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How to Use Safety Nets in Packaging and Labeling

By BLUE Software

A product label is comprised of several details:

  • It should provide sufficient information about the manufacturer.
  • It should provide a detailed ingredient list for the product.
  • It should include usage guidelines and directions.
  • It should provide warning statements and may include restrictions on certain use.
  • It should provide an expiration date and manufacturing date.
  • It should be easy to read and clearly visible.

In addition, a product label must also adhere to brand standards and to the conventions of the geographic market in which the product is being sold – and of course, it should describe the product itself.

Unfortunately, from omitted allergen warnings to poor product translations, there are myriad examples of labeling gone wrong.  Not too surprising, given the vast amount of data a single product label holds and the numerous stakeholders involved in the end-to-end label approval process.  And while we want to assume each person who reviews the product label has given it the high level of scrutiny it deserves, the truth is, people don’t work at 100% all day, every day.  Even the very best of us have a day where we don’t “show up.”  Perhaps we’re distracted by a personal issue, or we’re not feeling well.  Maybe our mind is on administrative or other tasks unrelated to packaging.

Smart manufacturers recognize this reality and make sure there are tools in place to safeguard the process.  A couple of best practices include:

Start the workflow with the last approved version of the label artwork.  In pre-media terms, this is referred to as a “pick-up.”  By starting with something that’s already been routed, approved, and in the market, you’re reducing the number of approval cycles and the chance for error.  You can also see prior approver comments and benefit from the learning.  One word of caution, however: make sure you don’t pick up all of the data that comes with the artwork.  For example: if the artwork change is going to cause a change in the bar, UPC, or QR code, and you’re picking up from the last approved version, you could introduce an error into the process.  Be careful about what’s kept and what’s removed when you pick up the artwork.

Use graphic compare, text compare, and scan compare tools.  Ideally, these should all work together to create a single audit trail that denotes every single deviation in text and graphics from one cycle to the next.

Graphic compare tools take label artwork, pixelate it, and then present the user with a pixel by pixel comparison.  Graphic compare tools even flash errors to users so they can see where changes have been made.  Keep in mind, this is extremely helpful when there has only been a small change made to the artwork.  In addition, when reviewing artwork, our eyes tend to gravitate to where we know a change was made, and therefore it becomes easy to overlook a change that occurred inadvertently.

Text compare, on the other hand, is a content compare tool.   Text compare tools can take a source document and compare it to an Illustrator file to identify differences.  For example, a text compare tool can review a drug facts panel with the data on the artwork and alert the user to anything that is out of place such as a comma, a hyphen, or bolded text.

Finally, at the end of the workflow stream, you can verify the physical label matches the digital sample with scan compare tools.  These tools enable plants to scan the label and compare it to the final approved artwork to verify the label and artwork components and product codes match, reducing the risk that inaccurate labels ever make it to market.

The Quality is in the Details

With so many important details and information on your product labels, it’s critical to make sure they’re error-free when they get to market.  To learn more about using safety nets in packaging and labeling to ensure the best version of your label is always in play, watch this video from BLUE Chief Product Officer Stephen Kaufman: Four Strategies to Apply when your Labeling Can’t Fail.