Product Combinations Yield Profitable Results
Form/label combinations benefit distributors, as well as their customers.
Forms and labels are a natural combination to win distributors greater profits and reap savings for their customers.
"There's not an industry that can't use form/label combinations in some way," said Ed Brandt, owner of Brandt Affixing, Carrollton, Texas. Brandt, which offers both blown-on (piggyback) and integrated label constructions, has seen "nice, steady growth" in form/label combinations, he said.
Bill Reid, director of marketing for Printegra, Peachtree City, Ga., agreed that the form/label market is growing. "In the past three years, we've averaged 30 percent growth with this [product category]," said Reid. Although it's a relatively new product line for Printegra, he noted that the company has experienced steady growth because of the product's inherent advantages.
Distributors can increase their sales by promoting the increased efficiency and elimination of matching errors available through form/label combinations, Reid said.
Tried-and-true products, such as pick tickets with affixed labels or shipping lists with return authorization labels, are becoming more popular due to the surge in online consumer purchasing, Brandt commented. "Integrated labels are the perfect way to manage the increased volume of orders shippers have experienced," he said.
Innovation is also driving sales, according to Roger Buck, national form sales manager for Ward/Kraft, Ft. Scott, Kan. The company's LaserBand product—a laser-printable wristband for identifying hospital patients—gives distributors an edge over the directs, Buck said.
"Our band is unique in that once it is printed, the nurse can simply peel the band from the form and fold the lamination over the imaged area for protection," he said. Another hot product for the medical industry is Ward-Kraft's joined-web pharmacy prescriptions.
"Health-care and distribution are two primary markets distributors should look to for applications," advised Buck. He explained that chain-of-custody, drug dispensing/information capture, pharmacy prescriptions and patient sign-in forms are common areas for form/label use.
For example, to comply with new HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations on patient sign-in confidentiality, Ward/Kraft developed a form in which the sign-in signature label is removed and affixed to the patient's file. The patient takes a second label cross-referenced with a number so that they are called by number, not name. The form itself has a printed message on the silicone under the liner saying "Please sign below" to prevent double signatures on one line. At the end of the day, the doctor can remove the stubs of the form and have a full listing of the day's patients in order of arrival.
In distribution applications, distributors should seek opportunities to combine packing lists, pick tickets, shipping labels and return goods labels, Buck said. One distributor's large distribution facility customer—who used a pick ticket/packing list to pull items—generated a thermal label for shipment and a plastic pouch for inserting their pick ticket/packing list, which was then affixed to the carton. The new design used thermal stock and created a joined-web format with the pick ticket/packing list generated at the same time as the label.
Brandt advised distributors to keep their eyes open for opportunities in all areas. One new product he's recently promoted is an integrated window decal and ID card. Both are included on a laser-compatible form, which is popular with alumni and other loyalty groups. "You can put the card in your wallet and the decal in your window," he said.
Another application involved a gold-foil cross-shaped label affixed to the form as an action device meant to be peeled off by the recipient of the direct mail piece and put on a reply card.
Fundraising direct mail letters can also incorporate a label that recipients peel off and affix to the return form, Brandt said. "Any kind of action device increases the response to a direct mail piece," he noted.
Printegra has produced invoices combined with remittance labels, as well as parking decals married to parking permit forms, according to Reid. Other common applications include oil change reminder stickers integrated with the mechanic's invoice and medical diagnostic form/label combinations in which the label conveys the test results to the patient's chart.
One product Printegra is promoting this year is a pressure-seal mailer with an integrated label. "That product line is growing rapidly," Reid said. "It can really increase office efficiency."
Government is also interested in efficiency, Buck noted. One of Ward/Kraft's distributors working with a lab and state law enforcement office needed a transport document for collection kits. The original design involved a pocket form, bar-coded labels for tracking, integrated labels for security seals and a double-seal system to allow the document to be bi-directional. The newest evolution also includes a secondary envelope for kit storage until use is required.
Be a Hero
The beauty of form/label combinations is that "they exactly transfer information from the form to something else, such as a test tube, a carton or a file," Brandt said. "Find your customers' redundancies, help them reduce the time spent creating labels and matching them up, eliminate errors with that process and you'll look like a hero."
Buck recommended that distributors ask questions based on a document's three functions—storing, transmitting and retrieving information. Ask how and where the document is imaged, and if the information can be transmitted or utilized repeatedly. Also, ask who reads the information and what action must take place. For instance, that might mean that a packing list/invoice contains an integrated label and perhaps a return envelope to prompt faster payment.
After distributors fully understand the current process, they should have a "what-if" conversation with the customer, Buck advised, then consult with a manufacturer to achieve the goal.
Reid noted, "It's definitely a solution sell. Research how the form and label are used, how long the label needs to last, the environment it's used in, what type of printer the customer uses and how you can transition two products into one." Once you've successfully made the transition with the customer's form, you've also made a transition in the customer's mind. "Now, they'll look to you for solutions, not just a price," Reid said.
By Janet R. Gross