Team enjoying the benefits of implementing a quality inspection system

Date: Feb 04, 2021 | CategoryQuality AuthorKayla Caticchio


Quality Inspection System Advantages 

How shifting from manual to automated quality control can help your business eliminate inefficiencies.

By Kayla Caticchio 

 

If you’ve clicked on this article, chances are you’re considering implementing a quality inspection system in your organization. Maybe your business is losing money due to delays in the quality control department, maybe you’ve had a critical error slip by unnoticed, or maybe you just want to give your team the tools they need to get the job done more efficiently. Whatever your reason for considering a quality inspection system may be, there are several benefits that come with implementing automation across your quality workflow.

The importance of error-free packaging

With globalization increasing the complexity of developing, distributing, and selling products, many businesses are turning towards automation to help manage their operations. While automation has traditionally been implemented in areas such as production, marketing, and even sales, there’s one aspect of business operations that more and more companies are choosing to automate: quality control. As businesses, particularly brand companies, tend to focus their technology on product features or consumer benefits, the productivity gains associated with automated quality control can oftentimes be overlooked. But they shouldn’t be. Any company whose products land in the hands of consumers should consider the importance of high-quality packaging. 

With thousands of products and hundreds of SKUs, companies in industries such as pharmaceuticals, printing, and consumer goods have their own unique set of challenges when it comes to ensuring packaging quality. As anyone in these industries already knows, ensuring packaging accuracy is no small task, especially in an age where one small error can have serious consequences for your brand. A misprinted label, for example, can cost a company thousands of dollars in material goods and even more in brand equity as consumers begin to lose trust in the brand. Think this could never happen to your brand? Think again. These types of errors are even more common than one might think. Year after year, the majority of FDA product recalls are caused by labeling errors. The risk of packaging errors factored in with increasingly complex regulations have contributed to automated quality inspections becoming the gold-standard across a variety of industries. Fortunately quality inspection systems are becoming more robust, accessible, and easier to use than ever before. In this article, we’ll be discussing how implementing these systems can benefit quality control teams, no matter the industry.

What is a quality inspection system?

What is a quality inspection systemQuality inspection systems enable proofreaders to compare Master and Sample files, both digital and printed, to automatically detect any differences between the two. These side-by-side comparisons work by overlaying two files to pick up even the smallest of errors with pinpoint precision. Built for use along the entire quality control process, quality inspection systems can be implemented across multiple departments to compare content at every stage of the workflow. This allows proofreaders and other quality control professionals to ensure that no errors have been created as files move from one stage to the next. Printer proofs, for example, can be compared to original PDF files to avoid conversion errors. Next, plate files can be inspected to ensure that no changes were introduced during the stepping and separation process. Finally, proofreaders can confirm that prepress files are error-free and ready to be printed before being sent to the customer. These systems also enable the inspection of digital files against printed components to ensure that final packaging matches the original approved artwork. 

The common challenges of manual proofreading

With consumers having more brand options than ever before, getting products to market faster is essential for many businesses when it comes to differentiating themselves from competitors. Leading the time-to-market race gives you the benefit of reaching consumers first and positioning your brand as a market leader before anyone else. Unfortunately, many companies still rely on manual proofreading methods that can slow down the entire quality control process, affecting distribution and project turnaround time. These manual methods are slow, inefficient, and prone to errors that can range from a spelling mistake or missing piece of artwork, to a more dangerous error like the wrong dosage information on a pharmaceutical label. 

Another challenge is the fact that standard packaging processes usually consist of manually proofing labels and packaging, which can often take hours. Repetitive tasks combined with high volumes of packaging materials can lead to proofing fatigue and therefore allow errors to slip by unnoticed. It’s not uncommon for errors to be missed when proofreaders have been reviewing the same work for hours on end. Small font sizes, distractions, and difficulty managing version changes also contribute to errors that can ultimately have detrimental effects on your company. 


Here are the benefits of quality inspection systems for your business: 

 

Faster project turnaround time

One of the biggest reasons why companies turn to quality inspection systems is to help cut down on revision time, in turn speeding up the entire quality control process and getting products out the door faster. By centralizing inspections and allowing users to detect errors early on (ie. before they’re printed), quality inspection systems fast-track the quality control process without sacrificing quality. Automatically comparing samples to customer-approved files ensure that differences like text, spelling, artwork, and barcode errors can be caught immediately. This helps prevent further inspections downstream that can be inefficient and lead to lost time. In fact, many quality departments that have implemented this kind of technology have been able to cut their proofreading time in half, oftentimes going from hours of inspection to seconds.

Without spending wasted hours proofreading, typical jobs are brought to market 3-5 days earlier, generating increased revenue and allowing us to focus on relationships with our customers.” – Vince Nocella, CRW Graphics 

Managing revision cycles is another benefit of making the switch to quality inspection systems as any errors that have occurred between stages can immediately be identified. From the copy and artwork creation stage to prepress, print, and delivery to the customer, inspection technology helps ensure that there are no delays between departments. This creates a more collaborative proofreading process, improving communication with comprehensive inspection reports that give proofreaders the ability to share information between revision cycles. Users can leave comments and annotations on inspection reports to compare with previous versions, ensuring that the right changes have been made.  

Exponential business growth

Business growth is another major benefit of implementing a quality inspection system. For certain industries such as Marketing & Creative Agencies, a common challenge is completing jobs within the amount of time allocated by the client. Eliminating delays in their proofreading process means companies no longer have to struggle with juggling man-hours and budget. This gives them the ability  to take on more projects, helping grow their business exponentially. 

