Packaging & Labeling: Tips to Avoid Errors
If packaging and labeling recalls are frequent, often attributable to artwork error and have a significant effect on the various stakeholders involved, how can a company improve their capabilities to avoid error?
Recently, I discussed the types of packaging labeling and artwork errors (which I will refer to as “artwork errors”) that occur and their significant impacts upon the various stakeholders involved. In this article I will explore what a company can do to improve their capabilities and avoid error.
The development of packaging labeling and artwork involves many different groups across the company and, more often than not, external service providers and supply-chain partners.
The creation of artwork requires many elements of information to be drawn together in a way that ensures that every detail is correct in the end result. Without careful orchestration, the separate groups – both within and external to the company – involved in the artwork creation process will not deliver artwork of the required quality standard. Each person involved in the process must perform their task in the process in the correct sequence, using the right information and tools in order to achieve a quality result.
To facilitate this, it is beneficial to consider the provision of labeling text and artwork as a business service. In our experience, the best artwork capabilities are those that consider them to be providing a service to the key business stakeholders and strive to understand their service role and deliver it. Like any service offering, this will evolve over time as the customer’s needs change. The management of the artwork capability should recognize these changes and adapt the service accordingly in a managed and considered way.
The development of a clear mission, vision and performance measures can go a long way to orchestrate the successful delivery of the service across the diverse groups that are involved.
Defining service requirements
When designing an artwork service, we have found it useful to take a systematic approach to the definition of the service requirement based on a number of key questions which we discuss in more detail in our book:
- What is the service producing?
- What is the scope of the service?
- Who are the customers?
- How do you measure success?
- What do you need the service to achieve?
- Who “owns” the service?
- Who is involved in the service?
In order to answer the above it is good practice to capture the requirements of the service in a service statement of some kind. This may take the form of a service level agreement or any other similar document used in your company. It gives clarity to everyone within and outside the service on what the service is and is not there to do, how success is measured and how the service is expected to grow.
Guiding or underpinning principles
To support the service statement, it is also useful to define a set of guiding or underpinning principles on how the processes and capabilities will operate. These define the “rules of the game” and will help all parties involved in delivering the service when having to make decisions about how to move forward in a particular situation. We discuss typical principles further in our book.
Developing a common service culture across the various teams involved in delivering the overall artwork capability is a useful means to ensure successful delivery of the service.
It must also be recognized that, in providing a service to a broad group of stakeholders, it is rarely, if ever, possible to please everyone all of the time. An element of good service management not only recognizes this, but actively helps to ensure its key stakeholders also recognize this and are involved in collaborative decision-making for key aspects of the service delivery.
It is easy for an external supplier to develop a service culture; after all, it is inherent in the nature of the relationship between the two parties. Not pleasing your customer on an ongoing basis more often than not results in a clearly recognizable termination of the relationship.
When managing internal service functions, the service nature of the relationship between the artwork capability and the rest of the organization is not as obvious to everyone involved unless it is carefully orchestrated. This requires activity not only on the part of the group providing the service, but also on the part of the customer groups. As with relationships with external providers, it is all too easy for a customer group to abuse the relationship and blame the service provider for all manner of issues. To be successful, the service group and the customer groups should strive to see the relationship as a meeting of equals for mutual benefit, not a master and servant relationship.
You will also recognize that the artwork service relationship, if it is to be successful, will last a considerable period of time. Indeed, if the service is provided by a largely internal team, there is little or no practical opportunity to stop the relationship. Everyone in a long-term relationship will recognize that, for the relationship to be successful, effort needs to be put into it from all parties. Managing an artwork service capability is no different and this effort needs to be budgeted for and the necessary work planned and executed.