Excellent Packaging Artwork Capabilities 3 – The Causes of Errors

Excellent Packaging Artwork Capabilities 3 – The Causes of Errors

In the last article we talked about the consequences of errors. In this article we will talk about some of the ways these errors occur, prior to discussing how to avoid them.

Causes of artwork errors

We have divided the many causes of artwork errors into a number of categories and discuss each of them below.

Process gaps and inconsistencies

Alternatively termed as systematic errors, these occur when the design of the business processes are incomplete or conflicting, leading to errors in the content of the artwork. A typical example of this would be a gap in the process definition for the provision of a particular piece of information.

Lack of competence

Here, operators do not have the necessary skills, knowledge or instructions to carry out the tasks that are required of them in the business process. This may be due to issues such as an inadequate level of process definition or inadequate training and competence assessment.

An issue of particular concern in artwork processes which we discuss later is that of ensuring the competence of people who only perform tasks in the process very infrequently.

Lack of quality time

It does not matter how competent people are, if they do not have enough quality time to perform the tasks required of them then they are likely to make forced errors of one form or another.

A lack of quality time to perform tasks is typically due to unrealistic process step times being expected, or an overall lack of adequate resource headcount. Clearly, this may also be a symptom of ineffective process and/or tool design.

Inappropriate decision-making

In this type of situation, people will make inappropriate decisions during the execution of the business process which lead to errors in the resulting artwork. For example, management may set priorities which are interpreted by operations staff to put moving an artwork to the next stage of the process ahead of doing a task completely and correctly.


The artwork process involves many individuals providing detailed instructions to other individuals in the process, with the resulting opportunity for ambiguity in these instructions to lead to errors in the artwork. A lack of templates or instructions on how to pass on information and instructions in an unambiguous way can be examples of this type of issue.

It must be remembered that many people working in the artwork process do so in their second language. This in itself significantly increases the possibility of individuals misinterpreting instructions which are not entirely clear.

Errors in source information

The age-old phrase “garbage in, garbage out” applies very well to the artwork process. If incorrect source information is used in the process then it is highly likely to cause errors in the resulting artwork.

Typical examples of this type of issue include: people using the wrong or incorrect versions of documents; the use of uncontrolled information sources such as ad hoc personal spreadsheets.

Human error

A typical artwork process includes many steps where people are directly responsible for carrying out activities such as: transcribing information from one source to another; performing multiple complex or repetitive tasks.

It is the nature of human beings that we make mistakes for many reasons. Sometimes it will be due to limitations described elsewhere in this article, sometimes it may just be because we are having a bad day.

Whilst many steps can be taken to help reduce the possibility of human error, the fact remains that it can still happen and needs to be taken account of when designing artwork capabilities.

Technology errors

Technology in the form of computer software and tools is often used to perform or aid many artwork process steps. However, without careful design and control, this technology can introduce errors into an artwork.

Examples of the types of issues which may cause such errors include: software operating incorrectly; systems not providing the user with a true image of a particular document; font transcription errors when moving information from one document to another.

Now that we have looked at the types of errors which occur and their causes, we are in a position to start to focus on how to prevent them and create right-first-time packaging artwork.

This series of articles, taken from our book Developing and Sustaining Excellent Packaging Labelling and Artwork Capabilities, describes the key capabilities required to deliver right-first-time packaging artwork in today’s environment. They also discuss potential future developments in the area to help the reader design any improvement activity with these in mind. Finally, they look at how an organisation can go about understanding how they need to adapt and improve their capabilities to meet their evolving business strategy and go about the often complex change-management journey to achieve it.

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