Quality inspection systems can also help set your business apart from the competition by using it to position yourself as a industry leader in quality control and automation. Printers for example, can use quality inspection technology to open doors for new business opportunities by showing potential customers that they’re willing to invest in systems that provide an extra layer of security. Producing the highest quality labels and packaging reduces the risk of expensive reprints, or even recalls, saving customers time, money, and potential damage to their reputation. Verified inspection technology gives your customers the added assurance that extensive quality control checks are being carried out in your production facility, ensuring that their most important work is protected. “[Quality inspection technology] shows customers and potential customers that we’re doing everything available to ensure that jobs are done properly straight out of the gate” says Josh Jenks, Technical Sales Director at Target Label. 

Cost savings

Aside from causing serious damage to your brand’s image, letting a critical error slip by can cause significant financial implications. When an error is detected on labels or packaging, companies might have to issue a recall on the product, costing them thousands of dollars and leaving them with entire batches of unsellable inventory. “[Quality inspection systems] have saved us from a huge recall which could have bankrupt our company” says one quality control inspector in the pharmaceutical industry.  “It’s improved the overall quality on the production floor and reduced complaints and returns from our customers”. By detecting even the smallest errors before they’re printed, your quality department can be confident that everything leaving the facility is 100% accurate. 

Oftentimes, it’s not a major packaging error that ends up costing money for a brand. Even something as simple as a faulty barcode can be problematic. Poor barcode printing or distortion of the barcode can affect its readability, and as every brand company knows, unreadable barcodes at the point of sale result in a loss of revenue. Quality inspection software can verify and grade all barcodes before they’re printed, protecting your packaging from faulty barcodes without having to manually scan each one. This can help your business maximize sales revenue by ensuring that every product that hits store shelves can be properly scanned at the register. 

Material management can also be a source of financial concern for any company that deals with packaging. Excess print waste for example, can cost companies time and money as any errors made during the printing process will have to be corrected with additional resources. When you consider the costs of printing, like ink, warehousing costs, postage, and labour, any reprints caused by errors can have serious financial implications. Quality inspection systems eliminate the risk of misprints and formatting issues that result in lost time and wasted materials. Effectively managing waste prevention with automated quality control allows you to conduct business more sustainably, helping to improve both your environmental and financial impact. 

Shorten approval cycles

In addition to shortening time-to-market, quality inspection technology accelerates the approval process by eliminating the need to travel between production facilities for approval. These systems store all relevant inspection information to be tracked within the platform, centralizing feedback and ensuring accountability for each inspection. Without having to manually markup each proof or document, proofreaders can assign levels and comments on revisions. This allows your quality team to be completely transparent with customers in regards to the types of differences found between the Master and Sample files. By digitally keeping track of all inspection results through comprehensive inspection reports, all changes can be effectively communicated to key stakeholders for a quicker approval cycle. With these inspection reports, customers or other stakeholders have the assurance that appropriate quality control measures have been implemented and that the required changes have been made. 

Getting started with quality inspection systems

As competition between brands becomes more prominent, companies face constant pressure to protect their image and reputation while being seen as innovators or market leaders. In turn, product lines are expanding and brands are starting to introduce their products into new markets, therefore increasing production volume. This can make the quality control process more difficult to manage as it becomes increasingly complex. With workloads increasing for proofreaders and other members of quality control departments, so does the risk of errors that can make their way into the hands of consumers. Fortunately, quality inspection systems are becoming more accessible and widely implemented across a variety of industries. While the initial cost of implementing a quality inspection system can seem high compared to sticking with the status quo of manual proofreading, the time and cost savings on labor and artwork make it worthwhile. For example, over 75% of proofreaders who use GlobalVision’s quality inspection software have been able to regain their initial investment within two years. As label and packaging standards continue to evolve, so does the need to implement effective technology solutions like automated quality inspections. These systems not only benefit quality control teams for the reasons mentioned throughout this article, they also help improve processes and productivity throughout your entire organization, making the switch from manual to automated quality control a worthwhile one. 


To learn more about the benefits of implementing a quality inspection system, request a demo of GlobalVision here

 

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What our customers think of our proofreading tools:

“GlobalVision has resulted in at least 50% time-saved proofreading on the press versus visually inspecting the sheets. The more sheets there are, the more time savings we can observe”

Dave Mickiewicz, Sales Manager at General Converting Inc. 

Recycle to avoid waste on the print production floor
 

Date: November 2, 2020 | Category: Quality | Author: Seth Richtsmeier


From a business perspective, it makes sense to avoid waste whenever possible. Print waste in particular costs companies time and money, since any mistakes made during a print run will have to be corrected with additional resources. It’s more than just material waste — there’s also employee labor that must be factored in.

The True Costs of Excess Waste in Print Production

According to studies from Gartner, 50 percent of business waste is composed of paper products, with the average office worker going through 10,000 sheets of paper per year. These numbers alone are staggering and don’t even account for other print products such as boxes and packaging.

There are also other costs associated with printing, including ink, warehousing space, and postage. These additional fees can add up to 30 times the purchasing price of the paper itself – a significant expenditure.

Beyond the financial implications, there’s also the environmental impact of waste. With 40 percent of the world’s timber being cut down for paper production, brands and consumers alike should look for ways to limit excess scrap.

4 Steps to Minimize Print Production Waste

To reduce the amount of print and packaging waste created, there are several steps companies can take. Here are a few key recommendations.

  1. 1. Start with Employee Training

    Digital meetings can help to reduce paper wasteA common factor when it comes to waste is human error. From typos to incorrect colors and fonts, to formatting issues, there are many ways things can go wrong. “Mistakes caused by human error can definitely turn into possible reprints and extra platemaking” says John Reinhardt, Marketing Director of Prairie State Group, a leading packaging company in Franklin Park, IL.

