Right-First-Time tip 2: Categorise and root cause the errors

Right-First-Time tip 2: Categorise and root cause the errors

I believe right-first-time is a key metric and mind set for your artwork process and, in this article, I continue my series on top tips to improve it, raising the need for a detailed understanding of why the errors are happening.

Categorise the types of errors

Measuring your right-first-time will tell you what your performance is but not why. You will need to delve deeper into the data. I suggest you set up a system for collecting and categorising the errors found, reporting them monthly. You need to determine the broad categories, and recognise this list may change, as you understand the issues more clearly. A typical set of error categories may include errors attributable to file identification/properties, text content, graphical content, supplied data, process failures and the technical aspects of the artwork. You may even need to break these broad categories into more specific error types.

Recording the reasons for a non-right-first-time artwork will then let you track the frequency and volume of different types of error, to identify the ones that are most significant. This is where you then need to target your energy for improvement.

A clear differentiator of companies that have excellent right-first-time performance is that they are obsessive about eliminating sources of errors by designing them out of the process. They have managed to minimise the effort they expend on cleaning up after an incident and instead channel that resource and energy into eliminating the potential for errors to occur.

Develop a good root cause process – consider the five why’s approach

Once you have decided which category you need to focus on, you need to make sure you root cause the sources of the failures. This will ensure you are applying the right corrective actions.

Every company has their preferred method to root cause but I will suggest you consider the 5 why’s method as it is easy to train and very effective. Simply, you ask ‘why’ for as many times as you need to, until you get to the ultimate root cause.

Looking at an example: an error has been discovered where the braille on a launch pack is obscuring some key information and there have been complaints.

Why has this happened?
Answer: The job was rushed and the team say they were not clear braille was needed until the last minute.
Why did they not know it was needed and where it was to be positioned?
Answer: This information was not clear at the point prior to when the artwork was being generated and had to be added later.
Why was this information not available at this point in the process?
Answer: There is no discipline for providing all the information prior to starting the artwork and people put the braille where it normally fits.
Why is there not the discipline at this point for both of these points?
Answer: There is no process for gathering all the information and signing it off prior to starting. People don’t know where to put the braille in general.
Why don’t people know where to put the braille?
Answer: The line drawing doesn’t show where braille should be.
The actions from this process would be to update the drawings to show the braille location and put into your process the discipline of having all the information available, using an artwork brief, prior to the artwork generation process starting.

Having implemented solutions continue to measure to ensure sustainability

Once improvements have been made you should continue to measure the error categories to ensure the frequency of occurrence for the ones you have targeted for improvement have reduced.  This will tell you if your improvements have been effective and also sustainable.  The last thing you want is the same errors occurring again, especially if you think they have been addressed.

In the next article, I will explore the topic of right-first-time further and discuss my third tip, which looks at the artwork brief.

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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