For many manufacturers, it’s almost impossible to recover from the fall-out of a labeling error, especially one that compromises consumer safety. Even if the manufacturer can successfully manage the imminent PR disaster, the likelihood of getting into hot water with regulatory authorities is high, and the manufacturer’s ability to continue to market and sell its products will be severely impacted.

There’s no arguing: accurate and effective labeling is a big deal and one that manufacturers can’t afford to mismanage. But it’s also a major challenge.  More manufacturers than ever are distributing their products worldwide, with some products sold in hundreds of countries. When you consider the total labeling content a pharmaceutical company, for example, may collectively manage over the course of a year, the number is in the tens of millions of words. This is a significant amount of content to manage and ensure is error-free.

Remove the Opportunities for Error

In the end-to-end packaging process, there are plenty of opportunities for error, and these opportunities often coincide with “gaps” in the process.  For example, you might spend a lot of time getting the right artwork printed on the right label and shipping the right label roll to the right manufacturer, but at the very end of the process the plant still has to verify the label they’re about to place on the product is correct.  If you’re relying on a visual check at this point of hand-off, you’re creating a “gap” and inviting human error into the process.  It’s always better to invest in technology, such as a scan compare tool, whereby the plant can scan the label and compare it to the final approved artwork to verify the label and artwork components and product codes match.

Similar gaps also exist upstream in the packaging process, and these too can be closed with the right solutions. Some tips for doing so successfully:

Analyze your label and artwork workflows and identify opportunities for automation

For example, a lot of artwork is made by cutting and pasting text from approved artwork documents into Adobe Illustrator, where the packaging artwork is created.  There are now tools that can take the text from a word document or a database of approved packaging copy and move it through an XML structure directly onto the package.  This automates the construction of the artwork and it closes the gap between approved content and data entry.

Balance global and local needs

While most companies have to adhere to global regulations across geographic markets, this can be difficult.  Different markets may have different processes, and it’s likely teams want to work their own way.  Ideally, however, you want to harmonize to one or two global processes that are flexible enough to handle changes in a particular market.  There should be enough balance that local markets feel their nuances have been addressed, but regulatory doesn’t have to review 19 different operations when they conduct an audit.

Make each artwork “touch” a high-value touch

Every time somebody touches artwork in the packaging process, the touch actually represents a cost for the product manufacturer.  Therefore, when people touch the artwork, the touch needs to make sense and add value.  Keep in mind, you’re not trying to entirely remove people from the process, you’re designing the process to ensure each touch either improves artwork quality or communication across the team.

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