    As soon as a new employee joins the team, they should receive adequate training to ensure they know what’s acceptable, how to spot errors, and how to correct those errors. Training should continue on a regular basis to ensure that everyone is aware of best practices.

  2. 2. Review Pre-Press Files with Care

    Avoid waste on the print production floor team collaborationBefore sending projects off to print, run through the files a few times to catch any errors. It’s often best to have more than a single person check for mistakes, as it’s easy for a writer or designer to skip over their own errors.

    Catching typos and formatting issues early on saves time, money, and resources. Always have at least two sets of eyes review each file before sending off any major print job. It may help to have a checklist available with things to look out for, including updated logos, correct color swatches, common spelling mistakes, and anything else that may be looked over otherwise.

  3. 3. Automated Quality Control

    Avoid waste on the print production floorThere’s a reason it’s called human-error – we’re all human and we all make mistakes. While it’s helpful to have multiple people review a print file, there’s always the chance of a problem slipping through the cracks. With automated quality control, the proofing process is easier, more efficient, and more accurate.

    Using digital inspections to compare proof documents against original files, conversion errors, and printing defects can be quickly detected and addressed. Users can review inspection reports and approve files for a full print run once ready. This early detection can prevent large-scale misprints, which saves the company from having to toss out entire batches. Again, this saves print materials, ink, coatings, and other costs associated with print waste. It also reduces the company’s environmental footprint (more on that below).

  4. 4. Inventory Management

    Avoid waste on the print production floor through inventory managementWhile printing materials with errors is wasteful, storage issues that can damage products can be just as detrimental. All paper-based products should be stored in cool, dry environments to prevent mildew. It’s also suggested that these products be protected from threats such as fire, water, and contaminants.

    These recommendations should be applied to raw materials as well as finished print products, which can be even more costly to replace due to ink and other coating costs.

Avoiding waste through recyclingMinimizing Environmental Impact

In addition to taking control of the waste stream by minimizing mistakes, companies should also consider the environmental implications of their practices. When choosing packaging materials, prioritize recyclable paper products. This may involve choosing different coatings and ink to ensure the package can be recycled with other paper and cardboard materials.

There are also several packaging materials that don’t involve paper at all. Corn- and mushroom-based packaging are gaining traction as eco-friendly options. A seaweed-based material called agar is in the early stages of development as a viable packaging alternative as well. Keep an open mind about new products and consider how they can fit into your packaging stream.

GlobalVision's digital proofreading of nested sheetsAvoid Waste Today with Quality Control

Ultimately, the best way to reduce waste is to invest in your quality control. Eliminating the risk of misprints and formatting issues will save countless reams of paper and other materials. Automated quality control systems are a necessity for waste prevention. As Sales Manager Dave Mickiewicz from General Converting Inc. says “With [automated quality control], sheets can be quickly inspected to check for smashes, hickeys, content errors. It has definitely helped eliminate lost time and wasted materials”. 

To learn how your company can benefit from significant returns by automating your quality control process, check out GlobalVision’s guide Shifting Gears from Manual to Automated Quality Control.

Key elements to inspect when creating brand packaging
 

Date: October 5, 2020 | Category: Quality | Author: Seth Richtsmeier


When you think about your products, what sets them apart from others in the industry? Are they more durable than the competition? Do they have better features or a more user-friendly design? Why should customers choose you over another company?

By answering these questions, business leaders can begin to establish a brand identity. Just as people have different personalities, so do brands. Ideally, your brand’s identity should click with that of your customers. It should also be readily apparent in all interactions your audience has with the company – each customer touchpoint must conform to brand identity, from customer support to product delivery.

Understanding the Impact of Brand Identity

Proper error-free packaging increases consumer appreciation Many businesses understand the basics of branding and packaging, which includes choosing the right colors and logos to visually represent the company. While this is a good start, it only scratches the surface of all that’s included when building brand identity.

Brand identity encompasses everything that sets one company apart from another. It’s more than products and services; it’s how a company delivers on those services. How a company meets expectations, connects with customers, defines its values – all these factors define a brand’s identity. A company with a strong identity that is known for providing exceptional service and support and remaining true to its values will make customers feel more confident doing business with them.

The Importance of Brand Packaging in Building Brand Identity

Approved error-free brand packaging Have you ever received a package in the mail, only to open it up and discover that the item you purchased was broken? The most important role of packaging is to protect an item during transit, whether it’s being shipped across the world or simply needs to survive a car ride home. Look for options that fit the needs of the product while also fitting in with overall brand values. For example, if your company is committed to sustainability, select materials that are easily recyclable and renewable.

Remember that brand packaging is an extension of your product identity. A negative unboxing experience will reflect poorly on the entire brand. Alternatively, a surprisingly positive experience will stay in people’s minds when it’s time to consider their next purchase.

Top Considerations for Print PackagingElements used to ensure packaging integrity

There are many considerations to keep in mind when developing print packaging and branding. Ultimately, the customer and their experience should be top of mind when selecting packaging options.

Protection

Since the most important job of packaging is to protect the product, consider the weight of the items being shipped, the durability of materials used, and which types of filler will best protect products without leaving a mess for customers to clean up after opening.

Accessibility

To build a truly inclusive brand identity, think about challenges faced by consumers and how your packaging can solve them. Including braille text on the packaging, for instance, can allow those with visual impairments to read important information on the package. Similarly, large, easy-to-read fonts can help customers know what they’re getting.

Ease of Use

This goes along with accessibility, but each customer should be able to easily open the packaging to retrieve the product inside. Ever wrestled with an item encased in tight plastic like a Jurassic mosquito stuck in amber? Packages should be designed to be easily opened with standard tools like scissors. If a product is too difficult to open (like anything packed in plastic clamshells), this can create a frustrating unboxing experience.

