How long will it take for me to receive my custom labels? This is a question that we get asked fairly regularly. We get it - you've spent all of this time developing a product and you're ready to get it in the hands of your customers. However, printing professional quality custom labels is a little more involved that clicking 'Print' on your desktop printer. To help you better understand what it takes, let’s go on a quick journey through the label printing process.
First, you place your order and supply us with the appropriate artwork (assuming of course that it’s not a simple repeat order, in which case we already have the artwork). Once we have the art files, our pre-press department then has to review every design file you’ve sent. The amount of time taken to complete this process varies a lot (depending on how many files are involved and how good the art is when we receive it), but we allow on average 5 minutes per file to get your artwork into a press-ready state and proofed. Some files take less than this, but others can take quite a bit longer - which is why it's critical for your designer to prepare the files as closely as possible to our product label artwork specifications. Also see this FAQ about product label turnaround times.
The next step is the proofing process. Regardless of whether you’ve sent new files or are re-ordering artwork we’ve used previously, we still need to “proof” the order (i.e. we send you a PDF with all the versions you specified) – this is necessary to make sure we've pulled the correct versions and we also got all the quantities etc correct. We never schedule a production job until we get the final approval to proceed, so it's in your interest to review the proofs carefully and quickly. That said, please don't rush this – sadly we find some customers don't even bother to check the proofs and just give us the approval to go into production, only to subsequently find they missed something important.
Okay – so now we have an approved job to produce physical labels. This is when the real fun starts, beginning with scheduling the job. We normally allow a couple of business days to complete the job and ship it out to you – because each unique “job” goes through multiple production phases, beginning with the actual printing itself. Depending on how many labels you ordered, this initial printing process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours – and it's normal to expect there are other jobs in front of yours in the production queue.
After the printing is completed, the roll of material (known as the "web") is then moved to the next station in the process on a separate piece of equipment about 20 feet long – where die-cutting and lamination take place. Die-cutting is where the printed labels are stamped out of the surrounding material into the required size and shape (like a cookie-cutter in concept). This equipment usually also applies a thin film of clear protective lamination on top of the printed material. Mounting the appropriate die for your order and aligning the die-press for each new job usually takes 10-15 minutes and then the operator hits “Go” and the magic continues – the pre-printed web streams through the die-press and out the other end comes a die-cut web with appropriate lamination in place and all the waste between the labels removed.
This web is then passed on to the next section – known as the Rewind department. The rewind operator mounts the web on a mechanical slitter-rewinder, and adjusts rotary knives to slit the web into individual rolls of labels. The rewind operator is also responsible for making sure the rolls end up in the correct “unwind direction” for your intended application method, and the finished rolls are then transported to the last section in the process, which is packing and shipping.
The packers assemble the finished order into boxes for shipment to your chosen destination. Late in the afternoon, a UPS truck comes in and collects all the orders for that day and takes them off for delivery. Our free 2-day delivery to anywhere in the US is unique to the best of our knowledge, and depending on your location it may actually happen overnight at no extra cost.
As you can see, there are many individual steps involved in producing each and every label order. Each of these steps is necessarily time-consuming to achieve the best possible quality, and a single job typically takes a couple of workdays to wind its way right through the plant and onto the UPS truck. It’s also important to note that our entire business is focused on “custom labels”, which implies we make everything to order from scratch. We do not carry inventories of off-the-shelf items, because every customer has unique needs for their products.
Given the number of orders we're processing every day, and the very short turn-times involved, please note that at Wizard Labels we do not offer a “rush order” facility. Our standard 2-day production time is arguably the fastest in the industry and we do not believe in allowing customers to jump the queue, because that would adversely impact every other customer's orders. In many cases we can upgrade the shipping to Overnight delivery if needed, but the production process is based on "first in, first out" once we receive approval of the proofs.