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By: CIO, Harry Whitehouse

If you prepare labels for more than 10 packages per week, you should consider a thermal label printer like the Zebra. Some of these printers can be expensive, but if you look for a refurbished printer on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon, you can typically get them for half the price of a new unit.

Thermal printers use rolls of 4”x6” peel-and-stick labels that are delightfully inexpensive. Most shipping software packages support these industry-standard printers, and the labels print out in seconds. Plus, there is no ink required – it is a thermal process.

Years ago, when I initially wrote software to support these printers, I started out with the assumption that they were an unnecessary luxury. I quickly changed my mind when I started using them.

If you do not own a thermal printer, you can always print labels on your plain-paper printer. To make it easy to affix labels to your packages, purchase sheets of label stock that correspond to you label dimensions. Or, if you want to use plain paper, then you must find a way to quickly affix the label to the package.

We suggest you use an inexpensive packing tape dispenser like the one shown below to create strips of tape to place over the label.

Finally, to make sure your label can be scanned properly, here is another quick tip. Clear packing tape is, indeed, very clear. However, it also has reflective properties. So, when I affix the label, I cover the entire label with tape except for a small strip across the barcode. I expose about 3/8” (10 mm) of the barcode height – the rest of the height is under the tape. This gives the scanners an unfettered view of the barcode and eliminates the reflective issues with the tape. If the un-taped portion of the barcode is damaged or is scrapped off during processing, you still have part of the barcode safely under the clear tape.

Some might consider this overkill given the state of modern scanners, but it only takes a few seconds to leave a small section of barcode uncovered so I generally do this.

Happy Shipping!

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