How to keep ink inventories for spot colours at optimum levels

For spot colour printers supplying packaging and labels, ink inventory control depends on accurate, efficient record-keeping at three handling points: purchasing, booking in raw materials, and at the ink dispenser. As we explain, a new management software with this capability provides real-time stock ability, the ability to track ink batches to customer jobs – and the ability to keep stocks at optimum levels.

At any one time, a printer must know how much inks are being stored, where they’re located and what’s on order. This information is crucial for planning and managing an efficient, smooth production flow: inks can be purchased in accordance with customer demand, in time, without overstocking or running out.

But if you’re regularly making spot colours in-house with a dispenser, keeping track of inventories can be challenging, as base inks used as colour ingredients constantly move between locations and containers within the facility. The arrival of new barrels of base inks may be straightforward to record. But as special brand colours are mixed for each job, and excess amounts returned from the press, how do you know exactly what your stock levels are, in storage and in the ink kitchen? And for food and pharmaceutical label and packaging printers, how do you track these inks to customer orders, to comply with safety regulations?

The basics of successful inventory control for spot colour inks

Successful ink inventory control depends on easy, accurate record-keeping at every point where ink is handled or processed in the print workflow. As explained earlier, a dedicated, computerized management information system for ink inventories for spot colours is required. This is not only to account for the arrival of new base inks, but the dispensing of blends and the processing of press-return inks – which are the norm in flexo and gravure printing.

A new dedicated software module – GSE Advanced logistics – gives packaging printer real-time information about base ink stock availability for preparing spot colours and a system for maintaining ink stocks at optimum levels to fulfil customer orders.

It does so by providing a straightforward record-keeping solution for three ink handling stages:

  • Ink purchasing
  • Booking-in of base inks when they arrive from the supplier
  • Connection of base inks to the ink dispenser

Data-entry is only necessary once – avoiding error, reducing administrative costs and saving employee time. Each functionality is easy to find within a drop-down menu.

Simplified purchasing of base inks with vendor management system

The purchasing function acts as a flexible vendor management system – letting you create supplier profiles and set parameters for ordering new inks. Each supplier profile allows you to store contact and banking address details, and allows base ink orders to be allocated to their respective manufacturer. Any number of supplier profiles may be created.

For each base ink component in the printer’s inventory, it is necessary to specify parameters including:

  • minimum desired stock level – so the user is prompted to issue a purchase advice, avoiding risk of a ‘stock out’
  • maximum desired stock level – avoiding the risk of ordering too much stock
  • order unit – this can range from 5kg buckets to 1,000kg IBCs
  • ink unit price (usually per kilogram)

All these parameters are the input data needed for an MRP inventory replenishment process. They are adjustable – and necessarily so: in times of unpredictable supply and demand, it is important to review these periodically.

Raising a purchase order for base inks to prepare spot colours

Once the parameters are set, it is possible to select a supplier and create a purchase order, according to the printer’s own preferred numbering system. Based on the pre-determined stock level parameters for that ink (see above), the software automatically generates a component list with suggested order quantities and delivery dates – but these can be manually changed.

GSE Ink manager - Purchase order
GSE Advanced logistics – Purchase order


In this component stock list, the user can see how much of each ink stock is available, and how much of each ink is needed for the production schedule. Low ink stocks are clearly marked. This enables the printer to make informed purchasing decisions, in balance with demand.

From this list, the user simply selects the desired ink components for purchasing. Multiple inks can be ordered at once: once all inks have been selected, the purchase order may be optionally printed, or exported to another format such as PDF or Excel. At larger printing houses, the purchase orders raised by the GSE software may be sent internally to the purchasing department and / or ERP system, to be handled according to their standard purchasing and operating procedures.

Booking-in of base inks for spot colours

Every time a delivery arrives, the booking-in function provides a simple way of tracking orders, ensuring they are aligned with requirements. To book in a delivery, first select the corresponding purchase order in the software module. Each barrel delivered is entered separately, either by typing the batch code or scanning the barrel’s barcode, along with delivered weight, production date, expiry date and location information. The software generates a unique barrel identification number and a barcode label for each barrel entered, and the barrel is put into stock.

Some batch and weight data can be changed when the barrel is eventually connected to the dispenser. For example, expiry data may be changed because exposure of ink to the atmosphere can accelerate its degradation – seek advice from your supplier about this.

In the forthcoming blog, learn how to handle and record the exchange of barrels at the ink dispenser – and by doing so, see exactly how much stock is available for making spot colours, on-demand.

What are the advantages of advanced ink logistics software?

The new GSE Advanced logistics software offers a host of benefits to the label and package printer. It provides:

  • Real-time visibility of inventory levels for each ink and varnish in the factory – both in the warehouse, and connected to the dispenser. The printer can see at a glance whether enough inks are available to fulfil the customers’ orders.
  • Precise location of each stock item, and thus the basis for an organized inventory system where ingredients are fast and easy to find in time for the next job
  • Instant, real-time stock valuation data – making periodic stocktaking and financial analyses easier.
  • Traceability of ink batches – back to the supplier, and forwards to each print job and customer order the batch is used for.
  • Order history – by supplier and by base ink.
  • Alerts that remind purchasing staff when ink stocks are low and that replenishment is necessary.
  • Filling the gap: automated MRP inventory replenishment process for base inks, including status control, which is not managed by standard ERP systems.
  • Easy, one-time data entry – avoiding error, cutting administration costs and providing smarter use of employee time.