This is a question that we often hear, and it is understandable that customers would ask such a thing. The problem is that there is no single answer. Rather, we have to answer this question with a number of our own questions.
From one operation to the next, labeling requirements vary greatly, and these requirements can cause major differences in the time needed to label.
A complex or large label is one thing that can impact the labeling process. Printers can only produce labels so fast at their current level. The preprinted route for labels can help out a lot in this scenario. If all of the labels are going to be roughly the same format, you can have them premade onto a roll of labels. You can still print dates and weights onto those preprinted labels if the machine is set up correctly, and the print time is greatly reduced.
The next big thing is the type of labeling and quantity of labels needed per item. Many packages are labeled on the top and bottom, which can go relatively quickly with tamping and wipe-on labelers; but what if you need to label the front or back of the box?
For back and front labels, a swing arm applicator is really the only viable method. These tend to take a lot more time and space than a tamping piston would. First of all, they need to have room between products to be able to swing out. Second, the action of their application simply takes more movement than the top and bottom labels. A tamping piston takes just a second to apply and release the label. The arm needs to rotate from the side of the conveyor, apply the label, and return to its original position before being ready again.
Corner-wrap labels are even more complex and take more time. The box is pushed into an arm that applies the label in part on the front. As the box or case moves forward, the applicator pivots around the corner of the box and pushes the remainder of the label onto the side. Products requiring this sort of finesse will take even longer as a rule of thumb.
Speed is regularly impacted by the size of your product and number of labels required. If a box has multiple labels, the system might need to run slower to make sure that they are all being placed accurately. Box size could limit the operation speed just because a heavy box might require the conveyor to move at a slower pace to reduce system stress.
There are a lot of questions to be exchanged when designing an automatic labeling system, but the benefit is worth it.