Manual Label vs. Label Applicator Machine: Which is the Best Choice?

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Proper Labeling to Save Time, Money, and Boosts Sales

Perhaps you have walked through the grocery store and noticed a packing label that is overlapping, crooked, bubbling, or peeling. This product stands out from the rest, but not in the way you would want it to. The same can go for other people viewing your manufactured products, as well. Although these imperfections may seem small, they can be a big deterrent for many people.  If this is a problem your operation faces, it could be the result of applying labels by hand.Labeling by hand is time-consuming and can often lead to many imperfections. To create a solid first impression on store shelves and ensure an efficient packaging process, you may want to consider switching to a label machine. 

Rather than continuing with hand-applied labels, you may want to try purchasing professional labeling equipment. Although it may seem like a huge investment at first, it eliminates the issues that prevent your products from flying off shelves and can significantly boost sales. Before making any final decisions, let's discuss some issues to watch out for when deciding if labeling equipment is the best solution for you. 

Labor Considerations

You may be working with hand labeling and perhaps you have a couple of dedicated employees specifically assigned to applying labels for the hours they are working. Whether or not they are doing a good job, this could mean tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours spent every year solely on labeling. Additionally, their productivity levels may vary from day to day and may lead to inaccuracies or slower speeds. 

You also have to factor in that human workers take days off and vacations. They also may a two-weeks notice. All of these factors may lead to a need for a replacement before you get too far behind, but you can not guarantee the accuracy, efficiency, or complete availability of the replacement either. It is also important to note that making the switch does not endanger your current employees' jobs. With a labeling machine, your employees have more time to focus on other important and more satisfying tasks for your production.


Perhaps your concern is the affordability. If you can't yet afford a large, high-output labeling machine but want to make a switch from hand labeling, a tabletop labeler might be the solution for you. These portable machines remove inconsistencies in label application and increase efficiency by 500%. They do not take up a lot of space either.  Even a small tabletop labeler like the ELF-20 is compact enough to fit on a workbench, but can still make labeling faster and more efficient. Plus, all of Pack Leader USA's labeling machines are made from high-grade aluminum and stainless steel, which lasts for years.

Design Limitations

The beauty of labeling machines is that they are able to grow with you and your business. This includes your design too. When hand-applying labels, the types of labels at your disposal are limited. Shrink sleeve labels are becoming increasingly popular and allow for eye-catching graphics that stretch over the entire container. However, these labels can not be applied by hand without specialized equipment.  Since they cover the entire product, the style options are limitless. They also do not require adhesive, are moisture resistant, and fit around oddly shaped containers. Shrink sleeve labels are known to be one of the most durable labeling options.  If your product would benefit from having beautiful full-sized graphics, stepping up to a shrink-sleeve labeler opens up a world of opportunities. 

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Pack Leader USA shrink sleeve label machines (SL Series) are designed for full-body sleeve labeling applications, neck and cap banding, and tamper-evident applications. Each option has varying size and labeling speed. The SL Series is well-suited for various industries and applications, including beverage, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics. Since they also have tamper-evident application capabilities and work on a wide variety of shapes and sizes, these applicators also work well on a wide range of compact pencils, lip glosses, and other tubes that are used exclusively for cosmetics products. This allows your customers to have an extra layer of security that their product has not been compromised, while other similar products may not offer them the same guarantee. 

Precision and Accuracy

Your employees may be great and reliable workers, but no matter how accurate and consistent your employees might be, a machine will always be faster and more precise. This is especially true for wraparound labels for bottles, cans, or other cylindrical containers. While humans can be valuable employees, they also become fatigued, need breaks, take more time, or make human errors. Using a machine can free up time, reduce employee fatigue, improve quality, and ensure all data is printed accurately.

Employees are also not always constant with other workers or even their own work. One issue you may face when applying labels by hand is peeling or bubbling due to application pressure variance. Unfortunately, any inconsistencies in application pressure can result in a poorly applied label that either has to be reapplied or thrown away, wasting time and resources. Semi-automatic and fully automatic labeling machines are made to apply even pressure to labels, making them adhere properly and look great every time. 

Speed and Efficiency

Your employees might have learned to apply labels quickly, but a machine will always do it faster. Take tabletop labeling machines for example – a human can label anywhere between 300 to 500 labels per hour. In that same hour, a table-top labeling machine may be able to label up to 3,600 labels. Additionally, that machine will not get tired or make mistakes. It will apply labels neatly and accurately from start to finish.  

In-line labeling machines are also adaptable to a wide range of labeling needs. They can increase output even more because they are designed to fit right into a packaging line. In some cases, an employee might have to remove containers from the line to apply labels before putting the product back for the next step of the production process. However,  an in-line labeling machine lets the product move through with no stops. This also reduces the time for labeling on multiple sides of the container and eliminates the opportunity for human error. Labeling machines like Pack Leader USA PL-221D can apply labels to multiple surfaces at once. 

More Customizable Options

Finally, if you are looking for something to take care of your packing needs, even as they change, labeling machine applicators are a very customizable solution. For example, since Pack Leader USA’s machines were built to be customized, they allow for wider conveyors, printers for date stamps or lot number placements, secondary label heads that minimize the needs for adding new major equipment to your production line, and more. There are machine applications available for almost every label type and application need. There is something that caters to every different product type and size. 

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Stepping Up to a Labeling Machine 

The time for stepping up to a labeling Machine is now. Leaving behind inefficient hand labeling and speeding up your packaging process. This will allow for more of your products to hit store shelves faster and higher quality than ever. Allow your labeling methods to grow with you and your business. 

No matter what kind of label your products need, Pack Leader USA has a labeling solution for you. This will allow you to boost your packaging efficiency and attract new customers. If you still have some questions that have gone unanswered and are having difficulty deciding which machine you need, try scheduling a free consultation with one of our experts today!

Download Choosing the Right Labeling Equipment Guide



Should I use an Automatic Label Applicator?

Automatic label applicators run much more quickly and efficiently than trying to label by hand. This prevents error, makes products more appealing, boosts sales, and saves a lot of time for your employees that can be redistributed towards other product needs.

What are Common Application Problems?

Some common issues that may be leading to your application problems include human error created during hand labeling, environmental issues, label conversion quality problems, container irregularities, labeling size, material issues, and using the wrong adhesive. 

What Types of Applicators Are There?

Different types of label applicators include manual labelers, semi-automatic labelers, and automatic labeling machines. Machine types can further be broken down into wrap-around labelers, top labelers, top and bottom labelers, front and back labelers, and shrink-sleeve labelers. The best machine for you may vary by product type, shape, size, and other labeling requirements. 

How do I Know Which Applicator to Choose?

The best way to determine which applicator will work best for you is to speak with a professional with experience in the field. Consider scheduling a free consultation with Pack Leader USA today or download the Choosing the Right Labeling Equipment Guide today for a more personalized labeling solution.

Choosing the Right Labeling Equipment