An upsurge in bar code quality requirements has led auto ID specialist KTP to develop a ‘total solutions’ package for customers.

‘Most label producers have traditionally based their business on the production and sale of products – labels that are sold to packers and stores. However, for those at the bar coding and variable imaging end of the market the whole emphasis has now moved from providing products to providing solutions’, says Harry Clark, managing director of auto-ID specialist KTP Limited.

‘What we are now experiencing is a major upsurge in bar code quality requirements, with retailers forcing quality guarantee back down the line to the supplier. Indeed some stores are indicating that if bar coded labels do not scan they will no longer use the supplier.’

Undoubtedly such a change of requirements has become a major sales feature for KTP, whose broad expertise across a wide range of bar coding and labelling technologies enables it to be more than any of its competitors, it is able to offer a ‘total solutions’ package to its customers.

For KTP this means analysing customers’ needs and assembling the appropriate technology and software, frequently providing the knowledge to achieve integration of equipment from different manufacturers to meet specific technical or budgetary requirements.

Quality solutions
‘Our biggest areas of growth in the past 10 years have been in transport, distribution, packaging, warehousing and manufacturing,’ explains sales and marketing director Nic Wing. ‘Sectors which today are built around bar coding, particularly quality coding solutions. Sectors which cannot afford labels that will not scan.

‘Such requirements are now being met by the addition of on-line verifiers on the bar code printer. These will stop the printer if the bar code is out of spec or unreadable. Additionally, we are now developing software to download verifier data for statistical process control purposes.’

‘We also undertake a considerable amount of in-house quality control and testing so as to ensure quality bar code printing results. Internally, the production of labels for overprinting means that our own production and quality control requirements are critical. We undertake a lot of testing of the labels, printer ribbons, etc, to ensure that we achieve combinations that really work.’

For retail and industrial customers who prefer to print their own labels on demand, KTP supplies the Datamax range of printers, which includes variants designed for high-specification applications such as compliance and permanent labelling. Systems enable operators to design labels on-screen, adding graphics and bar codes.

To complement label production and bar code printing capabilities – as well as on- and off-line verifiers – KTP offer a full range of bar code scanners, including fixed, hand held and pen-shaped types, so providing customers with a choice of appropriate equipment for EpoS, warehouse management or office applications. The range also includes a compact hand-held radio scanner which can transmit data direct to a central computer.

In order to provide the ‘total solution’ KTP constantly develops new software products to help its customers get added value from automatic identification systems. Products currently include Stockade, which records the location and price of items in stock, and Calibrated Asset Traceability, which provides a record of calibrated equipment and the date of its last recalibration. The company employs programmers and a systems analyst.

Recently launched is a new software package from KTP – Label IQ. This is Windows-based packaging for
label printers and will eventually be available in a wide range of languages. The new software incorporates its own Glossary of Terms and ‘Help’ fields. ‘Additionally’, comments Nic Wing ‘we have built-in label templates, such as the Odette label format.’

Anti-theft solutions
Apart form experiencing rapid growth with the more conventional bar code solutions KTP has been achieving considerable success with Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) labels. ‘We know provide a same day despatch service for those anti-theft and tracking labels which incorporate RF circuitry, overprinting with bar codes and variable information where required,’ explains Harry Clark.

‘Such has been the growth in this area that we now supply up to two million EAS labels a month in a wide variety of face stock and coding formats – and all thermal transfer. For higher added-value goods, such as with power tools, and for certain niches like the serialising of domestic equipment there is a requirement for non-paper EAS labels.

‘Overall, the price of EAS technology has down by some 38 per cent over the past year, so making it more attractive for more and more users to install. And, within the next three years I think we will see the introduction of universal source tagging of most retail goods.’

Re-growth in film masters
With all the growth in electronic bar codes and electronic bar code generation it might seem surprising that KTP is also experiencing rapid re-growth in the supply of high quality film masters. ‘This too’, comments Harry Clark, ‘is a reaction to the demand for 100 per cent readable bar codes. The film master after all still gives the best results.’

As the leading producer of bar code film masters in the UK, KTP provides a fast turnround service to the printing, packaging and publishing industries to specifications laid down by the Article Number Association and the relevant industry, and can be supplied on disk or via ISDN.

Such has been KTP’s commitment to quality performance that earlier this year the company won the first ever Quality Trophy presented by Humberside County Council. This was for its total quality management achievements, with reference to training, product development, staff involvement and quality recognition. KTP has also attained BS 5750, ISO and BSEN quality certification, for which staff participate in every aspect, and are now developing environmental standards.

By the end of 1995 KTP are also aiming to launch a linerless thermal transfer printer and the necessary labelstock and, as part of their environmental project, to be able to provide information on the life cycle analysis of linerless labels.

There seems little doubt that KTP’s commitment to quality products and service have been more than successful. The sales team recently smashed all previous records by taking orders for £100,000 of labels from customers in only two days, doubling the previous record of £50,080 in the same period.

The label service provided by KTP is two-fold – a Quick Response Label Bureau which supplies bar coded labels within 24 hours of ordering and full-colour labels, tags and swing tickets printed in-house by specialist staff on a five-colour Nilpeter press. Both services are promoted and sold nationally by a nine-strong sales force.

Established 20 years ago, KTP was one of the first companies to provide a specialist bar code service in the UK. Still privately owned, the company has gone from strength to strength and now turns over in excess of £7 million. Quite some achievement, but it just shows what real commitment to quality and service can bring to a dedicated supplier.

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