Soft Proofing 101

Soft proofing is a mechanism that allows you to temporarily simulate the way your image will appear when printed on your display screen. Given that it replicates how your print will look when it is on paper, soft proofing is definitely one of the most useful features of color management. Nonetheless, it also calls for a trained and experienced set of eyes that know how to properly correct an image when it doesn’t appear as intended. The key to succeeding at soft proofing relies on your specific type of paper and ink combination. This is called a ‘printer profile’, and it’s not usually provided with the printer, so if you’re determined to achieve accurate prints, you will have to spend more money to have it measured. Some printer manufacturers provide these types of profiles, but they’re only helpful if you use the same type of ink and photographic paper for which it was designed. The other things you’ll need before you start is a calibrated monitor and a color management software, such as Photoshop or Lightroom.

How it Works

There are two conceptual stages involved in soft proofing. First, you have to simulate the out-of-gamut colors so that in the second stage, you can simulate white balance and dynamic range. However, both stages are carried out at the same time from the computer’s perspective. One common misconception about soft proofing is that it will change the image’s data. Nothing can be further from the truth, as soft proofing will only change how the image is displayed on your monitor. In addition to this, both stages are optional so operators can choose to see both of these effects together or each in isolation.

Stage 1 – Color Conversion

This stage is very similar to the conversion of a regular color-managed image when it’s sent to the printer. Basically, the color space of the original image is converted so that it matches the printer’s color space. The outcome is the compression of any out-of-gamut colors into the printer’s typically shorter spectrum.

Stage 2 – Display Options

As opposed to the first stage, this one isn’t typically applied to a graphics file when printed. It addresses how the image is going to be displayed by compensating the differences between the darkest and brightest tones in print and on your monitor. If done correctly, at the end of this stage you’ll have an image that will closely resemble the appearance of your printed work.

How to Interpret a Soft Proof

When comparing your previous on-screen image with the results of the soft proof, you’ll notice that the difference can range from drastic to subtle changes depending on factors such as the image content, printer profile, and monitor. However, not all of these changes matter that much, so it’s crucial to remember which changes will be rapidly compensated by our eyes (mostly stage 2 changes), and those that won’t (mostly stage 1).

Stage 1 – Changes

Most color management programs include a “Gamut Warning” feature that indicates which of your file’s colors are outside the printer’s gamut. During the soft proof, you’ll need to monitor these colors closely as they could change drastically. Some problematic colors include mid-tone reds and other saturated colors that cannot be completely reproduced by most printers. A small decrease in saturation is to be expected in most soft proofs, but significant changes in hues must be prevented if possible. Changes in a hue can be managed by trying different rendering intents or even tweaking the original colors until an acceptable soft proof is achieved.

Stage 2 – Changes

Even though stage 2 changes are usually the most visible ones, they typically lack importance. The human eyes will automatically compensate for both white balance and dynamic range changes, so they won’t usually present any visual issues. In fact, both these settings are generally unavailable or disabled by default. If by any chance you are using these setting, it’s probably best to review the resulting image in full-screen mode. It’s also critical to look away for a few seconds before enabling these options. That way your eyes won’t have a prior reference and will fully adjust to the new image.


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5 Amazing Things Quality Control Solutions Can Handle

For business, it’s not simply about making a product for monetary gain. Planning, time, and strategy all go along with providing customers with something that will benefit them in their everyday lives. However, there is something of equal importance that most consumers do not think about when they reach for their favorite product on the shelf.

Do Your Work and Check It Twice

Each business has their own quality control process that they’ve implemented along the product creation workflow. This is done to ensure their goods are of high quality and they look as such when they get to their customers. Quality control in this context is imperative. While packaging has its primary function, it also contributes to brand expression.
Manufacturers use their product packaging to convey a message and look, which are critically important to attract and maintain consumers. Whether it’s the product name, the fine print, or a warning label, consumers will want to read it to learn more and make an educated purchasing decision.

Consumers Are Naturally Drawn to Colors

Lady reading the nutrition facts of food packages

When most of us pick up a product at the store, the first thing we notice is the color of the packaging. The color scheme of a product also becomes part of the brand and its messaging. Think about products like TideTM with their iconic orange bottle and the orange and yellow bullseye as the logo. Is there another product that comes to mind when we see this combination of colors? Probably not.

The color and artwork significantly influence consumer purchases, so much so that it accounts for 85% of the reason why someone decides to go ahead and buy a product. So, it’s necessary that the language and artwork be free of errors. These errors can harm a company’s reputation and muddy the waters for consumers, leading to potential lawsuits. Quality control solutions can prevent this.

