What Are The Costliest Mistakes with SSCC Pallet Labelling and How Do I Fix Them?

Mar 04, 2022 by Mark Dingley

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Although mistakes happen in labelling, the mistakes you make with SSCC labels can have expensive repercussions – both for your business and your customers.

Why is this? As retailers rely on SSCC pallet labels (or logistics labels) to accurately and efficiently process inbound pallets.

Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) is the industry standard for logistics labelling, which uniquely identifies the individual pallet and ensures that it’s movements can be individually tracked and traced throughout transport and distribution channels.

So, what’s the problem?

Bad SSCC pallet labelling is the second highest cause of delay and rejection of goods with major retailers (behind pallet issues). It should come as no surprise that many major retailers (like Coles and Woolworths) need to return pallets to the supplier.

And what’s the solution?

Simply by understanding SSCC pallet labelling’s most common failures, you will be able to put procedures and processes in place to avoid them and achieve full compliance before your goods are shipped.


In partnership with Woolworths, this short training video is an effective resource to ensure the correct standards are met when SSCC and GTIN labels are required. Labelling and Software Specialist Braydon shows us some of the common issues that cause DC rejection, such as barcode errors, unpopulated fields and unclear entries. Braydon demonstrates the use of iDSnet Cloud, a free online labelling tool that assists with the design, print and management of SSCC, TUN and Woolworths WOW Fresh Produce labels. The tool is designed to ensure you print the right label, at the right time, every time. iDSnet Cloud makes managing a range of labels to meet complex supermarket standards an easy, stress-free process.


SSCC Starter Kit- Everything you need to get started with label printing
In this blog, we outline the top SSCC mistakes (according to retailers) made in 2019 here in Australia, as well as how to fix them.

1. Incorrect SSCC Formats and Setup

The wrong data and format are one of the most common problems that retailers experience with SSCCs. And it’s easy to see why – SSCC labels include a lot of information, which can be overwhelming to get right.

We’ve pinpointed some of the most common mistakes that suppliers make when inputting SSCC formats into retailer distribution centres nationally. These mistakes contribute significantly to SSCC non-conformance around Australia.

So how do you fix it?

Ultimately, take your time getting the SSCC right from the get go. As the company putting together the pallet, you are responsible for assigning the SSCC. We recommend talking to GS1 (who manage the standards for SSCC codes) or even your specific barcode software provider to ensure that the data has been entered correctly and that your data is correct.

Once your SSCC is set, you’ll be able to create your pallet label. It needs to include both human-readable text and scannable symbols (including supplier details, serial shipping container code – or SSCC, product description, product GTIN, carton quantity on the pallet, date code information – using the format of either Use By or Best Before, and the batch code – if applicable).

Now it’s time to familiarise yourself with the strict standards for SSCC labels. According to GS1 Australia, this is what makes a good SSCC label:

Tip: Pallet labels should comply with both your customers (the retailers) and GS1 Australia. Check supplier guides so that you know exactly what is required (if in doubt, use the GS1 verification service).

2. Poor Print Quality

Did you know that one in 10 labels actually has poor print quality? It means that either the top product barcode or bottom SSCC barcode don’t scan at major retailers. There are a number of reasons for this – it could be as simple as dirty or damaged printheads (or a lack of good housekeeping in general) causing fine line-breaks through the label.

If your SSCC barcode labels can’t be scanned, it can actually cause significant disruption when pallets are being receipted into distribution centres. With new (and highly automated) distribution centres coming online, print quality and barcodes not scanning is an issue that’s growing – leading to products being increasingly rejected.

So how do you fix it?

One of the best ways to ensure that your labels are consistently of high quality is to regularly check your printer.

Are your operators cleaning the rollers and printhead? Failure to clean them regularly is the biggest cause of bad print quality. The printhead elements may have failed or there might be build-up, which can cause lines in the final print.

