Pallet Labelling Made Easy – Your Quick Guide

Nov 15, 2020 by Mark Dingley

Don’t forget to download or Pallet Labelling whitepaper


Known for being the nemesis of manufacturers the world over, pallet labelling is seemingly complicated and over-technical. In fact, many manufacturers struggle to achieve full compliance before needing to ship their goods. In spite of this, pallet labelling is an understated process that is definitely worth mastering, in our opinion.

Get the process right and you’ll have labels that scan every single time – this will speed up the time taken for your product to hit the market, provide you with better inventory control, as well as save your business time and money. Get it wrong, however, and you risk your goods being rejected, potentially creating lasting damage to your customer relationships and leading to expensive penalties from retailers.

In this blog, we have taken a closer look at the major issues with pallet labelling and how you can go about fixing them. We also want to offer you a free Matthews pallet labelling audit – it really is a win/win situation!

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So, what’s the big deal?

GS1 Australia creates standards for logistics labels, making it easier for manufacturers to ensure that they have the best quality labels on hand. They have compiled a quality checklist that is designed to help manufacturers see success in pallet labelling from the beginning.

They’re not, however, the only standards you should consider – your logistics labels should also comply with your customers, the retailers. Bad labelling practices are an ongoing headache for many retailers, supermarkets in particular. In fact, many retailers now impose penalties for labels that don’t meet their requirements.

It’s definitely within your best interests to be aware of what makes a good pallet label and what makes a bad one.

What makes for a good pallet label?

There are actually three key elements that comprise a fully compliant label:

1. Content

The label should contain both human-readable text and scannable symbols, such as supplier details, Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC), a product description, a product GTIN, quantity of cartons on the pallet, code date information, and batch number (if applicable).

When it comes to the label’s content, keep the following checklist in mind:

  • The SSCC is unique for each pallet and has not previously been issued in the past 12 months;
  • Both the SSCC and product information barcodes have been printed in GS1-128 symbology;
  • Quiet Zones (or light margins) have not been infringed;
  • The SSCC barcode magnification is between 48.7% and 92.5%;
  • The product information barcode magnification is between 25% and 100%;
  • All barcodes are at least 32mm high; and
  • Any human readable information has been placed below the barcode symbology, is at least 3mm high, and is clear and legible.
2. Size

Whilst the size of the pallet label is important, this is more flexible than the content. A standard A6 format (105mm x 148mm) will suit most requirements providing that the width remains constant (at 105mm). Larger labels are also permitted, and there are no requirements on whether the label is portrait or landscape.

3. Application

It doesn’t matter how perfect the content and size of the label is, a scanner will not be able to read it if it’s not in the right place. GS1 Australia, as well as the grocery and liquor industries, recommend:

  • Two identical labels per pallet (one on each of the fork entry sides);
  • A vertical position – it should not be crooked, creased or angled more than 5 degrees;
  • Labels should be placed between 400mm and 800mm from the base of pallet, no closer than 50mm or further than 100mm from the righthand vertical edge;
  • Labels must be placed on the outside of stretch-wrap in the case of full pallets;
  • When multiple pallets have been stacked and stretch-wrapped together, the labels should be applied underneath the wrap (as this will be cut away upon delivery); and
  • When multiple pallets have been stacked and stretch-wrapped individually, the label should be applied over the wrap.
SSCC Starter Kit- Everything you need to get started with label printing

And what makes for a bad pallet label?

Understandably, a bad label is one that doesn’t meet the key elements we have outlined above. To be specific, however, the most common reasons for pallet labels to fail according to major retailers are as follows:

  1. 1. Incorrect label position
  2. 2.Absence of labels altogether
  3. 3.Duplicated or mismatched SSCC
  4. 4. Damaged labels
  5. 5. Failure to scan
  6. 6. Placed underneath stretch-wrap
  7. 7. Placed on one side of the pallet only
  8. 8. Incorrect product labels

Keep in mind that major retailers measure your labels by all of these things, so it pays to get them right from the beginning.

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How do you achieve 100% perfect pallet labels?

Surprisingly, it all comes down to the technology you use and how it has been integrated into your production line – which is where Matthews comes in.

Pallet labels can be applied at the time of manufacture or prior to dispatch. They can be applied automatically (viaa Label Printer Applicator – LPA) or manually (via a Label Printer).

If you’ve opted for an LPA, it should be installed at (or immediately after) the stretch-wrap station. It’s actually common practice to interlock the LPA with the stretch-wrapper, as this aids in the application of SSCC labels on each of the fork entries on a pallet. An unattended scanner can be used to read each carton barcode, from which the LPA will print an appropriate label on each side.

Better still, you could integrate your LPA and scanner with coding management software (such as Matthews’ iDSnet) on the packaging line in order to automate printing, application and verification process for both the GTIN carton and pallet labels. This will work to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of the whole process.

Once your equipment is in place, it’s important to test over and over again. This should include both physical checks of the key data attributes and scans of the label to ensure adequate readability.

New in November 2013: multi-coded pallets

The world of pallet labelling is far from boring – 2013 saw the introduction of multi-coded pallets (MCP’s) across the major retail chains Coles, Woolworths and Metcash. An MCP occurs when multiple use by dates or batch codes of a given SKU are consolidated onto a single pallet.

Say a retailer’s purchase order asks for a full-pallet equivalent quantity of a SKU (maybe 60 cartons) but a supplier can only provide this quantity if they ship multiple batch codes with the same use by date (40 cartons of one batch code and 20 of another but all have the same use by date). Instead of putting together two separate part-pallets, the goods can be consolidated onto a single pallet.

If you aren’t familiar with MCP’s, there’s no need to panic – their implementation is not mandatory, it’s just an option in cases where it makes both commercial and operational sense (as well as where retailers are willing to accept stock in this way). Efficient Consumer Response Australasia (ECRA) recommends that you conduct a rigorous cost benefit analysis and detailed discussions with trading partners before reaching a decision.

It should be noted that there are some specific rules in regards to how MCP’s must be structured, labelled and communicated. You can read these rules in full on the ECRA website

Your free pallet labelling audit

Need some help with pallet labelling? Get in touch with Matthews for a free no obligation pallet labelling audit! We’ll help you work out the best solution to ensure that your labels fully comply and scan every single time.

Don’t forget to download or Pallet Labelling whitepaper here.