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Why You Need Problem Detectors in your Packaging Process

By BLUE Software

Product packaging plays an important role in the consumer experience, communicating everything from a product’s features and benefits to a company’s values.  And when it comes to food and pharmaceutical products, the packaging is as important as the product itself.  People rely on the information that’s presented to them – allergen warnings, dosage guidelines, and storage instructions, for example – to care for themselves and for their loved ones.  When a label’s content is inaccurate, the consequences are severe.  Recalls occur.  Stocks plummet. Executives lose jobs.  Going beyond the business consequences: people are hurt.

Install Problem Detectors in your Packaging Process

Today’s manufacturers can’t afford to be passive or to procrastinate.  Tools, technology, and tactics are available now to provide early warning signs when there are labeling issues or “weak spots” in your packaging process.

For example, many manufacturers use electronic tools to route product labels and artwork between different teams that are responsible for various aspects of the label content, i.e., marketing and regulatory. A stakeholder will receive an alert that it is his or her turn to review a piece of artwork, and he or she can provide feedback such as, “Move this element to the left,” or “Please double check this ingredient,” before rejecting the artwork outright.  The good news here is that the label is being handled with a high degree of scrutiny.  The bad news, however, is that even though the stakeholder has left meaningful feedback prior to rejecting the artwork, the manufacturer doesn’t actually have a tangible way to go back and identify what the specific reason for the rejection was.  Metrics are difficult – if not impossible – to calculate from comments on a file, and without metrics it will be difficult – if not impossible – to address common errors and improve performance the next time around.

Best practice, which is actually governed by CFR 21 part 11, is to collect and categorize rejection reasons at the point of rejection.  In this scenario, an electronic signature is required at the point of hand-off, and the signature process assigns the rejection reason to one of a handful of categories, such as “inaccurate content” or “older version of artwork.”  Manufacturers can then collect and report on the KPIs around these reasons and begin to identify trends in the packaging process.  For example, is the same rejection reason appearing on a specific product line or across product lines?  Are there rejection reasons common to a specific geography?  Are the labels and artwork for pills rejected more frequently than liquids?

Some keys to KPI reporting success include:

Be sure to establish automated KPI reports, either weekly or monthly so there’s a regular cadence that drives teams’ behavior.  And when it comes to selecting which KPIs to measure, remember there’s no right or wrong answer.  Simply put: the KPIs you need to run your business are the right ones to track.

Make sure your reporting platform provides meaningful visual cues. When software was first designed for the packaging industry, each vendor created their own iconography, for example: an exclamation point to represent “important” or a star to represent “favorite.”  The problem, however, is that many vendors chose to use different icons, which can increase training time and cause usability problems when the icons are hard to recognize.  When you use software with iconography that matches popular platforms such as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, your teams need less training, and your data and reporting is easily accessible and intuitive to use.

Use the right kinds of notifications. While a lot of solutions send email notifications, many of us are overwhelmed by our email inboxes.  Software with internal chat features or automated emails that include links into the tool are more likely to attract attention and facilitate ongoing, complex conversations.

By installing problem detectors in your product packaging process, you can successfully navigate the complexity of labeling – ensuring accuracy without compromising corporate performance metrics such as speed-to-market.  To learn more about how you can leverage problem detectors in your own organization, download our e-book: You Can Diminish Compliance Risk: Understanding FDA Regulations for Electronic Records and Signatures.