If instructions are necessary to open the package or to operate the product, it’s also important for those instructions to be easy to find, read, and understand.

Brand Identity

Your branding and packaging go hand in hand. This is a great opportunity to include your logo, company colors, taglines, and any other identifiers. As soon as people see the package, they should be able to recognize where it’s from. Think of the signature smile that accompanies an Amazon box or the nearly all-blue box from Chewy.com. A quick identifier that lets customers know exactly where a package is coming from without having to open the box.

Accuracy

Every line of text represents your brand identity, so make sure it’s all accurate! A single misspelling on thousands of boxes can have expensive repercussions. Error-free packaging is vital to maintaining your image as a trusted authority and leader in your industry.

You also must ensure that all information included within the packaging is correct. If there’s a user manual or guide, bullet points should be accurate and make sense.

Building a Cohesive Packaging and Branding Identity

Building a strong brand identity through packaging

Now that you understand the impact of brand identity and how to go about establishing it through packaging, it’s time to put these lessons into practice. Sit down with team members across the organization to get a sense of how they define the overall brand. Which words, themes, and values stand out the most? Then, gather customer data to see what they prioritize when choosing a company to work with. Finding the points of intersection is the key to building a cohesive identity that connects with audiences and remains authentic to the company.

Your packaging and branding identity should always align product identity, as well as with customer demands and expectations. Make sure that you see every option from the customer’s perspective to ensure a positive overall experience that reflects well on the entire organization.

Want to overhaul your brand’s packaging but need some help with the details? Request a personalized demo to transform your company’s quality control process.

Pharmacy customers asking a cashier about product info
 
 

Date: September 8, 2020 | Category: Quality | Author: Kayla Caticchio


Printing for the pharmaceutical industry is a complex process that requires skill, knowledge, and trust between both the printer and the pharmaceutical company. More than any other industry, there is no room for error when it comes to printing medical content like labels and cartons. Even the smallest error can be detrimental to a brand’s reputation, in some cases it can even be harmful to consumers. To be successful in printing for this highly-regulated industry, there are several steps that both the printer and pharma client must take to ensure a strong and long-lasting vendor-client relationship.

Establish proper communication

Multiple audits needed to ensure Pharma standardsThe process starts when the pharmaceutical company selects and evaluates a printer for their work. Quality, as opposed to cost, is at the forefront of the decision-making process when it comes to choosing a printer for pharmaceutical content. It is therefore essential that the appropriate KPIs, like quality, project turnover time, and system requirements are established at the very beginning to maintain the standards and expectations of the client. Pharma companies must openly communicate what they consider to be acceptable versus unacceptable in terms of deviations, giving printers an idea of their unique tolerances (for example, what stops the press). It is therefore critical that pharma companies successfully onboard new printing clients to avoid any miscommunication. Additionally, suppliers must go through several rounds of audits to ensure that they have proper capabilities before they even start to think about printing for pharma. These types of audits include verifying that files are properly saved and ensuring that they have processes in place for transporting packaging. Read Now: Top Tips for Selecting and Evaluating a Vendor

Expect to be scrutinized

Pharmacy customers reading product packagesSo what should a printer expect when dealing with pharmaceutical clients? Simply put, they should be prepared for a much higher level of scrutiny. Putting ink on paper is not enough to successfully deliver a job in this industry. Instead, printers must ensure that they have the proper quality systems, processes, SOPs, and certifications in place that meet their client’s quality and compliance requirements. They must continuously ensure that their systems are validated, calibrated, and re-certified on a regular basis. The speed at which medical drugs must be delivered to market is another factor to keep in mind when printing for pharma. Pharmaceutical printers must be experts at balancing time-constraints while maintaining the highest levels of quality possible. Even the smallest deviation can cause delays in the process, often resulting in re-prints that end up costing the printer money. For production schedules to remain on-track, printers must keep open communication and have experience in dealing with tight deadlines.

Invest in technology

Woman working on print inspection using GlobalVision toolsAutomation technology plays a big role in helping printers get products out the door faster without sacrificing quality. By implementing a print verification system, the risk of letting a critical error slip by drops significantly. Though errors can occur anywhere in the process, the prepress stage is one of the most common areas where deviations can be introduced. Since pharma companies rely heavily on the expertise of the printer when it comes to ensuring perfect color, barcodes, and artwork, a verification system in prepress would catch any deviations between the customer-approved file and the sample. It is also important that both the client and supplier work together to ensure that the printer has the right PDFs from the beginning. Proper file creation is crucial as repeatedly playing around with a file can lead to an increased risk of introducing an error. In keeping with the strong communication aspect of pharmaceutical printing, these types of tools also allow for inspection reporting and audit trails that give the pharma company peace-of-mind and full visibility. Finally, many printers recommend having a designated middleman on the team to act as a buffer between the printer and the pharmaceutical client.

Understanding the roles and responsibilities

Though printing for such a complex industry can seem overwhelming, the benefits of establishing a successful printer-pharma partnership far outweigh the extra steps involved in managing this process. If a pharmaceutical company properly communicates its expectations while the printer invests in proper technology and quality control processes, long-term relationships can be formed. As long as both parties trust each other and understand the crucial role they play in the process, they can experience long-term growth both independently and together.

To learn more about printing for the pharmaceutical industry, check out GlobalVision’s webinar Navigating the Relationship Between Printers and Pharmaceutical Clients.