Here are five amazing things quality control solutions are made to handle:

  1. Reviewing artwork– If you include artwork on your packaging, you do not want errors to ruin the consumer’s first impression. With software that inspects artwork and compares it to the internally approved file, you can ensure it’s pixel-perfect.
  2. Inspecting cylindrical objects– Is your packaging cylindrical? No problem. It’s still possible to scan in the packaging and inspect it digitally, using select quality control software solutions. Supported items can include plastic bottles such as Eska’s bottled water, glass jars, soda cans like Coca-Cola’s Diet Coke, and cylinders with embossed text, like the containers your grandmother used to store her cookies.
  3. Inspecting barcodes– Have you ever been caught in line at the store when the barcode just would not scan? Barcodes contain incredibly useful information and need to be error-free and scannable. Some quality control software solutions can check that all barcodes meet ISO, ANSI, and CEN standards.
  4. Translating Braille– Is Braille required on your packaging to ensure regulatory compliance? Some quality control software can inspect and translate Braille and ensures it complies with regulations like the Marburg Medium Braille Font Standard.
  5. Final product checking– It’s one thing to check each element of packaging, but another to check them altogether. Deploy software that lets you scan and inspect the final packaging, including barcodes, Braille, artwork, and text. Scanning the final packaging or printed material that the consumer will see ensures no mistakes are made, only the perfect first impression.

Conclusion

Quotes from customer stories about how automated proofreading solutions helped with quality control

Competition is fierce in every industry, prompting businesses to fight for the top spot as the consumer’s favorite brand. Not only do companies need to come up with an incredible product, but they must make sure that their brand messaging is communicated effectively with the look of the packaging. Taking it a step further, these companies need to also implement some form of quality control…for both. There is no question that a lot goes on behind the scenes during the product creation process and it can get overwhelming at times. However, there are tools available at a company’s disposal.

Automated proofreading solutions were designed to help with quality control processes. Software like GlobalVision can save companies a lot of time by reviewing files before they are sent to the printers. It’s important for labels and artwork to be reviewed before they are printed and sent off to the market. Having your packaging laced with errors when it reaches a customer is bad enough. What’s worse is knowing that a solution can take seconds could have saved you thousands.

Register for one of our weekly demos or request a free trial today to find out more about how automated quality control can streamline your packaging process.

Standardizing with One Print Supplier is Critical

High standards are a necessity in the printing industry. Standardization is meanwhile a whole different animal… one that’s arguably just as critical to the survival of the fittest.

The Need to Standardize

If there’s a delicate ecosystem at play here, it’s not necessarily the free market. Instead it would be that of a given company as it attempts to balance multiple suppliers. Take for example the following situation: An especially large order of one specific SKU has been made. It requires more bandwidth than your go-to supplier has available. What do you do?

The easy answer is to spread the order out over multiple suppliers. That way a single supplier’s capacity limitations aren’t an issue. You would run into several other problems though, namely the resulting inability to control the appearance of your product’s packaging on store shelves.

Going with multiple suppliers, printers as an example, means going with multiple sets of hardware, multiple brands of paper and ink, different levels of expertise, etc. In essence, even if the printers are each given the same digital file off of which to work, there are no guarantees that what will result will end up being the same packaging. In fact, just the opposite: You can practically guarantee the packaging will be different in each case, even if subtly so.

Hence the need to standardize.

Steps in Place

Standardizing is theoretically simple. Consider a single company, perhaps your own. One way of standardizing involves using the same computers (PC or Mac) and software, down to the version number, in every department. It’s the simplest way to eliminate conversion errors in your files when sending them from co-worker to co-worker.

Now imagine the benefits of expanding that level of standardization beyond your doors to the offices of your suppliers. For example, any work done on a digital file would appear 100% as intended regardless of whose system it’s on. That would reduce mistakes, back and forth, and the amount of revision cycles up to and including the point at which the proof is received back from the printer for approval. Of course, it will all be for naught, unless you’re able to standardize on a single printer, but at least half the battle will be won.

Companies reserve the right to go with several printers right from the get-go. It affords them the overall flexibility to go to a different one on a dime if your usual go-to simply cannot take on a job when you need it, not to mention the financial flexibility to go where the cost makes the most sense. You will nonetheless run into the same types of issues and be unable to guarantee the product will meet not just your high standards, but the standards set by each other unit beside it before it makes its way into the hands of the end user.

The Standardization Dream: One Supplier

Dismissing the need to standardize outright is the same as saying it’s okay that your product does not look the same from unit to unit on the store shelf, which is a fundamentally absurd notion. Taking it to one extreme, if your product doesn’t look the same from unit to unit, how will customers know what to buy?

