Brother Finds a New Use for Old Materials to Help Manufacturers Save Time and Money

March 22, 2012
New P-touch printers recycle decades-old technology to help boost efficiency and slash downtime.

We tend to think of innovation as forward movement using only new, exciting materials. However, with its new P-touch series label and barcode printers, Brother (IW 1000/629) has recently proved that looking back can also lead to some very innovative discoveries.

Brother announced the new printers last week, touting above all the high definition, on-demand, heavy-duty printing capabilities they offer, which promise to help improve efficiency and save money in the industrial environment.

According to the announcement, one vital component allowing the products to do this is the high speed, drop-in HG tape cartridges they require. Mike Zolot, business development manager for Brother Mobile Solutions, said these tapes consist of "high quality labels that have been tested to withstand abrasion, fading, extreme temperatures, harsh chemicals and moisture," thereby making them ideal for the manufacturing environment.

What the announcement does not say, however, is that Brother has been marketing these same materials in a different form for decades.

"It's actually an old technology we've been selling for about twenty years," said Duane Yamashita, marketing manager at Brother. "We just never realized how durable the labels were until we had them tested."

Once they did, he said, "we were shocked. This stuff is as good as or better than what manufacturers are buying today."

The result of this find is a new system to print high quality, extremely durable labels on demand without having to invest in new product development.

An impressive feat.

There are some serious bonuses for manufacturers because of this, said Yamashita.

Because of Brother's retail reach and because the materials already had such a prominent place in its marketing platform, "you can buy supplies in just about any retail store in the country," he explained. "Just about every retailer you can imagine will have the tape you need."

This means, rather than waiting for wholesale orders to come in and delaying processes with temporary, ad hoc solutions, manufacturers can run continuous production with only an occasional trip to a local box store for supplies.

"One thing you don't want is procurement delay," said Yamashita. "Supplier mistakes and delays can affect the whole supply chain." This new solution frees you of this.

"If you need to get a job done, you will find the supplies you need," he said. "So downtime is eliminated."

The P-touch series printers are being marketed as an alternative to preprinted bulk labels, highlighting the potential increases in flexibility, durability and efficiency in the industrial setting, Yamashita said.

"On the plant floor, when you are doing a final assembly, quite often parts change," he said. "You definitely don't want to stop the line to order new labels."

With the new system, "you have complete control of what goes on the label," he explained. "This means savings in cost, no downtime, no throwing away unused stock after a change."

"There's a lot of efficiency to our system that will translate into added cost savings," he said. "We figure, if you're going to do labels, you might as well do it right."

About the Author

Travis M. Hessman | Editor-in-Chief

Travis Hessman is the editor-in-chief and senior content director for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He began his career as an intern at IndustryWeek in 2001 and later served as IW's technology and innovation editor. Today, he combines his experience as an educator, a writer, and a journalist to help address some of the most significant challenges in the manufacturing industry, with a particular focus on leadership, training, and the technologies of smart manufacturing.

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