A clip board including a checklist of items
 
 

Date: June 9, 2020 | Category: Quality | Author: Michelle Wong


There are several specific factors to consider when selecting the right vendor for your business needs. It can be a daunting experience with so many vendors offering seemingly similar services. This article will help you determine what you should be looking for when selecting a vendor, and how to evaluate its performance. 

What to look for when selecting a vendor

To start your evaluation, there are four key areas to keep in mind:

1. Is their staff well-trained and kept up-to-date with industry standards?  

Illustration of a teacher giving a course to a group students

The vendor should be able to provide you with evidence proving their level of investment into employee training. It can be in the form of internal or external training. 

Ultimately, you need to be confident in knowing that your vendor is providing the resources necessary to keep their employees up-to-date with technical product knowledge and skills, as well as operational procedures. Employees must be able to operate the technologies competently and identify any issues.


2. Do they follow standard operating procedures (SOP) to ensure safety and security?

illustration of a group of people checking a document with internal processes

The vendor should have SOPs in place that define and document internal processes for each department. There should be clear accountability, such as audit trails and system logs that allow for traceability.

Employees should be following them in the exact same way every time to ensure consistency and a reduction in errors. This is especially necessary for onboarding new employees so that they are able to get up to speed quickly. 


3. Have they implemented a solid IT security policy?

Illustration of laptop with password protection

Having a comprehensive IT security policy in place indicates that the vendor takes data security and privacy seriously. If you provide your company data to them, you need to know that it will be used according to the agreed purposes. 

Look for a vendor that has established practices and processes already in place to ensure data isn’t being used or accessed by unauthorized individuals or parties. Their IT security policy should include an acceptable use policy, data security policy, and data classification policy.


4. Are they able to provide quality metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs)?

Girl working on a desktop with conversations showing up

If you provide the vendor with specific KPIs, they need to have a way to evaluate their metrics to ensure they hit your targets. Ask the vendor what procedures they have in place to measure their operational performance.

Check if they have an internal audit program and if it’s conducted on a regular basis. Procedures need to be routinely reviewed and adapted in order to maintain the standards you require.


How to evaluate your vendor’s performance

To ensure your vendor is providing you with the level of service and quality required, they should be successfully performing against the following factors: 

illustration of product reviews

Quality control 

You need to have a full guarantee that your products are hitting the market consistently and error-free. Any errors on labels or packaging can result in expensive recalls, causing potential harm to consumers and/or damage your company brand. Vendors with quality control procedures in place are far less likely to result in such negative consequences.

Some industries are facing increasingly stringent requirements relating to product packaging, quality, and safety, so it’s absolutely essential that vendors be able to successfully meet regulatory requirements.


Project completion time 

illustration of vendor tools and equipment

It’s essential that your vendor conducts its operations in the most efficient way possible so your products are able to get to market according to business timelines. A failure to manage time and project management effectively will potentially result in delayed production.

In addition to having SOPs in place, a way for your vendor to speed up production output while reducing quality issues is by using a quality inspection system. This reduces the need for manual proofreading and visual inspection, which is at high risk for introducing errors and rework. 


a desktop computer screen with a text inspection software

Innovation and technology 

Your vendor should have top-of-the-line technology and be leaders in innovation. Evidence of this includes practicing continuous improvement and implementation of new innovations to stay competitive. Innovation in packaging design can take many forms, including introducing new technology, changes to the supply chain, and product and process improvements.

By investing in its own business, your vendor is demonstrating their commitment to providing you with the best product and service, which, in the end, benefits your customers. Your vendor will be able to better serve your needs when it comes to faster turnaround times, reduced waste levels, improved product quality, and providing a wider product range.


Tracking and reporting 

3 adults analyzing a dashboard

All vendor activities related to your business need to be transparent. You should be able to measure and monitor their performance, and they should be able to access the information required for operations. Inspection reports should be easily accessible and communicated between both parties. This includes automated performance tracking and access to a full audit trail if requested. 

Measurement can also go beyond the basic aspects of quality, delivery, and cost. Also, consider measuring the overall success of the relationship you have with your vendor and their level of accountability and responsiveness.


Evaluating your vendor saves you time and money

Doing your due diligence in selecting the right vendor and conducting a thorough evaluation of their performance is critical in achieving high-quality servicing and production. By selecting a competitive vendor that has strong quality control measures, effective project management, and invests in new technologies, you are creating a partnership that will support the long-term success of your business. 

Not only are you ensuring that your packaging is created efficiently and correctly, but benefits also include saved time and costs, which then transfer to your customers and create a better experience with your brand.

illustration of different packaging
 

Date: May 19, 2020 | Category: Quality | Author: Luisa Berger


Developing pharmaceutical packaging can feel as complicated and lengthy of a process as developing the product itself. If left without logical structure, this process quickly becomes vulnerable to inconsistencies and human limitations that can slow down workflows, cause unnecessary reworks, and put companies at risk of a recall. The good news: implementing standardized processes and leveraging automation can protect companies from these vulnerabilities and accelerate their existing workflows. 

A Non-Linear Process

Illustration of a man solving a circle puzzle

The creation of a pharmaceutical label or package would seem to be a relatively linear process as the information moves from regulatory departments and core data sheets to designers and layouts and finally to printers and finished materials. Yet, this relatively straightforward sequence quickly erodes with the countless revision and approval cycles that are introduced as a result of new upstream data or information, regional requirements, regulatory feedback, and many other influencing factors. The development and review of each of these stages can already be a lengthy process, making any additional errors or inconsistencies introduced along these workflows a potential bottleneck or implication further downstream. 

