6 Reasons to Avoid Low-Cost Barcode Labels

If you’re printing and scanning barcodes every day as part of your business, it can be easy to take barcode labels for granted. The truth is, most companies focus on the up-front cost of the labels and don’t give them another thought.  But there’s often a nasty “surprise” that comes with buying cheaper barcode labels and supplies, and it adds up to thousands of dollars in unexpected long-term costs as well as hours of lost labor due to scanning and tracking interruptions.

You heard it here first: cheap barcode labels and supplies are cheaper because they’re usually made with lower-grade, inconsistent materials. They’re designed for a low up-front cost, and not to protect your printer, printheads, print quality and scanning reliability over the long run.  Here’s a quick rundown of what goes wrong and how you can avoid unwanted results.

  1. One of the first problems that emerges is printhead damage. Cheaper barcode labels have rough surfaces, which causes excessive printhead wear and leads to expensive, premature replacement costs. It also causes a ripple effect: failing printheads create poor print quality, which means your barcodes might not scan or be readable.  And don’t forget: on top of the thousands of dollars you might waste replacing your printheads too soon, you may also waste a lot of time and printing supplies on label reprints.
  2. Next: heat sensitivity, which is another common problem when using lower-quality labels for direct thermal printing. Label sensitivity to heat means you end up making frequent printer setting adjustments to compensate for poor labels and poor print quality. That’s more time and potentially more printing supplies wasted.
  3. Ink buildup is another common issue, and it occurs when you use low-cost labels with pre-printed colors. Low production quality of these cheaper labels means the colors can be transferred to your printhead, causing ink buildup that slows down your printing and creates further print quality issues.
  4. Then we get to the issue of sunlight, moisture, water or chemicals. If your labels need to be readable in these conditions, low-cost labels won’t cut it; you’ll end up with damaged and unreadable labels that interrupt your scanning processes and workflows.
  5. Adhesion is another common problem, because low-cost barcode labels are often produced with substandard adhesives and aren’t matched to specific labeling applications. Labels can peel or fall off, leaving your assets unidentified and untraceable.
  6. Finally, using cheap labels also means you’ll likely mismatch your labels with your printer ribbon, since they’re not made for specific ribbon requirements. The end result is printing that often fades or rubs off.

A Better Alternative to Cheap Barcode Labels

To minimize long-term labeling costs, always choose quality and long-term savings over up-front costs, and make sure to match your labels and printing supplies with your application requirements.

We also recommend purchasing Zebra barcode labels, ribbons and printing supplies. They’re manufactured with consistent and ISO-certified processes, for the highest quality and performance, and they’re rigorously pre-tested on Zebra printers to ensure proper adhesion, scannability, durability and minimal printhead wear – even in the toughest environments.

With Zebra, you don’t get “surprises,” you get labels that print and perform flawlessly, minimize printhead replacements, reduce supplies usage and avoid unnecessary reprinting and printer adjustments.

Best of all, if you use Zebra printers and agree to use Zebra supplies exclusively, you get 100% protection against premature printhead failure. If a printhead ever fails too soon, it will be replaced at no cost.

To learn more, check out our free guide to Zebra labels and supplies or contact us.