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Packaging Content Workflows – How to ensure ‘one version of the truth’


février 2, 2022

Customer preference and governmental regulation are combining to create new demands in product development and packaging requirements. With all these requirements changing at an increasing pace, maintaining accuracy and consistency is a significant challenge. A solution that can support a range of collaborated activities in a value chain is key.

Background

Consumer demands are changing, mass customization and even personalization are coming to the forefront. Customer preference and governmental regulation are combining to create new demands in product development and packaging requirements.

The increase in small to midsized local brands is creating a very competitive environment. This is fast-tracking different models of brand management with more initiatives led by local teams focused on local and specific needs while evolving new ways of building global coherence.

Since the shift from large global brands to smaller local/regional brands is increasing, so is the amount of disparate packaging required. Think more targeted and shorter packaging production runs similar to what has happened in direct mail and marketing. Smaller local/regional brands are usually more likely to engage local resources for their design and packaging needs increasing. Global brands competing against local smaller brands will undoubtedly also have to adjust their current relationships with their global packaging resources to align with the supply chain management responsibilities at the local/regional level as well.

Packaging design will always play a critical role in engaging the consumer and establishing and reinforcing brand recognition and loyalty, however, the amount and more importantly the consistency of the content is becoming more critical. Whether the package is on a brick-and-mortar retail shelf or presented in an online store, the SSOT (single source of truth) still plays an important role. If you are a packaging designer or a CPG (Consumer Product Group), in these times of constantly shifting market dynamics, one of your biggest challenges is maintaining identical content across the product and marketing applications.

The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) was enacted by the US Congress on November 27, 2013. It requires that there is an ability to track and trace all products in the pharmaceutical distribution supply chain. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has been proposed as a requirement for those who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL). Each of these further add not just a need to ensure accurate and consistent packaging and marketing content, but also a potential liability.

Maintaining Brand Content Consistency

With all of these requirements changing at an increasing pace, how do you maintain brand content consistency? It is very difficult considering that the content comes in Ad Hoc and is constantly being revised. If you add in localization requirements and language versions, maintaining accuracy and consistency is a significant challenge.

Today, many CPG’s and designers use an assortment of methods to manage content from excel files to internally developed database applications. These solutions usually work by exchanging XML incorporating the GS1standards. While these may work in a constrained packaging development workflow, the content development continues and changes up to the point that the packaging goes into production and/or the marketing goes to online or print publishing. Designers use placeholders to represent the constantly changing content in each of these design templates, however as you begin to add in additional disparate marketing, distribution and reporting requirements the efficiency of these home-grown solutions falters. As design and production workflows continue to expand beyond a single controlled process to more disparate and distributed processes, they demand a better solution.

Where does the copy come from?

The product copy can include nutrition information, product ingredients, and allergens. Some of it comes from food formulation and labeling software like ESHA research Genesis which CPG’s use to create government-compliant nutrition facts panels, virtually formulate foods, analyze the nutritional content of recipes, and adjust ingredients over and over without sending a formula to the lab each time they make a change. There is also a lot of other content from the marketing, distribution, and legal side as well. Much of this exists in PIM (Product Information Management) and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) systems. In essence, there are many places where copy is created, maintained, changed, and managed, which makes centralized copy management critical.

Enter the copy manager

Developing a solution that can support a range of collaborated activities in a value chain is becoming more common place in many industries. These solutions are facilitated by the ubiquitous nature of the cloud and supporting technologies. By centralizing and coordinating these activities you can control and automate the processes across the value chain.

ManageArtworks has taken on that challenge with an end-to-end packaging artwork management system. It is a cloud-based collaboration platform that was designed to address the specific requirements of packaging and brand content management. By capturing, managing, and distributing the brand content for all its intended needs it ensures accurate and consistent content use. For design, there is a plugin that talks directly to the system providing you with the latest version. If there is a change in the system you see it in the plugin, click a button and it updates the content.

In most brands, there are different areas of responsibility. A website is probably managed by a different group than the product development or production procurement group, so a centralized collaborative solution keeps it all aligned. For example, a content copy is becoming more important in e-commerce as well, whether you’re a small mom-and-pop store, or you’re a big retailer you need to be on an e-commerce platform. Pushing content to these e-commerce sites is done through aggregators using another GS1 standard GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network). Manage Artworks works with Syndigo to push the consistently accurate copy directly to these online aggregators, and from there it goes to all the other retailer’s e-commerce sites.

This way all the content is aligned, and you never miss any data changes. Every time there is a content change, it can be pushed again, so if there is a product reformulation that says ‘low sodium’ the content copy is the same on the physical package is identical to that on the CPG’s website or the other retailers who pull it and use it.

CPGs usually have thousands of existing SKUs which all include copy, so getting all of that into a new system could be a daunting task. In the case of ManageArtworks, they use AI (artificial intelligence) tools to ingest all of that into the system to help jump-start the automated collaboration system. That way when there is a new or modified product for introduction, you don’t have to start from scratch.

Compliance

With brand identity, regulations, and the need for further integration into the value chain, it is critical that a solution supports compliances. Those could include the maintenance of consistent information across all uses, but it could extend to other areas as well.

In ManageArtworks system every keystroke is managed and recorded, so you know who where, and how it was edited. This becomes important when you’re when you’re talking about copy that you are using for marketing or out to a website. If something happens six months down the road, using this system you have an audit trail.

The system is a 21 CFR Part 11 compliant and EU Annex 11 Gamp® 5, category 4 configurable software. What that means is that it has built-in features to help your organization enhance your Part 11 compliance, including:

  • Access Control with Password Policies
  • User and Role-based Security Settings
  • Audit Trails with Timestamps
  • Electronic Signatures with Authentication and Logging
  • SSL based communication

In Practice

While having a compliant system is critical, how easy it is to use, and implement is crucial in a business of any size. In the various manual and internally developed systems, bringing someone new on board to use it is usually a very laborious, intensive process. In the case of a large Cincinnati-based CPG, it would take about one week to bring a new employee user up to speed on their internally developed system. After they put the ManageArtworks solution online, it went from one week to 30 minutes and they were able to document it.

Ultimately the real goal is the time it takes to get the product shelf-ready. This high-profile customer found that compared to their previous process they save 10 hours of administrative time on each piece of artwork.  Also, because of the visibility of all tasks and comments real-time, the confidence level is high.

About David Zwang:

David Zwang travels the world to help companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. With over 40 years of industry experience, David specializes in process analysis, and strategic development of firms in the fields of publishing, packaging, design, premedia, and printing across the globe.

Specialties: Process efficiency, data driven publishing technology, printing technology and processes, expert witness services.

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