Ideally, at every new version or hand-off, a comprehensive review and comparison of the current version to the previously approved one would take place. The goal is to ensure that by verifying content accuracy and correcting errors and inconsistencies at each stage, the entire process can be streamlined for more efficient and effective work, rather than frequent, easily avoidable reworks. While, in theory, it sounds great to thoroughly inspect every project and every version like this, in reality, these reviews can take hours, even days when manually checking content that can range from less than 12 words to over 120 pages. Enter: automation. 

Automation as an aid

GlobalVision Product comparison tool screenshot

Automated inspection technologies are to these processes what a calculator is to engineering: a tool that quickly, reliably, and with precision performs functions that humans can do, but with significantly more time and greater room for error. Automation acts as an aid, not a replacement, for human participation. Rather, by allowing computers to do what they do best, teams are actually able to apply their attention and efforts to those actions that, alongside these automated processes, keep projects moving forward and time-to-market speeding up. 

From original source documents and manuscripts to design layouts and graphics to physical proofs and finished materials, automation can quickly and consistently verify the diverse components and elements that make up these projects. With text verification tools, you can ensure that your copy was properly transcribed or conserved across versions and formats, fool-proofing that no errors or inconsistencies slipped through review. Graphics errors, like missing logos, inaccurate graph drawings, or color inconsistencies, can be instantly highlighted using pixel overlay technologies. Even verification processes that already benefit from some innovation and standardization, like barcode and braille authentication and translation, can be further optimized using automation for faster, more informative results. Automated solutions like these are readily available tools that can be easily leveraged to transform productivity and optimize outputs.  

Bridging the gaps

Illustration of teams working together

While these tools and capabilities can transform traditional processes and manual verification methods, when integrated into existing product lifecycle management (PLM) systems, these solutions can bridge the existing quality gaps both internally, within and across departments, and externally with vendors. 

In today’s context, most pharmaceutical and life science companies utilize software and digital management systems for organizing projects, document management, and other workflows. By seamlessly integrating into these existing platforms, these routine quality checks become an easily accessible and implementable procedure for verifying each contribution that benefits the efficiency and collaboration of everyone participating along that workflow. 

Given that companies in this space outsource those functions that are not within their necessary expertise, whether marketing, printing, or other vendor services, quality standards must also apply to this level.  When both company and vendor employ the same quality control tools, there is a common language and agreed-upon standard that both parties are committed to upholding and remaining accountable to. 

Beyond Workflows

Illustration of different types of graphs

While these tools are optimizing the artwork development and review process for faster, more streamlined projects, these integrations also allow businesses to collect relevant data on areas of their workflows, like the number of revisions, common errors, vendor performance, and other relevant metrics. Ultimately, these insights can help inform further strategies and business efforts for optimization and improvement in these areas and beyond. 

Unlike desktop-only or shared, physical verification tools, cloud-based solutions allow teams to work independently and securely wherever they can access an internet browser. Whether integrating with existing systems or opting for a cloud-based solution, companies can ensure that their team’s ability to access their quality control tools and uphold standards are disruption-proof. With more companies supporting working remotely, or external conditions limiting access to workplaces or tools, these easily accessible solutions allow teams to continue thriving and delivering flawless results, regardless of the circumstances. 

The artwork creation and management process is an extensive undertaking that involves wide-ranging collaborative efforts across and beyond pharmaceutical companies. By implementing coherent processes and leveraging automated solutions, these non-linear workflows can become more streamlined for faster outputs and fewer errors slipping through the cracks.

Curious what affects this kind of automation could have on your own workflow? Book a process consultation with one of our representatives to explore how automation could work for you.

Document under digital inspection
 

Date: August 22, 2019 | Category: Quality | Author: Ryan Szporer


When it comes to automation, 4D stands for something other than four dimensions. The benefits of going digital instead of sticking to manual processes can be just as impressive, especially with regard to updating your proofreading process and introducing a digital platform into your workflow.

The Pitfalls of Dirty, Dangerous, and Dull Work

The first three Ds instead stand for “Dirty,” “Dangerous,” “Dull”. The acronym implies automated solutions can add value to tasks previously completed using manual labor, in large part because workers may not want to do them. To at least a certain extent, it’s accurate. This may include jobs like mine exploration (dirty), delivering pizza (dangerous), or being a teller behind the counter at a bank (dull).

With specific regard to the latter, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are commonplace and serve as proof that robotics can make companies more profitable without sacrificing employees’ jobs. The number of ATMs and human tellers in the United States have both increased since the former were first installed. ATMs have allowed banks to open more branches, leading to more positions and actual bank tellers, with their job descriptions evolving in the process.

A recent series of essays from the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, a self-proclaimed independent think tank, argues much the same thing: “While automation, artificial intelligence, and robotization will eliminate or change the nature of some jobs, these technologies will also create many new jobs at a time when [the retirement of baby boomers] will reduce the labor force as a share of the population,” says one of the essay’s author’s, Steven Globerman.

Digital vs. Manual Proofreading

In any case, on the subject of tedious tasks, proofreading has been proven to be more effective when it’s done digitally instead of when manual labor is used. Inspection results must still be verified by someone in the quality control department in question. However, whereas avoidable errors slipped through the cracks before due to inevitable drawbacks like proofing fatigue, now a digital system is ideally put in place and made responsible for running the actual inspections.

The platform in question, like GlobalVision, would draw attention to potential issues when comparing master and sample files. A quality control technician then determines which differences must be addressed before the hypothetical print job is finalized. It may sound like an additional step, but when digitally proofing a single leaflet takes mere seconds instead of hours, the time savings after having moved to a digital solution cannot be denied. Combined with the heightened accuracy, packaging gets to market faster, still in pristine condition.

