How Pallet Labelling Works 

Author: Lee Ernstzen, Triton Store Australia

Pallet labelling is the process of designing, printing, and applying labels to pallets to ensure efficient tracking and identification as they move through the supply chain. Pallet labels are a crucial bridge that makes modern logistics work by mapping physical goods to digital data.  Delving deeper, let's unfold the various steps encapsulated in the process of pallet labelling. 


The Process of Pallet Labelling

Pallet labelling involves designing, selecting materials, deciding on content, applying labels, and ensuring proper placement for scanning. Let's dive into each of these stages

Creation of Labels
When it comes to creating a pallet label, there are several considerations to ensure it serves its intended purpose efficiently. The design phase is crucial as it lies in the foundation for effective tracking, tracing, and managing goods throughout the supply chain. Here are some key aspects to consider: 

Label Information
Every detail on a pallet label serves a purpose, from barcodes for swift scanning to essential product data. Let's explore the components of a label and understand their significance in the logistics process. 

  • Human-Readable Text and Scannable Symbols: A good label should have text and barcodes to ensure humans and machines can read the label. This ensures efficient tracking and data retrieval through scanning. Common scannable symbols include barcodes like the GS1-128 barcode​.

  • Supplier Details: Information about the supplier or manufacturer is crucial for traceability and accountability​​.  

  • Product Description: A clear description of the product(s) contained within the pallet is essential for inventory management and identification​. 

  • Relevant Codes: Codes are pivotal in pallet labelling for several reasons. 

    • Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC): This code uniquely identifies the logistics unit (the pallet) and enables tracking and tracing along the supply chain​​. 

    • Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): This number identifies the type of goods contained in the pallet​​. 

    • Other relevant codes like batch or serial numbers may also be included depending on the requirements​.  

  • Quantity Information: This includes data such as the number of cartons on the pallet, which is vital for inventory control​. 

  • Recipient Information: For pallets going out for delivery, details like the recipient's name, company name, complete postal address, and telephone number are important. 

  • Date of Storage: When a pallet is going to be stored in a warehouse, the date of storage should be included on the label​​. 

  • Purchase Order Number: If relevant, a purchase order number can be included on the label, especially for pallets going out for delivery​. 

  • Contrast: Labels should be printed with dark black ink on a clean white background for maximum contrast and visibility, essential for machine readability​​. 

  • Barcode Inclusion: Barcodes are essential on pallet labels as they contain information describing what the logistics unit contains and are scanned during transport and receipt for tracking and identification purposes​

Incorporating the elements in the design of pallet labels ensures that they are well-equipped to support efficient warehouse management and logistics operations. 

Label Material
Considerations for selecting the label material include. 

  • Hardy Material: Pallet labels should be made of a material that can withstand harsh environments as pallets move through the supply chain​. Pallet labels are usually made of polyester, polyester composite, and metal photo. Metal photo labels are rugged and can withstand harsh conditions.  

  • Resistance to Wear and Tear: The material should withstand abuse from forklifts, warehouse conditions, and outdoor environments. 

  • Resistance to Moisture, Heat, and Chemicals: The materials should retain their integrity and legibility even when exposed to moisture, varying temperatures, and chemicals. 

  • Ease of Application: The material should allow easy application onto pallets, manually or through automated systems. 

  • Durable Adhesive: Adhesive material that ensures the label stays put during all stages of the supply chain is crucial. 

These factors ensure that the labels remain effective for tracking and identification throughout the supply chain, even under challenging conditions. The importance of label design software in creating effective pallet labels cannot be overstated, as it ensures accuracy and efficiency in the supply chain. BarTender Software stands out as a superior choice among the various options available. Its user-friendly interface, robust features, and compatibility with various printing technologies make it an ideal solution for businesses seeking to optimize their pallet labelling process. 


The printing technology used for pallet labelling can significantly impact the efficiency and accuracy of the process. Here's a look at some of the printing technologies used in pallet labelling and a glimpse into the specifications of relevant printers. 

Thermal transfer printing, known for creating durable labels, utilises heat to transfer ink from a ribbon onto the label material, making it ideal for long-term use. On the other hand, direct thermal printing uses heat-sensitive material, eliminating the ribbon need, but the labels often fade over time. 

Inkjet Printing, suitable for high-resolution needs, produces detailed barcodes, text, and graphics. High-speed inkjet printers, capable of printing up to 300m/min, serve in high-volume, fast-paced pallet labelling scenarios. 


Label Application
Applying labels to pallets is tailored to the specific needs of warehouses or shipping operations, employing various methods and technologies to ensure a smooth transition from packaging to shipping. This section will explore the different methods and technologies used in pallet labelling and how they contribute to efficient logistics and supply chain operations. 

  • Method Variety: Labels can be applied to single sides, adjacent sides, or all sides of a pallet, utilising methods like corner wrap or robotic application​.  

  • Applicators: The heart of the labelling system is the applicator, which comes in many forms. Some use tactical arms to place adhesive labels directly onto the pallet, while others employ blow-on systems to apply labels with bursts of air​. 

  • Multi-side Labelling: Specialised applicators like the Predator Printer Applicator with an electric swing arm can apply labels to two sides, ensuring visibility and scanability from multiple angles​. 

