Right-first-time tips 4 and 5: Ensuring you have an effective end-to-end process and the right quality checks in place

Right-first-time tips 4 and 5: Ensuring you have an effective end-to-end process and the right quality checks in place

I believe right-first-time is a key metric and mindset for your artwork process and in this article, I continue my series on top tips to improve it, looking at tip 4, raising the need for a comprehensive and effective end-to-end process with clear roles and responsibilities and tip 5 making sure the right quality checks are undertaken by the right people.

Looking first at tip four the need for a comprehensive end-to-end process.

Map the end- to-end process

When you start to measure the right-first-time figures your approach to improve it may be to root cause each incident as it arises. This is a good idea. However, there is a risk, even when you have thoroughly investigated incidents, that you only fix parts of the problem. Issues continue to arise because fundamentally the current process is not ideal.

To really improve your right-first-time metric it is best to review the process as a whole and where possible get external independent expertise. This will enable you to design a process which uses best in class principles and is more likely to include elements which ‘future proof’ the process.

Map the end-to-end process considering the various different scenarios that arise in your company. The steps for external artwork approval in the EU will differ to that of the US.

Mapping the ‘as-is’ process and redesigning it will require a number of workshops and support from the senior management team. However the effort will be worth it as you will end up with a process that works, is understood by all and has received full team commitment.

Define the outcome for each step

When mapping each step be clear what should be done, by whom and ensure the performance expectations for each step are defined and agreed. Look at it with fresh eyes where possible. Take the opportunity to achieve your ideal process.

Map the roles and responsibilities for each step

Map the roles and responsibilities for each step. It is useful when mapping the process not to be too bound by the current staffing structures as this can constraint the thinking and prevent a more streamlined process from emerging.  This process will almost certainly result in changes in certain roles and you can expect some friction but if this mapping process is done as a group and agreed with the senior team, then it is more likely people will be engaged and go along with the changes.

Make sure there is a clear information flow

Once you have designed the new process, you should ‘trial’ it prior to implementation or configuring any software. Choose a number of scenarios and trial it with the people from each department involved on a day-to-day basis. Then walk through each scenario testing each step and checking they work as expected. Doing this properly will ensure that all the steps are there and in every case, someone is accountable.  Only then should you have the confidence to update procedures and configure any systems.

Now let’s turn to my fifth tip which is to make sure the right quality checks are undertaken by the right people. Sounds simple but too often some elements of a piece of artwork are checked by many people and some parts not at all, plus the people reviewing are not necessarily clear how to carry out the check correctly.

The importance of the review and approval steps in the process

There is typically a four-step process to assure the quality of the master artwork file. The initial check carried out by the artwork operator who has created the file, following the brief. The second check is a full and independent proof read, carried out by the proof reader, reviewing all text and graphics against the brief and including a detailed technical check. The third check is done by the regulatory group reviewing the text and content, ensuring any local requirements are met. The final check is done by QA or their representative, checking only that the correct process has been followed and documented. All these people in the chain must be aware of the responsibilities they are undertaking when reviewing and approving at each stage.

The danger of being vague

There is a danger that we are not prescriptive enough when saying what needs to happen when performing a check. If procedures are too vague there is the potential for elements of the artwork to not be correctly reviewed. In particular we often see ‘thick’ SOPs in the central artwork team versus very ‘thin’ SOPs for the regulatory checks done by the affiliates.

Be clear who checks what elements

So its important to spell out in SOPs the responsibilities for each stage and back this up with detailed checklists showing which elements must be checked and by whom. Don’t fall into the trap that everyone checks every element, because actually not everyone is qualified to perform some checks. Only the local language expert can check the context of the language on a leaflet, for example, to confirm how the text will be understood by the local patient or medical professional.

Define the ‘what’ and the ‘how’

It is important to define not only what needs to be checked but how it will be done and with what equipment, if required. State exactly what is involved in each check and what to check against. Regulatory checks will need to be referenced to listed key documents, for example,  as well as the brief. Proof readers will need to be clear what equipment they need, for example, to check bar codes and braille.

In my next article I will look at my next two tips, tip 6 looking at what is required regarding people’s competencies/training and tip 7 looking at governance of your process.


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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