Are You Providing Customers The Right Ribbons?
Three thermal transfer ribbon manufacturers say that a failure to match thermal transfer ribbons to application needs is causing resellers to lose customers.
Business Solutions, March 1998
If the retail stores can't scan the labels, they will send the cartons back to the manufacturer. As a result, the manufacturer could lose some of its customers. In addition, the reseller might lose the clothing manufacturer as a customer for thermal ribbons. "Resellers might make a few extra sales here and there by selling lower-priced ribbons," says Jeff Denton, NCR's product manager. "But in the long run, they only hurt themselves."
Rick Wallace, PAXAR IIMAK's vp of marketing, and Derek Leigh, Zebra's vp of supplies, agree with Denton. Wallace and Leigh say that resellers should sell ribbons based on the ribbons' ability to meet the needs of application. In the example above, wax/resin ribbons would be more appropriate because they provide added label durability.
There are three categories of thermal transfer ribbons. Resin ribbons represent the "high-end" of the market. Resin ribbons are the most costly type of thermal transfer ribbon. They also offer the best "label durability" in terms of the bar code's being highly smudge and smear resistant. Wax ribbons are considered the "low end" of the market. Wax ribbons are the least costly. As a result, bar codes produced with wax ribbons tend to smudge and smear more easily than bar codes printed with resin ribbons. Wax/resin ribbons are the middle segment of the market. Their label durability and prices fall between wax and resin ribbons.
(NCR, PAXAR IIMAK and Zebra manufacture thermal transfer ribbons; Zebra also manufactures bar code printers.)
Leigh agrees some resellers lack the application knowledge that can help end users avoid label problems. "Ultimately, it's the performance of the bar code - and the ribbon - that matters for the end user," Leigh says. However, Leigh adds that several ribbon manufacturers recently have improved the performance of their wax ribbons. These performance improvements have come primarily in better smudge and smear resistance.
Ribbon Trends VARs Need To Know
Previously, thermal transfer ribbons were only available in black. Recently, ribbon manufacturers have introduced cyan, magenta, yellow, violet, red, and green ribbons. Wallace says VARs should consider offering color thermal transfer ribbons, if they don't already. Color ribbons allow end users to print colored bar code labels "on demand," eliminating the need for them to buy "preprinted" labels. The ability to print labels on demand can translate into significant savings for end users. (Label suppliers sell preprinted labels with the end user's company logo, and possibly a color graphic. The graphic or logo is typically at the top or bottom of the label, leaving space for the end user to print a bar code.)
End users pay about $1,000 for 2,500 preprinted, four-color labels. However, printing that quantity of labels on demand with color ribbons only costs $100, allowing the user to save $900. "Label suppliers have to make cyan, magenta, yellow and black plates to print four-color labels on a printing press. Making the plates is expensive, and that's why end users pay so much more for preprinted labels."