  • Manual vs. Automatic: The labels can be applied manually or automatically, with automatic systems offering efficiency and consistency in high-volume operations​. 

  • Placement Considerations: Proper label placement is crucial to ensure they are easily visible and scannable. Labels should be placed on the front and back of the load but not on top, as pallets may be stacked. They should be positioned vertically on a flat surface, approximately 30 cm from the ground​. 

  • Equipment: High-quality, durable labelling equipment is a cornerstone for successful pallet labelling. Systems like those from FOX IV can work stand-alone or integrate with palletising systems to label from 1-4 sides of a pallet with various labels, including shipping, identification, inventory, and compliance labels​. 

Label Verification
Verification in pallet labelling is crucial to avoid repercussions like financial penalties from incorrect labels, operational delays due to manual rework, and brand reputation damage from poor label quality. 

Scanning for Accuracy and Readability:
Barcode scanners are often used to scan the labels to confirm their readability and accuracy. This is essential for their seamless integration into inventory management systems. 

Error Correction
Any errors identified during the verification process, such as printing or application mistakes, are promptly corrected. Automated systems with built-in error detection and correction mechanisms ensure the pallet is accurately labelled before moving further into the supply chain. The industry standards concerning pallet labelling have been established mainly by Global Standard One (GS1), a global organisation tasked with standardising barcode applications and maintaining their integrity and compliance. These standards ensure a uniform approach towards pallet labelling, significantly influencing the verification process.


Pallet Labelling Machines 

Several pieces of equipment come into play to ensure that labels are accurately printed and affixed to the pallets. Here's an introduction to some of the equipment used. 

  • Pallet Labellers: A pallet labeller consists of an industrial thermal transfer print and apply labelling machine. It typically has a print engine and a tri-axial applicator system to label two adjacent sides of a pallet​. 

  • Print and Apply Label Printer Applicators: Employed widely in industrial applications, these machines use thermal transfer printers to print and apply pressure-sensitive labels to products or items, ensuring labels stick firmly to the pallets​. 

  • Pneumatic Label Printers and Dispensers:  Pneumatic label printers and dispensers operate using compressed air to manage the movement and application of labels. They feature an air-assist component that helps keep the label flat during application, ensuring smoother placement. The tamp blow method is common, where a blast of air applies the label, with a pneumatic tamp cylinder moving closer to the product for application. Additionally, swing blow applicators use a swing arm to present the label before it's blown onto the surface with minimal contact. These systems are known for their ability to handle high-speed operations efficiently.  

  • On-demand Label Printers with Heavy-Duty Tamp Modules: These systems include an on-demand label printer, usually an inkjet machine, and an attached module that applies the label. The heavy-duty tamp modules have arms that extend to hold the label, which is then applied to the pallet by a vacuum pad on the arm​. 

Mechanical Labelling Arm
Mechanical labelling arms play a crucial role in automated pallet labelling. Once a label is printed, the mechanical labelling arm applies the label onto the pallet in a repeatable, uniform position, ensuring consistency across all labelled pallets. While the specific mechanics can vary, the general principle involves a mechanical arm that can move to predetermined positions to apply labels accurately on pallets. These arms can be part of a larger automated or semi-automated system, which may include other components like robotic end-of-arm tooling or inline radial wrapping labels, as part of a setup to optimise labelling quality and efficiency. In some setups, the end of the arm tool can collect labels from printers using an airflow gripper with vision integration, to ensure accurate placement and eliminate errors in label placement. The mechanical arm then places each label in the same location on the roll, core, or carton, ensuring a smooth and error-free labelling process. Mechanical arms can also be a part of robotic labellers. Robotic labellers can handle multiple label types, apply labels to adjacent sides of loads or double stacks, and verify label placement using vision sensors. 

Hybrid Pallet Labels (HPL)

The Hybrid Pallet Label is a transitional method to traceable pallet labelling, especially beneficial if you or your trading associates are not yet prepared for the GS1 Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) pallet labels. It's a "bridge" solution that incorporates standard SSCC and GS1-128 case barcodes, displaying the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), Lot number, and Quantity of each unique composition of cases on the pallet. The label communicates how many cases of each lot are present on a pallet, aiding in the traceability of items, especially in the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). These labels use a mix of barcodes and text on a 4" x 6" (or longer) label to define the entire content of a skid containing multiple case-level PTI labels and produce. 


Pallet labelling is a cornerstone of modern logistics, seamlessly merging the physical and digital aspects of the supply chain. This process, from its meticulous design to its durable material selection, ensures each pallet's traceability and accurate information retrieval as it navigates the complexities of global logistics. The use of advanced machinery and automation heightens precision, while innovations like Hybrid Pallet Labels further amplify traceability. In summary, pallet labelling is not just a tagging procedure; it's a vital mechanism that drives efficiency, accuracy, and reliability in today's fast-paced logistics landscape. 


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about the partner

Triton Store specialises in providing comprehensive data capture hardware and labelling solutions, including printers, software, printheads, labels and supplies, touchscreen PCs, scanners, and weighing systems. They are proud to partner with BarTender Software, a leading solution for creating and automating labels and barcodes. BarTender enhances efficiency and compliance across your labelling processes, ensuring seamless integration and superior performance. Visit Triton Store's BarTender page to explore their offerings and learn more about BarTender.

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