5 mistakes FMCG companies make when developing Artwork -Part I

by Vineet Singh 

The current dynamic business environment makes it necessary for every business to deliver a quick and appealing product mix, and adapt to the changing market requirements.

Particularly companies dealing in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), or Consumer Goods in short, are under constant pressure to introduce newer & better products to the market. Each launch undergoes a team effort through the product development cycle to deliver each project within a limited time frame.

The entire Product Life cycle Management (PLM) becomes difficult and cumbersome if an efficient software solution is not implemented. For the purpose of this blog, we will focus only on the Artwork Management part of the PLM.

Package specification is the final process in the product development cycle. Labeling artwork, and package copy play an important role in communicating about the brand, usage instructions, ingredients, safety and efficacy data. Any issue in the content or design might result in FDA fines, or worse - it may not communicate product information to the customer properly. There have been many cases where improper artwork labeling (even due to small mistakes) has caused entire consignments to be returned. Returned goods can no longer be reused or repackaged, and is a direct hit to the bottom line of the business.

What is the Artwork Management System that you currently employ, if not software-driven? Do you still use paper files/folders for planning & approvals? Do you use emails instead? Does your organization still do pain-staking manual proof-reads of artwork? Are you still using a printer-dependent color shades instead of referring to pantone shades?

If your answer is yes to any or all of the above, then you have probably been living under the rocks and it's time to adapt to the latest technology. We believe that AMS (Artwork Management System) commands a critical role to play in both achieving regulatory compliance and delivering competitive advantage. Further, it accelerates the production and ensures that you achieve a significant reduction in approval time and packaging write-offs.

New product launches, line extensions, market extensions, promos, regulatory changes, and bar code changes all trigger a change in artwork across all industries. It is more so, especially in case of FMCG companies that manage enormous amount of artwork and packaging change with each sales season which therefore demands an effective automatic artwork management system.

For an FMCG company, it is a tight rope walk as you navigate around the complexities of packaging and artwork management within the critical barriers and an environment of reduced consumer spending and increased resource costs. An inefficient productivity in artwork preparation will potentially escalate and amplify the productivity gap between you and the industry leaders.

What are the challenges that an FMCG company face in artwork management?

Businesses needs to deliver quick output with regards to product label, design, and artwork. Certain issues encountered in the process of labeling and artwork hinder the flow of work and cause considerable revenue challenges. Their significant and far reaching effects further affect the FMCG companies involved therein.

1. Coordinate with various departments to collate inputs for revising briefs

Artwork and related files can be scattered in multiple locations. Lacking coordination between various units in the business might result in unwanted delays, and errors. Interacting and collaborating with different departments and external agencies within the pressure to deliver quick changes in a very short time leaves out many loose ends and ambiguities, therefore resulting in errors.

2. Using traditional unstructured artwork approval methods

There are fundamental delay-causing problems with using unstructured artwork approval methods. Using eMail for approvals & comments require constant follow ups and also require the use of parallel task tracking tools. Using files that move across desk have the risk of loss, and no way of telling how long it takes at each step. Spreadsheets help to a certain degree, but fail when it comes to reminders or tracking missed deadlines.

Using Paper files or folders for Key Line Drawing (KLD) might result in the wrong version being sent for printing.

An ideal artwork automation solution must be more beneficial. Crafting the artwork brief and managing the tedious and redundant process of approval through emails, spreadsheets, paper copies or ftp file shares result in further delaying the artwork process.

The process becomes further cumbersome when the artwork files emerge in different formats for box artwork, drawing labels and leaflets. This then results in delays in product launches, and you may also miss leveraging on seasonal marketing campaigns.

3. No central repository of regulatory specifications, Artworks, Sketches, master boards etc.

The tedious, long and redundant process with many scattered pieces leaves very little room to build a central repository for all artwork resources. This causes further confusion about versions and approved artwork. This also allows you no visibility of the current work efforts. These further cascade in lack of an integrated package and product innovation process.

A central repository with smart features like restricting users to only view the latest versions of approved artwork make life easier for the entire team involved in the artwork process. You can eliminate confusion and also enable backups of the central repository to protect against data loss.

4. Not following standard process for deciding colour schemes

Colour is a subjective element that is perceived in many forms, and is dependent on the light source. Using printer-dependent color shades might always not create desired results. Apart from this printers use ink, which removes photons from the image, which is in contrast with the computer monitors that use light pixels, and add to photons in the image.

Using a standard option such as Pantone and sharing the shade decisions with the printer can help alleviate the problem. Even so, tracking the Pantone shades used across the different colors of the artwork remain an important checklist item. Missing this check across batches can cause inconsistent packaging and damage your brand value.

5. Manual proofreading of samples from vendors

From creative concept till delivery, artwork goes through multiple reviews. Proofs are managed through emails, or through physical folders both of which are time consuming and prone to human error.

Manual proofreading is difficult, imperfect and excruciatingly detailed process. And it increases the chances of error on packaging. Sometimes the information presented may be vague, or in an incorrect way. There may be errors and omissions in the detailed content of the artwork, for instance incorrect symbols might be used. There could be words that can easily be misspelt but not come to your notice - like accomodate vs accommodate. Leaflets frequently have very small fonts, and a missing tittle on an i or j can easily be missed.

When the operator lacks significant skills to perform the critical artwork process, or when there is not sufficient time to perform required tasks, errors in content can be approved for final printing. One finalized, manual proofreading of samples from vendors can also be error prone. It is not scalable, and inconsistent.

Such errors can escalate and lead to disastrous impact on the brand equity and sales of the company. Further, the product recalls and shipment delays also add to the revenue losses. In many regulated environments like the USFDA, it can also cause loss of license.

Computer Aided Proofing solutions save considerable time. Comprehensive artwork management solutions like Artwork Manager, can automatically detect errors in two versions of images.

So what’s the solution? We will discuss the same in the second part.