By Paul Goldberg, VP Product Strategy, Loftware
How to Digitally Transform Your Artwork Management Process
As packaging artwork becomes more important to the product, delays in delivering accurate and approved package artwork have an increasing impact on time to market and a company’s bottom line. This is why the artwork surrounding your product is just as valuable and important as your product itself and it requires a well-managed process.
However, incorporating artwork management into the product lifecycle can present a range of complex challenges – especially without efficient processes in place. The desire to consistently bring new products to market ahead of the competition, while managing emerging packaging and artwork design requirements, evolving regulatory compliance, the complexity of new packaging materials and the globalization of emerging brands, provide a range of potential disruptions to maintaining critical path for each project. And in today’s vast global marketplace it’s likely you may be managing hundreds of projects with variations for each simultaneously.
Adding to this complexity, during their journey products will transcend multiple internal departments and stakeholders and interface with external resources including design shops, graphic houses and printers. With so many stakeholders it’s important to tightly manage the process and the routing of materials for edits and approvals. Without an efficient process in place there is likely to be increased risk of error and potential bottlenecks in the process.
Drowning in Spreadsheets
To manage product artwork efficiently you need an automated artwork approval process that can be incorporated into your product lifecycle and managed across your global enterprise. However, there are still many companies today using antiquated manual processes for Artwork Management. Inconsistent data, limited access to a digital assets, poor visibility, reactive communications, and labor intensive and error prone processes mean that teams working in operational silos spend an inordinate amount of time creating and editing artwork. Then there’s the chaos that ensues when trying to determine which version is the most accurate, what step is next and who is left to approve.
Traditionally many companies have used spreadsheets to manage their artwork and approval processes. This manual process which entails routing of printed documents through folders and emails presents a host of risks and inefficiencies. First and foremost, these documents can easily be lost, damaged (think of how a spilled cup of coffee might impact plans) or misplaced costing valuable time and energy. Then there’s generally confusion around which document copy is most current. Without proper version it’s not always clear if your spreadsheet has been routed to the right parties and it becomes increasingly difficult to manage changes and provide access to final, approved content.
Then there’s Excel – although this path may offer a digital alternative, it still involves a range of inefficiencies. Data entry can be time consuming and error prone and these Excel docs are difficult to maneuver and maintain. Also, with Excel real-time comments and collaboration are out of the question and the ability to quickly analyze historical data is simply not possible.
Ultimately, using labor intensive and inefficient digital options, as well as unreliable and error-prone manual processes (including the use of spreadsheets and routing of physical folders) adds time and risk to your product lifecycle. This is especially true when there are multiple teams involved and individuals are not completing their tasks on time. Spreadsheets and trackers can be overly complex in size and result in too much time sourcing, chasing and trafficking. These spreadsheets often require a Project Manager to update a master spreadsheet regularly to ensure all changes have been captured.
Also, getting reviews and approvals can be a considerable source of delays with new packaging especially when your Artwork Management process needs to be coordinated across a global enterprise. Therefore, getting approval for a piece of artwork or packaging is not a process that should be left to email or the routing of physical proofs. Verbal approval isn’t enough either, especially in regulated industries where it’s critical to capture audit data. Manufacturers need to implement a process where everyone within a project can see if a specific piece of artwork is approved, useable and compliant with existing regulations.
What it boils down to is taking a manual approach to Artwork Management presents a wide range of pitfalls that ultimately result in constant revisions, unavoidable mistakes, missed deadlines, non-compliance and increased time to market. Gambling on spreadsheets for such an important process can cost you, resulting in:
- * Lots of Unstructured Data
- * Limited Version Control
- * Unreliable Manual Processes
- * Lack of Effective Collaboration
- * Lack of Control & Compliance
- * Poor Visibility and Metrics
- * Labor Intensive & Error Prone Processes
- * No Central Repository
- * Increased Time to Market
The Digital Transformation of Artwork Management
Nearly every business process across multiple industries has seen a massive transformation over recent years. Business environments have changed significantly while technical advancements impact business processes everywhere, offering competitive advantage for those that embrace this transformation. This is in part due to increased automation and the convergence of software applications which are required for enterprise-based operations that are expanding their brands and products globally.