In fact, automation has been proven to reduce human error by as much as 50%, improving overall efficiency by 75%. Speaking of which, the fourth “D” has been said to stand for “Delicate.” It remains relevant to proofreading, with lost lab samples due to human error being estimated as costing $20,000 in losses over a four-month period.

Preserving Your Brand Through Effective Quality Control

Printing samples are similar, as they must be handled with care. When all is said and done, they amount to product packaging in the hands of consumers, after all. If there’s little debate that typos and errors, in general, must be weeded out before that point to preserve brand integrity, the same argument holds true for the overall condition of the packaging. Automation is less of a wild card in that context and is a better bet to keep shipments from the printer in good shape.

In the end, proofreading manually isn’t necessarily a job no one wants to do, but it is one that has its fair share of pitfalls. It’s dull and delicate and even dangerous, in the sense that one wrong typo can lead to serious health consequences for consumers if they get the wrong dosage information on their medication. The fourth “D” in the case? Just “Digital”.

Going digital helps eliminates all those concerns, enabling companies to focus more attention and resources on developing the product itself. After all, it’s what’s inside the packaging that keeps customers coming back. All (hopefully pristine) packaging does is hook them to start.

Laptop uploading account and password info to cloud

“Just” backing up data isn’t enough anymore. While it’s a necessary step and a good start at that, a back-up means little if there aren’t adequate safeguards in place to protect the integrity of the data that might have to be recovered. Even if back-ups themselves are a safeguard, they must be seen as an asset in their own right. After all, it’s estimated 100 mb of company data is worth $1 million on average. Half the firms who cannot recover lost data in 10 days cannot recover themselves.

It just makes good strategic sense to have a back-up plan in the most literal sense as a result. Here are the top five strategies to make it happen, for the sake of keeping your data integrity intact:

1. Know What to Back Up

It’s not only files that must be backed up, but programs, including Operating System software as well. After all, if a newer version of a program has been released, it may not be able to read your data.

The fix relatively simply requires that an image, or a carbon copy of all critical information including programs and their data saved into a single file, be backed up. That way no synchronization issues arise, preventing you from using the data even if you may have successfully recovered it. It would be like having the keys to the wrong car. Only this car can’t be hot-wired to run.

There is an admitted caveat: If you upgrade your hardware, the image may no longer be compatible itself. So, an alternative solution would be to just stay up to date with your program versions and continue to back up data as you normally would (i.e., thoroughly).

2. Encrypt Your Back-Ups

It almost goes without saying in this day and age, but information must be kept secure for its data integrity to stay intact. One way to avoid confidential information from being compromised is to encrypt it into code, which is of course standard practice. It’s a standard practice for a reason though, namely its effectiveness. As a result, it’s significant enough in importance to rank on this list.

3. Make Regular Back-Ups

You can’t simply back up data before an upgrade. Ideally scheduled for when there is low network activity to prevent slowdown, back-ups should be made every day, with daily snapshots taken as well to monitor performance. Furthermore, at least two weeks of daily back-ups should be kept at any one time, as it represents a manageable time frame in case a file does get lost or corrupted.

Meanwhile, once-a-month back-ups should be preserved for one year, while annual back-ups should be kept for seven years in case a governmental request is made. In each case, consideration should also be made with regard to how much space is available, with old back-ups deleted to make room for new ones.

4. Store Your Back-Ups Properly

It goes beyond storing your back-ups in environmentally controlled facilities, even if that’s admittedly a good practice. You would also want to store your back-ups off-site, separately from the original data. Every good plan has redundancies built in and a back-up/ data recovery plan is no different.

The reasoning is simple, as they represent contingencies in case of disaster. Imagine a worst-case scenario in which a literal natural disaster strikes. You would want as large of a chance as being able to pick up right where you left off as soon as possible. You don’t want to lose your back-ups and the original data all in one fell swoop. That would truly be a disaster.

5. Validate the Recovery Procedure

Validation can take many forms. With regard to the GlobalVision Quality Control Platform for example, Installation, Operational, and Performance Qualification procedures serve to verify the application works as it should.

As the definition of validation suggests, it “provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process will consistently produce a product meeting its pre-determined specifications and quality attributes.” In the case of back-ups, the process in question is the recovery procedure. The back-ups themselves are the product.

Verifying the viability of the back-up data is critical. Test runs ensure that, in a worst-case scenario like the one outlined in Point No. 4, the data and operations can be picked up in a reasonable amount of time, even if off-site. Restoring back-ups on a regular basis helps validate the recovery procedure. Restoring back-ups to an alternative server before so doing is actually the best practice as it validates the ability of the data to be recovered. Seeing as the data would have just been validated in a new environment, it also provides you with a back-up you can be sure is viable, should you ever need to use it. Knock on wood.

Illustration of quality control process
 

When you hear the word “security,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think of the stereotypical security measures that have crept into our collective consciousness as clichés to show how hard getting into specific places can be.

I mean, when the suave James Bond smooth talks and sneaks his way into a top-secret facility, everyone watches in amazement. It turns out there’s a reason because it’s never so simple. The truth is, however many guards, walls, doors, and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras there may be, they only represent half the battle. When it comes to data integrity, half won’t suffice.

Physical vs. Logical System Security

Of course, “integrity” here refers to the state of data over its entire lifecycle, during which it must stay reliable and accurate to meet compliance requirements with regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Those aforementioned measures meanwhile make up the physical component of security.

While physical security is undeniably important, so is logical system security, which manages access to computer systems. In fact, the two can actually complement each other in more ways than one. At least if it’s done right.

Imagine a computer system containing confidential data that can only be accessed by entering a valid username and password combination. That’s logical system security at work, at least in one form. It’s nevertheless harder to gain access to the data when there’s a locked door standing between the system and someone with malicious intent, regardless of how difficult it might be for them to simply log in to the computer were the door not there in the first place.

