space is at a premium in your facility, your label printer might agree to stock your labels for you and ship them as needed – either to your central facility or directly to your reps and locations out in the field.
If your company adheres to Kanban lean manufacturing principles, your label printer might coordinate with you to provide daily pickups via a “milk run.”
At the other end of the spectrum, you and your vendor may determine that it’s beneficial to keep several months’ worth of labels in stock and at the ready. Vendor managed inventory systems vary, but what they all have in common is that the supplier manages your label inventory on your behalf, based around your business needs.
Benefits of Vendor Managed Inventory for Your Custom Label Supply
As the pandemic year taught us too well, spikes or drop-offs in demand – often caused by economic forces beyond your control – can be nearly impossible to anticipate. And with supply constraints challenging virtually every market today, lead times have become longer. It may be time to work with your label vendor to understand options for regaining some control over these dynamics.
Why would you want to hand over responsibility for your label inventory to someone outside of your organization?
First, let’s be clear: We’re not talking about trusting your label supply with just anyone. One of the main benefits of vendor managed inventory is that your label inventory is overseen by people who understand labels, as well as manufacturing and inventory management principles.
Your label printer (assuming they have the right amount of experience and expertise) knows exactly what it takes to print your labels, source the materials, format and package your labels for shipping, and get them where they need to go. A reliable label supplier can relieve your team of many of the logistical challenges (and headaches) involved with ordering labels.
Another benefit of VMI is cost savings. We’ve written before about how ordering larger label quantities tends to save you money, but it’s not always feasible to predict your label needs several months or a year in advance.
For example, the marketing department may decide to change the artwork. Or new regulations may necessitate a new label design.
A good label printer can help you weigh the pros and cons of ordering larger quantities and, if storage or inventory costs are a concern, should be willing to store and ship your labels in batches as you need them.
Vendor managed inventory may also reduce some of the incidental (but not insubstantial) costs of ordering labels, such as the cost of creating purchase orders, managing invoices and staffing a receiving area.
Increase Your Efficiency with Fulfillment and Distributions Systems
Labels are often just one aspect of a project that may comprise multiple printed items or require additional handline and distribution.
For example, a promotional package used to highlight a new or seasonal product in liquor stores might include labels along with floor markings, shelf danglers, hangtags, coupons and window clings. It often falls to regional salespeople to assemble all these materials into a complete in-store display.
To get all these items into your sales team’s hands, you might have to contract with multiple vendors, collect all the materials in a central location, and then ship them out to your representatives. The process is time-consuming and inefficient, and it may result in your sales reps juggling several bulky boxes.
Alternatively, your label supplier can handle printing all the material, collating into finished kits containing the appropriate number of each item, and shipping the kits directly to your regional salespeople. If your display includes an item your label printer cannot print, your printer may help you procure it from a trusted third party, saving you the hassle and frustration of vendor management.
Your label printer can ship properly formatted labels to your service people in the field, as well. An HVAC technician, for example, shouldn’t have to drag a roll of 5,000 labels to a single service call. In that scenario, under a VMI system, your label printer can provide small stacks of individually cut labels that your service personnel can conveniently tuck away in their pockets to bring with them on house calls.
Not Just an Order Taker, a Strategic Partner for Vendor Managed Inventory
If you’re accustomed to thinking of label printers as vendors that simply take and fulfill your orders, that’s understandable. Many label printers do operate that way.
We’re happy to take your orders at the Label Printers too, but we can also provide so much more value: Our customers often entrust us with increasingly complex challenges such as shipping different numbers of labels to multiple locations, creating customized packages for promotional events, and, yes, ensuring that our customers never run out of labels when they need them. By meeting those challenges, we’re not simply providing labels, but partnering with our customers to help them grow their business.
We want to provide you with the best-looking, highest-quality labels for your application, but we also want to help make the process of printing, shipping, and storing labels as painless and efficient as it can possibly be.