Expert Raises Concern Over Increasing Use of Non-OEM Labels to Cut Cost

Russel Stoffels, Business Development Manager, Kemtek.

In today’s tough economic climate, individuals and businesses alike are understandably trying to cut costs wherever feasible. Russel Stoffels, Business Development Manager at Kemtek, says: “We’ve seen this trend roll out in the label printing sector, with customers buying non-OEM – or compatible – consumables to use with their label printers. This is problematic for a number of reasons.”


When labels are used in hazardous environments, to label electrical cables, containers of chemicals or even to differentiate between different gases, in a hospital or laboratory, people can be seriously injured or even killed if the label has peeled off or valuable information has become illegible and a wrong choice is made.

“Companies that hire contractors to do labelling at electrical, chemical or medical sites should always specify a vendor-supplied label that meets the prerequisite specifications to withstand heat, cold, abrasion, sun, water, oil or even chemicals because OEM products are rigorously tested to meet these types of applications,” says Stoffels.

Not only are labels expected to display qualities such as being waterproof, heatproof, hard wearing and durable, they also need to be able to stick to textured or curved surfaces or even cables. Depending on their intended application, OEM labels can withstand certain conditions and stay stuck and legible for specified periods of time.

Hendrik Booysens, National Commercial Sales Manager/Branch Manager at Kemtek, says there are proven advantages to using vendor-supplied consumables, and conversely, challenges that arise when customers choose to go the compatible route. “All too often the customer comes back to the vendor when experiencing issues with their device, and not the person that they acquired the compatible consumables from.”

Stoffels agrees, saying: “When customers choose non-OEM consumables, we see a surge in support calls from customers claiming that their printer isn’t working, and further investigation inevitably shows that compatible consumables caused the problem. Simply installing the right consumable gets the device working again as it should.”

Tests conducted by Brother showed that three out of six label tapes from a non-original brand jammed the label printer repeatedly and could even potentially damage the device. “While cost savings might be incurred upfront when buying the consumable, the problems caused down the line might far outweigh those initial savings,” Stoffels points out.

Another challenge when using compatible consumables is that they may not have the sensor markings required for the printer to auto-detect the consumables you’re using.

Booysens says compatible consumables simply don’t adhere as well as OEM labels. “Vendor-supplied consumables are guaranteed to stay stuck for a set period. As referred to above, this can be critical in certain environments and, should the worst happen because a label has become illegible or unstuck, liability might fall with the company that applied those sub-standard labels.

“Laminated labels might separate, failing from both a colour and printing perspective, whereas OEM tapes have a three year lifespan guaranteed, although they have been known to adhere and remain legible for in excess of 10 years. Additionally, OEM labels are obliged to comply with certain specifications according to their intended use, and are endorsed by bodies such as the Electrical Contractors Association and compliant with SANS specifications.”

Booysens recommends contractors only use labels that are endorsed by the ECA and the other official bodies.

A recent trend highlighted by Stoffels is the bundling of non-OEM consumables with printer hardware, so the purchaser gets a free device when they purchase a certain quantity of compatible consumables. However, while the upfront cost saving may be significant, it may not outweigh the problems the user will encounter down the line, he says.

“What you want is to have the right labelling in place that adheres for the right period of time, remains legible and that can withstand the environment in which it’s placed, thereby enabling your company to be compliant with health and safety standards. Having to reprint and reapply labels wastes time and consumables and increases your labour and consumable cost. By using the original consumables, you save your staff a lot of additional work and, in the long run, your business saves money.”

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