Packaging Complexity Management Tip 14: Late Customisation

Packaging Complexity Management Tip 14: Late Customisation

Can you late customise components and products?


Our definition of late customisation is the physical modification of standard components and products to add features or information, making them product or market specific.  Examples would include on-line printing of content and over-labelling and may be undertaken downstream of the packaging facility.

On-line component printing is becoming increasingly common, but depends upon the type of component and information required:

  • On-line printing of foils and labels is often undertaken, particularly if only requiring black ink.
  • Equipment for near-line short-order printing of leaflets and booklets is becoming available.
  • On-line printing of multi-colour cartons (particularly pre-glued) is more complex with fewer examples, although digital presses are increasingly used at print suppliers for short runs.

Over-labelling can vary between simple printed labels (pharmacy labels) to complex labels (e.g. including sealed pouches for leaflets).

A few considerations with late-customisation and over-labelling:

  • How do you assure the quality of print for all components?  A missing decimal point could have significant consequences.
  • How do you ensure the line speeds are not significantly impacted? Is near-line printing a better option?
  • Do on-line printing machines require different artwork files or formats? Where are these files stored and how does that impact your artwork process and system uptime?
  • Can your MRP system provide the necessary breakdown of SKUs and components?

This is the fourteenth of a series of 20 blogs giving a view of methods to deal with packaging complexity. Please help me improve the thinking by adding your comments and share this with others who may have a view.

Comment ( 1 )

  • Julieann Thornton

    [Medical device perspective] We refer to this as postponement labeling or addendum labeling. The majority of this activity involves addition of languages and / or country-specific content requirements. When originally implemented approx. 12 years ago, it was fairly straightforward and considered a low risk operation. Over the years, it has become extremely complex with ever-increasing regulatory and commerce requirements that often conflict across geographies. So our ‘one size fits all’ solution is no longer working well and has resulted in complicated / time-consuming checks and verifications to insure the right information is being applied. It has also resulted in multiple labels being applied that result in a final package that looks less than professional.

    Because of these challenges, we are in the process of redefining the labeling process in general. The option that is gaining the most momentum is to remove the application of ‘final labeling’ during the manufacturing process that is performed on line and move toward a more flexible ‘label to demand’ scenario and breaking the labeling up by geographical zones or where the requirements are similar in nature. This, of course, increases the number of labels maintained / used and will require dynamic systems that tie into MRP and Customer Order entry systems to generate the correct content, languages, GTINs, etc., as well as, heavy use of relational tables to control translations, graphics and so on.

    Use of online printed labels is a must to support this process. Use of pre-printed or vendor supplied adhesive-backed labels will become non-existent. We are also taking advantage of countries that have accepted electronic instructions for use and are considering online printing for countries that still require hard copies to be included in the packaging.

    That said, we are also continuing to keep our eye on international serialization requirements as those also differ between countries. At this stage, China appears to be the most challenging with respect to assignment, allocation and reconciliation. As regulations come closer to finalization, this has the potential for adding more complexity and needed controls.

    Because of our multiple package layers, over-labeling is always treated as an option of last resort. 1) the FDA frowns upon it and 2) each time you touch the packaging, you have the potential for introducing errors. Our goal is to label once only, wherever possible.

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