The Convergence of Physical and Logical System Security

However, what if cybersecurity measures were taken to lock the door instead? In that way, both types of security integrate perfectly with one another to give companies the best of both worlds when it comes to limiting system access. Of course, limited system access is one way to secure data, with at least two unique pieces of information ideally being required (two-factor authentication; username, password, etc.). Both limited system access and the protection of the physical and logical security of systems are also two ways to help ensure data integrity.

There are undeniable barriers to integrating the two, even if the pay-off would theoretically be worth it. The cost of updating systems is huge, while compatibility and communication between systems are just as big of a consideration. However, while costs do loom large, certain industries are being forced into automating and converging their physical and logical security technologies to a greater degree. Chief among them, for example, would be the banking industry, in which corporations are being held to a greater standard with regard to how they handle client data in a post GDPR world.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not corporations should invest now to update their security systems or pay for it after the fact. Penny-pinching only goes so far when the resulting grainy CCTV footage ends up being worth less than a grain of salt as far as its value preventing security breaches, even as a mere deterrent.

That goes double for logical security measures. In today’s day and age, you need to keep up with the latest in encryption and/ or login management. The latter of which should feature a hierarchy of access levels requiring unique user ID and password combinations, like in the GlobalVision Quality Control Platform.

The Information Technology Angle to Security

Both of the above features are examples of requirements to comply with FDA regulations. However, just like software itself doesn’t ensure compliance and is only a tool used to achieve it, physical and logical security measures alone are not enough. It takes a concerted effort on the part of a company to not only oversee the implementation of proper security protocols but enforce them to boot.

From an IT departmental perspective, enforcement implies a whole lot more than keeping up with software updates and patches. Strengthening security depends on a variety of methods available to IT professionals, including:

  • Permissions, whereby users are allowed to perform tasks in specific applications based on their responsibilities and
  • Detective controls, like anti-virus and/ or error-detection software to help improve response time when something is actually determined to be amiss.

Obviously, technology, by its very definition, is ever-changing. All the precautions and security requirements that go into protecting it and assets like data must evolve at the same time. Otherwise, however secure they might have been yesterday won’t matter.

It’s not about thinking outside the box to keep people from getting in, but keeping up on trends to make sure you and everyone else who’s been granted access stay one step ahead instead. It can get tiresome, but it beats the alternative: an unavoidable degree of uncertainty with regard to the future of your business prospects. Insecurity comes in many different forms, after all.

three stages of quality proofing
 

Technology continues to advance at breakneck speeds. Whatever your industry, there are definite advantages to riding the wave, even if only to keep pace with everyone else. That includes the often-forgotten quality-control sector, which can be very competitive.

That’s not just in reference to external competition among fellow solutions providers, but internally as well. There’s always going to be the pressure to improve upon set processes for greater error-finding efficiency. It only makes sense then to embrace automation, which has proven incredibly beneficial in that respect, especially when it comes to proofreading solutions.

Here are a few of the top benefits:

Prevent Avoidable Errors

One misconception revolving around automated solutions is they only serve to replace workers. That’s not necessarily true relative to digital proofreading solutions.

In fact, generally speaking, automation can actually help employees. With specific regard to proofreading, it makes employees’ jobs easier, preventing proofing fatigue and avoidable errors from slipping through the cracks. It’s been proven that manual proofreading is simply less effective and shifting gears to an automated solution is an obvious choice. With fewer errors, less pressure is put on employees to consistently perform “above their heads.”

Truth be told, a company is financially healthier and in a better position to keep more workers the fewer errors that result in costly recalls. Automation lets companies allocate human resources to other departments in greater need. And, contrary to popular belief, there will always be a need for technicians to physically check automated inspection results, even if they’re not the ones performing the actual inspections. Put another way, workers control the helping hand digital solutions lend to the overall operation, at least in this case.

Instant Detection and Verification

Companies can shave time off their manual proofreading processes to a greater extent through the sheer convenience of an all-in-one solution. High-quality digital proofreading platforms don’t just look for typos. However expensive one small misplaced decimal point can end up being for the company in question, the right application can pay for itself in other ways too.

A system like GlobalVision offers inspection modes for artwork, color, barcodes, and Braille (in addition to text). Regarding barcodes and Braille regions, the system instantly recognizes each one to be graded or translated/ compared. There’s no need to select anything except the desired mode unless it’s to conduct a partial inspection on a specific portion of the loaded files.

In the case of graphics, you can similarly choose a shape for extraction on the loaded Master instead of opting to inspect the entire file. This just serves to instruct the application to automatically locate all the repeats on a sample press sheet (for example). The benefit here far outweighs any additional steps that need to be taken.

Ultimately, inspections go much smoother and faster, with up to five different types able to be run at once in a matter of seconds or minutes instead of hours or days… a fraction of the time it takes to proof the same materials manually… more effectively too.

Get to Market Faster

Not only does a digital proofing platform translate into error-free packaging on store shelves and artwork files in general. Fewer mistakes also mean fewer revision cycles, which translates into an accelerated time to market and bigger bottom line. That’s in addition to the money saved implementing a quality-control system that’s more efficient and the recalls that will be avoided as a result. Going digital pays for itself over time.

If it’s not the improved speed at which you get to market, it’s the improved speed at which inspections are run and errors get detected. Adding an automated element, such as a digital proofreading platform, to your quality-control process means keeping pace with technological change and competitors alike. That’s undeniable, but it’s the internal performance improvements that make automation a trend that should not and cannot be avoided. Much like the errors the right system so effortlessly and inevitably detects.