Automated DCs are here: How to get your SSCC labels right and avoid rejects

Dec 15, 2023 by Mark Dingley

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Automated distribution centres (DC’s) have arrived. Coles opened a new automated distribution centre in Brisbane’s Redbank earlier this year as part of the retailer’s $1 billion investment in automated fulfilment.

The 66,000 square metre Redbank building, located 30 kilometres southwest of Brisbane, is one of the biggest automated distribution centres in the world.

And more are coming.

The second Coles automated DC, at Kemps Creek in Sydney, is scheduled to open in 2024, with Woolworths and Metcash just behind.

This means for suppliers, it’s never been more critical to get your pallet labels right.

In this article, we’ll explain how automated DCs work, why it’s critical to get SSCC labels right, and our top tips for perfect SSCC labels every time.

How does an automated DC work?

Automated DCs are designed to reduce the number of out-of-stock items in its supermarkets. With optimum picking and packing, they reduce lead time to deliver better in-store product availability with faster restocking and reduced store congestion.

So, how do they achieve this?

First, they are bigger facilities. The automated Coles DC has a 35mhigh space to store products, which is nearly three times taller than Coles’ standard distribution centres.

The DC size can hold more than 18,000 varieties of dry grocery products (no meat or dairy), compared with 11,000 items in other Coles DCs.

But the most important part is the automated packing technology.

The Coles DC uses German-based Witron’s pack-pattern algorithm. This lets Coles assemble pallets in the most effective way, based on product characteristics.

With product grouping and high picking quality, the pallets delivered to the store do not need to be manually sorted, which saves the store time and improves on-shelf availability.

Suppliers are critical to successful automated DCs

Suppliers need to conform to strict standards for the automated DCs to work efficiently and accurately. Conformance allows efficient receipt of deliveries in the quickest turnaround possible and prevents rework, not to mention saving on costs involved with rework.

Before products are placed onto conveyors, Coles performs automated checks to verify the product and delivery information and ensure they conform to Coles Supply Standards.

Products and deliveries that do not comply will not be able to enter the automated DC. Coles will either reject the products and return them to the supplier for rework/replacement or offer to rework them at a separate facility at the supplier’s cost.

That’s why it’s critical to get your SSCC labels right

DCs rely on SSCC pallet labels (or logistics labels) to accurately and efficiently process inbound pallets. This has always been important, but with automation,it is critical as it ensures the correct products are received, stored and picked by the machine.

Inadequate SSCC pallet labelling is one of the top causes of delay and rejection of goods with major retailers. This can include incorrect SSCC data, misprinted or defective labels that cannot be scanned, SSCCs in the wrong position, missing SSCC labels, and more.

By understanding SSCC pallet labelling’s most common failures, you can put procedures and technology in place to avoid them and achieve complete compliance before your goods leave the factory.

How to ensure SSCC labels are ready for automated DCs

Here’s a summary of our top SSCC labelling tips:

1. Get the SSCC label right from the start

As the company putting together the pallet, you are responsible for assigning the SSCC. Talk to GS1 Australia, which manages the standards for SSCC codes, or your specific barcode software provider to ensure that the data has been entered correctly and that your data is correct.

Once your SSCC data is set, you can create your pallet label.

There are strict standards for SSCC labels, both according to GS1 Australia and your retailer.

Check out our Essential Checklist to create your SSCC label.

2. Reduce errors with the right technology

A package code management system acts as a centralised point of control for coders and labellers to reduce labelling errors and save costs.

iDSnet Cloud is a cloud-based solution, which means you can design, print and manage your labels from any device with an internet connection.

It not only ensures you print compliant SSCC labels, but you can also keep track of labels more accurately and be confident products will be accepted at the DC.

3. Check your print quality

Poor print quality means the barcode cannot be scanned. One of the simplest causes is dirty or damaged printheads which cause fine line-breaks through the label.

This means you need to keep on top of printer maintenance and put manual checks in place to ensure print quality and housekeeping.

If your labelling quality is still not up to scratch, you may need to invest in new pallet labelling technology.

Watch how SunRice transformed its SSCC labelling with new label printer applicators (LPAs).

4. Apply the SSCC label in the right place

Correct label positioning is particularly critical for automated sites. The GS1 standards in Australia are clear – they outline the requirements of two SSCC labels, one on each fork-side entry side of a pallet.

Labels should be positioned between 400-800mm high from the ground and between 50-100mm from the right-hand edge of the wooden pallet.

Additionally, any other third-party logistics or transport labels applied to the pallet can lead to scanning issues and disrupt the inbound automated receipt of your pallets into distribution centres.

Stay up to date with retailer supply standards

Make sure you are staying up to date with your retailer’s supply standards, and that you understand how it impacts your processes.

Coles has created a Coles Supplier Readiness Handbook 2022 to help suppliers transition.

We have lots of resources to help you get your SSCC labels right the first time, every time – and the team at Matthews is here to help if you have any questions or issues.

Need some help with SSCC pallet labelling? Contact our team. We can help you work out the best solution to ensure your labels are fully compliant and will scan every time.

Looking for a fast, compliant solution? Order our SSCC starter kit. It includes everything you need to generate and print SSCC labels from iDSnet Cloud straight to your new warehouse label printer.