In this blog I am going to look at the core artwork process itself. I will be highlighting the key parts of each step and aiming to show what is the difference between a good process and an excellence one.
Define your process before structuring your organisation
One comment to make before talking about the core process is about roles and organisation structure. Many organisations will try to force-fit a new process into the existing roles and organisation structure, but that will also result in a sub-optimal outcome. It is much more effective to define your process then look at the structure and roles required to support.
It is important to define the start and end points of the process. You need to consider how far back in the creation of the product text you want to go. Does the process commence with the creation of the company core datasheet, or the request for local translation or the provision of an approved local text? What triggers are there to request an artwork change and who is authorised to activate those triggers?
Does the process end when the artwork is approved, the artwork file is with the printed component supplier, the component is at the factory or the new components are received in a finished product batch in country? All are valid options but present different implications to the design of your core process.
What are the common steps of a process?
Assuming that the process starts with the request for local country text and finishes with the component entering production, there are, broadly speaking, five main steps – ‘Create local language text’, ‘Define change’, ‘Produce artwork’, ‘Produce Printer proof’ and ‘Implement’. Each of these delivers an approved outcome – an approved local language text, an approved change definition, an approved artwork, an approved printer proof and an approved component. These can be considered as key ‘gates’ controlling your process.
When creating the local language text for a new component the company core data sheet is the input document. The text produced in this process step will have the medically critical information so it is vital the meaning is not changed. Controlling this step is key when working across several languages and fonts.
‘Define the change’ having a clear set of instructions of what is required avoids the common trap of overlapping requests for further changes and mistakes being made in the confusion. We recommend the creation of an artwork brief which is agreed by all parties.
‘Produce artwork’ this step of the process consists of creating the artwork, checking that is meets the requirements of the brief, proof-reading, approving it and archiving it. Operators who are using well defined layout templates with rules of where logos and text are placed, combined with a well-structured brief are in a good position to produced artwork which will be approved first time.
‘Produce Printer Proof’ covers, in most cases, the production of an electronic printer proof, produced by the printer’s pre-press processes which allows the customer to verify that the proof is graphically the same as the printer proof. Many companies are moving to providing print ready artwork, where the file is prepared so that the print supplier can use without modification. This is encouraged as it removes a potential source of error.
‘Implement’ in this process step the components, having been put into a bill of materials, are ordered, produced at the suppliers and then go through a quality check before release to production.
The importance of critical control points
It is worth remembering this whole process produces information to be read and acted on and, if incorrect, can have a significant impact on patients. So it is vital that at each stage in the process there are defined control points to ensure the quality of the output. Each stage must have a check for accuracy and a formal approval by key individuals to proceed. These individuals will vary and what they are approving will be tailored to their area of expertise.
In the next post, I will look at the implications of ensuring your artwork process operates effectively with other interfacing processes in your organisation.
To help you in your Artwork Improvement Program, you can also find useful information in my book Developing and Sustaining Excellent Packaging Labelling and Artwork Capabilities
Should you have any questions about this or any other of my blogs, or would simply like to request a copy of my booklets, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on my email.
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