Top 10 Right-First-Time Tips to Streamline and Improve Your Artwork Process - Part 3

Written by Be4ward on 30/05/2023

Top 10 Right-First-Time Tips to Streamline and Improve Your Artwork Process - Part 3

I always consider that ‘Right-First-Time’ is the fundamental metric for an artwork service. This is a simple pass or fail metric – did the artwork pass through the process once or was any change required? This is difficult to achieve on a consistent basis and requires focus and persistence. This is the subject I am exploring further in this series of Right-First-Time blog posts, along with 10 essential tips to help you get it Right-First-Time.

In parts one and two of this blog series, we've looked at why right-first-time matters, how to measure it and manage it and the importance of a strong artwork brief and clear process mapping. Here in part three we examine effective staff training and suitability, cross functional governance groups and some of the key tools available for IT support in the artwork process.

Tip 6: Ensure all people in the process have the appropriate skills, competencies and capabilities through effective training

Each role has a different set of requirements, you need the right ‘fit’ for each role

You need a range of skills throughout the end-to-end process. Each step requires a different set of abilities, from creation of the artwork through to the several review and approval stages. People need to show they have the right skills to perform the role but also demonstrate they can use their skills to perform the job successfully. Having the right mind set gives the complete capability for the role.

The artwork coordinator who orchestrates the whole process will require a different skill set to the proof-reader who does the most detailed check of the artwork. The proof-reader needs to be highly detail conscious and be comfortable working alone for most of their working day. The coordinator must be much more people-oriented to ensure the artwork is progressed through the business. So, it’s important to define what you are looking for in each role, value the differences and select people accordingly.

Recognise some staff are performing tasks daily, some more infrequently

It’s important to recognise that, although there are many people involved in this process, many do it only as a small part of their role. In addition, regulatory people in the affiliates who perform the local language review and approval checks, will be doing these tasks quite infrequently. Also, these people tend to change more frequently than those in the central artwork and regulatory teams.

This situation means it is likely there are less experienced people performing tasks in some roles, so it is important to plug this gap with good standard operating procedures (SOPs) and training. Procedures in these areas must give the correct level of detail to enable people to do the job effectively and controls need to be in place so access to systems only happens when the staff have completed the required training modules. Unfortunately, often when we review the SOPs, held centrally and at the affiliates, we discover that the comprehensive SOPs cover the tasks done centrally but SOPs for work done in the affiliates are very high level, lacking essential detail. It should be almost the other way around.

Education and training are key – monitor the effectiveness of the different approaches

SOPs are important but to ensure people have the correct skills and are competent to do the role means effective education and training needs to be provided. Initial training when a process is revised, new starter training, specialist training for certain roles like proof-reading and special focus for those involved in the review and approval steps needs to be considered.

The range of people to reach means a variety of approaches need to be taken. Staff in more remote areas may have web-based training, on and offline training and even recorded videos. There should be a requirement to pass an assessment, following the SOP training.

The effectiveness of the different approaches needs to be monitored, so when issues arise it is useful to identify if inadequate training has been the root cause.

Tip 7: Ensuring there is effective training and cross-functional governance

Governance group – required as the process works across many departments

When you ‘walk’ the complete artwork process from end-to-end you realise it touches many departments and external groups. If the ambition is to achieve an excellent artwork service, then each part has a contribution to make in achieving right-first-time.

I always recommend putting in place a governance group with representatives of the key functions. In most cases this is a new group, as existing groups do not have appropriate cross-functional or geographical representation, or do not have the bandwidth to do the job effectively. If a steering committee was in place for a process redesign the governance group may grow out of this but potentially with more senior members. The members need to be selected with enough authority to carry out their responsibilities and represent their functions/geography effectively.

Leadership needs to take accountability for the performance of their function

Reviewing the right-first-time figures at the governance meeting, with sufficient root-causing activity, should highlight areas where the process just seems to ‘get stuck’. Each representative then needs to work to resolve issues that have arisen in their areas of responsibility, in the interests of the whole artwork supply chain.

The leadership team needs to agree to a common vision and sponsor improvements

Good sponsorship means ensuring they agree to a common vision and this vision is communicated out to the organisation, resources provided and any stakeholder conflicts resolved. The team should set out the standard required of the service and agree how its performance will be measured, of which right-first-time will be one of the main measures. The group will also agree priorities for improvement projects identified.

The frequency of meetings will depend on the organisation but I would recommend setting them up on at least a quarterly basis.

Tip 8: There needs to be an appropriate and scalable suite of IT tools to support the process and people working with it

There are a range of tools available to support artwork operations

I am not going to go through every tool in this blog but instead highlight some of the key types.

Document management and workflow tools allow you to manage your documents in a controlled electronic environment and route them to key users to perform the process tasks necessary. These tools sometimes also permit planning of artwork projects. Document review and approval tools allow users to view, comment and approve documents electronically (usually with an electronic signature). These above tools are the typical functionality of Artwork Management Systems.

Electronic proof reading tools allow you to electronically check text, graphics, barcodes, Braille and, depending on the package, other artwork elements. Artwork and drawing tools are typically used by artwork operators to generate artwork and engineers to create the profiles and templates for components.

Technology helps right-first-time

Two of the ways technology can assist with right-first-time is to automate activities and reduce opportunity for human error. A frequent source of error in a manual process is mistakes with document versions. An electronic document management system can avoid this as they typically provide closed loop version management, automatically version-numbering iterations of a document and ensuring it is obvious which is the most recent version.

Human error is always a challenge when proof reading large documents which require long periods of focused attention. Electronic proof-reading tools can assist here by providing an electronic means of proofing that is consistent and accurate.

Technology presents some downsides that need to be considered

We often hear the same thing when we engage with a client that has undertaken a major technology project – ‘We have implemented a new system but our right-first-time performance has not improved – why?’. The answer to this is pretty simple – application of technology is part of the solution, not the whole solution. If you look back through this set of blogs, there are many things that need to be done to raise performance beyond technology: addressing process, people and organisational issues. Missing these means that you are unlikely to achieve an holistic outcome.

Another downside is that technology costs money, both in the initial cost of the tool and in implementation, maintenance and support requirements. We often find that people trying to implement systems look only at the initial license costs, which once you have considered project resource and validation costs and ongoing running costs, are a small part of the total lifecycle cost of a system. This total cost is often a surprise.

Finally, technology is used by people, and in the case of artwork systems, many of those people may use the system only occasionally (think of the regulatory staff in your different countries). So even a technology project is really about people, as you have to give them the motivation and capability to change and the education and training to be able to use the tools correctly.

Choose a strategy that fits with your needs

Therefore, in defining how to move forward with technology you need to consider the needs of your individual company. As a broad generalisation, the technology needs become greater the larger the size of your company. We typically measure this in the number of artworks required. If you have 360,000 artworks to manage you need some sophisticated capabilities. If you only have three, your approach can be much simpler. But remember that technology takes time to implement, so if you are growing fast you need to be thinking ahead.

In the fourth and final part of this right-first-time blog series we examine the benefits of quality time and quality facilities and how to create a winning culture in the workplace.

Should you have any questions about this or our artwork or our proofreader and document verification training, please contact Be4ward at [email protected].

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