Master Machine Company Eliminates Shipping Errors with Zebra's IQ Colour

Master Machine

Company Eliminates Shipping Errors with Zebra's IQ Colour

Heat-Activated Colour Labels a Flexible, Cost-Effective Solution

About Master Machine Since 1977, Minnesota-based Master Machine Inc. has manufactured top-quality precision ma¬chined parts in materials such as aluminium, stainless, plastics and brass. An ISO 9002 certified precision close tolerance machine job shop, Master Machine specializes in computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling, turning and assembly work for both short- and long-run production needs for a diverse range of industries.

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The Story


Every day, Master Machine ships freshly manufactured parts to its customers. Just as precision matters in the products it creates, precision in shipping is critical. An incorrectly shipped order causes delays for customers and re-routing costs for Master Machine.

For one customer in particular, the company ships parts to three different locations. After a few orders ended up at the wrong location, Master Machine sought a way to foolproof its shipping process.

"Missed shipments were not acceptable," said Kim Thompson. "All the same part numbers are shipping to different locations so there was a big potential for human error."


Early on, the manufacturer considered colour as a way to distinguish between locations. However, trials with coloured paper failed to solve the problem.

Likewise, experimenting with coloured totes for shipments or sealing shipments in coloured plastic wrap were expensive options and not acceptable to the customer.

"The customer was not excited about lots of colours coming in because they already use lots of colour in their facilities," Thompson said.

Master Machine turned to Peak Technologies, a supply chain automation company that provided the company's thermal printing labels. Peak recommended labels with IQ Colour direct thermal ink technology from Zebra Technologies.

Compatible with Master Machine's existing Zebra thermal printers, Zebra's IQ Colour offered just the right solution to the company's challenge. Using direct thermal ink technology, patented IQ Colour goes right into Master Machine's printers. It's a flexible, efficient and accurate alternative to methods such as using preprinted colour thermal media, laser or ink jet printing, separate colour labels, or colour markers.

During label manufacturing, Zebra applies up to four invisible ink colours to the zones that Master Machine designated. The printer heat-activates the ink to make select colours visible as the applica¬tion requires. It can reveal the colour in the form of shapes, text, graphics or reverse images. Now, Master Machine prints cyan on the labels for all shipments that go to its client's main location. The company chose which parts of its existing label configuration to enhance with colour, in this case the name of the customer, the destination, and purchase order and part numbers all print in colour.

"The colour is a very easy visual for shipping staff," Thompson said.

With heat-activated colour, if desired, the company can print non-colour labels and then switch to colour labels from one print run to the next, without removing the labels.


Using IQ Colour, Master Machine found an easy, inexpensive solution to its shipping challenges.The solution required no changes to the company's existing processes. Looking ahead, the company can also add more colours in the future for that customer, or for other customers.

Most importantly, the solution satisfies Master Machine's customer. Since adding IQ Colour, the company has not experienced a single incorrect shipment to the customer.

"IQ Colour was a super simple solution to a big problem," said Thompson.

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