Which printer are you operating – direct thermal or thermal transfer? Thermal printers operate via a series of tiny heating elements in the printhead, which cause the label to turn black when heated. Temperature changes can cause irregularities in the way images and lines are printed on the label. Thermal transfer is actually a great option for SSCC labels – the print can withstand long exposure to sunlight, friction, dampness and temperature changes. On the other hand, direct thermal is best suited to cold environments where the labels won’t be exposed to such extremes.

Tip: Whether you are using a picket fence or ladder orientation for printing barcodes is another consideration when it comes to print quality.

Printing in picket fence, as a general rule, gives a higher quality barcode than printing in ladder orientation does. It should also be noted that printing in ladder also impacts the size or magnification that you can print your barcode in. By printing in picket fence, the edges of the barcode tend to be crisper and straighter – this results in a much higher and more successful scan right as it travels through the supply chain.

3. Incorrect Label Locations

Whilst label location is critical, many manufacturers have a tendency to put SSCC labels in the wrong place. The GS1 standards in Australia are very clear – they outline the requirements of two SSCC labels on the fork-side entry sides of a pallet.

It should also be noted that additional 3PL or transport labels being applied to the pallet can pose a significant disruption to the inbound automated receipting of your pallets into distribution centres. One major retailer reported that having multiple labels on a pallet that lead to scanning issues is among the top 5 most reported issues when it comes to SSCC non-conformance.

So how do you fix it?

When it comes to location, it’s important that you check that both the SSCC labels have been positioned in the 400 to 800mm zone present on either side of the fork entry sides of the pallet. This zone is 400mm and 800mm from the pallet’s base, is no closer than 50mm and no further than 100mm from the right-hand vertical edge.

Tip: Whilst 3PL and transport labels are sometimes essential when it comes to getting your pallets through the supply chain and to the distribution centre on time, you need to make sure that they’re placed above 800mm on your pallet and on the left-hand side. This will prevent any barcodes present on the 3PL or transport labels being accidentally scanned – your pallets will be inducted first time around.

Are your internal review processes any good?

One way to help you make sure that your pallet labelling process runs smoothly and correctly is by using internal review processes.
We recommend creating a checklist to ensure that your internal processes are able to catch potential issues before your products leave the warehouse. GS1 and even many retailers have these checklists available.

Still not sure whether your processes are any good? The following questions will help:

Q1. Do you have a process in place to validate that the SSCC matches the Carton GTIN?

You might have a manual or an automated SSCC check process in place. An ideal manual process could be using a wireless hand scanner that is connected to a Package Code Management software (like iDSnet), which will scan the carton GTIN and then manually confirm it with the SSCC.

An ideal automated process could be using an inline scanner to confirm the carton GTIN to SSCC pallet before it reaches the stretch-wrapping station.

Q2. Are your QC processes robust?

We recommend putting manual checks in place to ensure print quality and housekeeping. This is especially important when it comes to manual printing. A Label Printer Applicator (LPA) setup, for example, should feature inline validation scanners.

Q3. Do you have QC processes for transport and 3PL providers?

Ultimately, the same standards should be communicated to third party providers. We recommend finding out what label-application and quality control process they use, whether they scan labels before goods are despatched, and if they have cleaning and maintenance processes for their printer. If you’re putting multiple labels on the pallet, ensure that they’ve been applied in the 400-800mm zone.

Q4. How do you ensure that the carton GTIN scans and that it is the correct GTIN?

In the GTIN on the carton is different to that on the label, then the incorrect goods will be receipted and the inventory will be incorrectly updated.

Q5. Do you have a process in place to ensure that the carton GTIN scans and that it is the correct carton GTIN?

The use of inline validation will ensure that the barcodes are readable both for pre-printed labels and for print and apply. We recommend inline scanners over manual checks.

Create SSCC labels that fully comply every time

The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you get your SSCC labels right first time, every time – and the team at Matthews is here to help.
Need some help with SSCC pallet labelling? Contact us for a pallet labelling audit! We can help you to work out the best solution to ensure your labels are fully compliant and that they will scan every time. Get in touch today!


SSCC Label Template