This Digital Transformation is now addressing the failures linked to traditional ways of working. Siloed business operations, duplicate packaging and design processes, risks linked to market regulations, chaotic packaging and labeling approvals, product recalls, and too many meetings from idea to launch can take too much time and require urgent change. These inefficiencies are compounded by working with traditional project management tools such as Excel, MS-Project, Standalone artwork approval tools, and of course email.
In past, Artwork Management has been a long and cumbersome process with many moving parts that need to work like a well-oiled machine to deliver quality artwork consistently and on-time. Managing it has been particularly crucial as stakeholders work to meet time to market expectations and avoid costly mistakes and non-compliance. The problem of packaging artwork is one of management in most cases and without a defined process chaos exists. Lack of transparency due to a poorly defined workflow can make creation, versioning and approval a needlessly long process.
Traditional project management applications often add more steps and more chaos to your existing day to day ‘way of working.’ Applications such as PLM systems, new product development, new packaging design, and collaboration platforms, are not purpose built to directly manage the packaging artwork process. A comprehensive and configurable Artwork Management Solution will provide complete visibility and enable you to specifically define roles and responsibilities, making clear who is to review what, using what criteria, by when. It also will manage workflow and proofing across both internal teams and outside agencies while enabling current status to be viewed and approvals submitted remotely on a global scale.
As time goes by, a comprehensive, modern Artwork Management Solution allows you to build up a knowledge base of commonly made mistakes, repeated bottlenecks, and areas that need extra resources for improved KPIs. It also enables you to eliminate duplication of efforts and store final approved versions of brand elements, package information, legal and regulatory requirements in a central repository for easy access. Companies no longer have to worry about where artwork such as logos, fonts, stock photos, and other assets unique to your organization are stored. These solutions will drive real efficiency and make the difference in getting your products to market faster, smarter and more cost effectively than your competitors.
Businesses must focus on leveraging today’s Digital Transformation to gain competitive advantage. Solutions, including those for Artwork Management and new product development, that can be configured fit to your organizations existing processes are now available at an enterprise level. It’s no longer something to consider, but a question of when to invest, or run the risk of falling behind your competitors.
Optimizing for Success
Ultimately, product packaging plays a critical role in adoption and sales of your products and its influence on consumers buying decisions and brand recognition cannot be minimized. However, managing this highly regulated element of your new product lifecycle can pose many challenges, which can directly impact time to market and a company’s bottom line. This is why it’s critical to have a well-managed Artwork Management process in place.
By avoiding manual, error prone processes and inefficient Excel options and opting for cloud-based deployments with managed services, you can realize real-time collaboration and visibility while focusing your time and resources on your core business. A comprehensive Artwork Management Solution streamlines packaging design and workflow by bringing accountability and structure to the process. By connecting users, departments, geographic silos and business partners across your global enterprise you can unlock massive benefits with an overall reduction in administration and elimination of duplication effort and errors.
A configurable and automated solution enables you to easily manage packaging artwork and the end-to-end business processes with complete access and full transparency. The right type of solution transforms project management, streamlining the packaging concept to shelf process, enabling you to lower costs, improve control and regulatory compliance, significantly decrease complexity and reduces time to market.
Article courtesy of Loftware
Loftware, Inc. is the global market leader in Enterprise Labeling Solutions with more than 5,000 customers in over 100 countries. Offering the industry’s most comprehensive labeling solution, Loftware’s enterprise software integrates SAP®, Oracle® and other enterprise applications to produce mission-critical barcode labels, documents, and RFID Smart tags across the supply chain. Loftware’s design, native print, and built-in business rules functionality drives topline revenue, increases customer satisfaction, and maximizes supply chain efficiency for customers. With over 30 years of industry leadership, Loftware’s Enterprise Labeling Solutions and best practices enable leading companies to meet their customer-specific and regulatory requirements with unprecedented speed and agility.