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6 Common Label Application Problems

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If your labels look bad after application, how do you identify the source of the problem?

Is the problem with the label applicator machine, the labels, environmental conditions, or something else? If it's the labels, were they die-cut properly? Did you specify the right materials? How's your glue spec?

In this post, we'll review common sources of label problems such as not releasing from the backing, releasing incorrectly and causing jams, wrinkling, tearing, flagging, peeling and curling. Lest you sink into a despair so deep that you find yourself unable to finish the post, rest assured there are solutions to each and every one of these. 

Millions of labels are successfully affixed to containers every day, all without the help of Elon Musk. It’s technology, but it’s not rocket science.

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Problem #1 - Environmental Issues

If possible, control the temperature and humidity in your application environment. We understand that's easier said than done if your equipment is operating year-round in a warehouse, where winters are cold and summers hot. But either extreme can cause labels to go lumpy and grumpy and refuse to cooperate.

Here are some things that can go wrong as temperatures rise:

  • Labels not dispensing properly and causing applicator jams
  • Labels adhering to the roll instead of to the product
  • Label liner peeling or curling
  • Labels falling off

High temperatures cause the glue on pressure-sensitive labels to get soft and tacky, causing difficulty removing the label from the roll. Higher humidity can cause the label liner to expand or curl. Oozing adhesive can damage printheads and cause jams.

What you can do:

Hot and humid conditions

  • Store labels lower. Higher shelves can be 20-30°F hotter than lower ones.
  • Store labels in airtight plastic bags to protect from humidity.
  • Store label rolls on a rack or stack the rolls on their side with the hole oriented vertically, to prevent labels from sliding on the liner.

Damp or cold conditions

  • Bring the contents of your container to room temperature before labeling.
  • Store labels and containers at room temperature, if possible. 
  • Make sure containers are dry and clean.

Check out Advanced Labels NW’s useful tips for more successful label application ideas in hot and cold conditions.

Problem #2 - Label Conversion Quality Problems

The process by which manufacturers produce rolls of pressure-sensitive labels ready for your label applicator machine is called label conversion. A master roll of substrate is created by applying adhesive, and a liner that has been coated with a release agent is added. The substrate is then guided into the press for printing and converting. A die cutter makes a precise incision that goes through the label layer but not through the base layer, and a rewinder creates the finished roll.

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According to Labels & Labeling magazine, studies indicate nearly 50% of quality faults in pressure-sensitive labels that result in downtime are related to the converting process.

Potential problems stemming from faulty conversion include die strikes going too deep or not deep enough. A deep die strike exposes the glue to the liner and makes stripping difficult or impossible. A shallow strike doesn't cut through the label and prevents it from peeling off the roll. 

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Another die problem is caused by cutting heads that are dull. When the die strike is made more forceful to compensate, it can result in cutting through the protective silicone layer that keeps the label from sticking to the liner. The adhesive then bonds the label to the liner, preventing a clean release.

There can also be a mismatch of the face material or the adhesive to the end-user's application, such as failing to use cold-temperature adhesive where needed.

Finally, an insufficient quantity of release agent on the liner can cause labels to be difficult or impossible to peel off. Excessive release agent, at the other extreme, can result in labels lifting up or dropping off as they move through the machine.

What you can do:

  • Work with your label converter to make sure the proper materials, adhesives, and release agents are specified for your environment. Is it cold, hot, humid, or what?
  • If you suspect a die strike issue, color the liner's backside with a marker, then remove the label and see if the ink bled through the liner. If so, the protective silicone layer on the liner is damaged, and you should ask your converter to replace the defective roll.
  • An experienced label converter should be able to zero in on any other conversion problems and work with you to improve conversion.

Problem #3 - Container Irregularities

If you see labels coming loose or wrinkling, it could be the fault of the container. Minor irregularities, ridges, or shape variations in your containers could be causing voids under the label, causing them not to stick. Quality containers have a consistent shape. In Top 4 Ways to Know You Have Quality Packaging When Labeling, we talk about that and other causes of labeling problems that are really container problems.

What you can do:

  • Find a container supplier who may not have the lowest prices, but that specializes in what you need. 

Problem #4 - Label Size & Material Issues

Is your container glass or plastic? Are you using squeezable tubes or rigid plastic? Is your label just a tad big for the container?

What you can do:

  • Do some testing to evaluate which label facestock is compatible with your container. Although you should have clearly communicated to your label converter the exact type and material of container you'll be using, testing can keep you from being stuck with thousands of unusable labels. 

Problem #5 - Wrong Adhesive

We covered this briefly above, but it's an all-too-common problem that the adhesive isn't designed for your product's application temperature, or the temperatures encountered after application, or moisture, or the container material.

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What you can do:

  • Convey to your trusted label supplier every detail of your process, including temperature and moisture conditions, as well as your container specifications, as early as possible.

Problem #6 - Labeling by Hand

While hand-labeling may once have been a labor of love, when you've experienced enough sales growth, you'll want to dip a toe into the waters of automated label applicator machines. You can start small with tabletop label applicators that may be used in semi-automated mode, then move up to full automation as sales grow.

 

What you can do:

  • Look into automatic labeler options. Pack Leader USA carries a tremendous variety of labeling machines for every need. Be sure to explore our labeling equipment to find the right machine for you.

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