Granted, it’s unlikely that packaging would be so different that customers wouldn’t recognize two products on the same shelf as being the same, but what if we’re talking about differences like the texture of the packaging or the shade of the background color? It literally looks bad and it reflects badly on your brand in turn, that is if the label even stays on the darn thing. It’s an actual risk, if the same adhesive isn’t being used throughout the production process.

So, even though, at face value, you may need multiple printers to deliver an especially large job, it’s a bit of a trick question. What do you do? You stack the deck. You actually find one printer who’s large enough with the capacity to pull off the job in question and all others down the road. The right printer will accept your demands to standardize on everything from software to hardware and use the same materials job-in, job-out. There are printing plants specifically built for just that purpose, to cater to single clients.

Even if retaining the services of a specific printer costs money, you’re ensuring a high quality of service, a high quality of product, and high degree of consistency. It just makes more financial sense in the long run, without risking your brand equity in the process.

Standardization does pay off. You just have to do it wherever possible. If not, you may quickly find yourself at the bottom of the food chain.

Register for one of our webinars or request a personalized demo today to find out more about how automated quality control can streamline your packaging process.

Monitor with the lock of GDPR Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming to the European Union and it’s not to be trifled with. Hypothetical fines of up to 20 million euros to companies who neglect to do their part to help the people of the EU gain back control over their data spell out how important compliance is not just to success, but survival. From a business perspective, getting ahead of the potential far-reaching consequences is obviously critical. It doesn’t have to be impossible, though.

Checks and Balances… and Stock Prices

For starters, the 25 May 2018 date on which it will be enacted is the culmination of a two-year transition period that began in 2016. As such, it should be pointed out this development is far from reactionary to the recent data misuse and privacy scandal surrounding American cyber behemoth Facebook. Despite involving Facebook, the outrage technically originated over the Atlantic with British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica allegedly impacting the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote  (and American 2016 presidential election) by leveraging the platform.

In other words, this legislation could not come any sooner. There is a clear need for checks and balances to keep the best interests of the consumer at heart. As Facebook is discovering firsthand after the fact, trying to find some way to address the issue only once one of the worst-case scenarios has come to fruition, it’s also in companies’ best interests. Facebook stock has seen better days, with the resulting #DeleteFacebook movement gaining more and more steam.

The point is organizations who didn’t see this coming only have themselves to blame, as they’ve had ample time to make necessary adjustments. These adjustments include educating staff and getting buy-in, making required hires, and undergoing internal audits to ensure compliance.

Compliance in this case is largely synonymous with acquiring consumer consent to process their data. Out are longwinded terms and conditions. Consent must be given via forms written in clear and concise language and must be able to be withdrawn just as easily. The relationship between consumer and company will be made all the more transparent, effectively through reports on demand, documenting how customers’ data is used. If an EU citizen/ resident makes a request, the company in question will have to make the information accessible and accurately report it to them.

The Benefits of Big Data

Data is obviously a powerful thing. When used properly, it can help a firm drive product development and improve relationships with customers in one fell swoop. For example, in relation to quality-control solutions-provider GlobalVision’s product offering, mining data pertaining to the packaging you produce can help minimize waste and optimize internal processes. Leverageable data doesn’t necessarily have to come from consumers or infringe on their privacy to connect with them.

As argued by GlobalVision Director of Technology Jonathan Hou, “You could capture data from packaging and print suppliers to help identify areas of improvement or pick top performers in your supply chain. Helping find the source of errors will help in reducing reprints.”

Meanwhile, smart labels and packaging work the other way and let consumers themselves pull data about a given product to better assess if it meets their needs. So, data, in and of itself, is far from the problem. It’s when the data in question and the trust between the two parties here is abused that problems start to surface. In that sense, what GDPR is setting out to accomplish, act as a watchdog to ensure companies toe the line and stay on the side of ethical compliance, is for the best.

Putting the “PR” in GDPR

The word “compliance” often gets a bad reputation as conforming is just not individualistic. People want to be able to make their own decisions and conforming often runs counter to free will. Unfortunately, as the ongoing Cambridge Analytica saga would attest to, free will is consistently at risk of being manipulated in this day and age. When compliance is being asked of multi-national corporations and not the people they are supposed to cater to, it’s often a good thing.

Data integrity starts with data security. The GDPR looks to guarantee both, stating that, “the controller and the processor [of data] shall implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk, including… the ability to ensure the ongoing confidentiality, integrity, availability, and resilience of processing systems and services.” – Art. 32(1)(b).

Furthermore, the data that is gathered shall be “limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed.” – Art. 5(1)(c). That doesn’t necessarily have to do with security, but it does with integrity, both with regard to data and the motivations behind its collection.

In principle, no one can argue with the merits of the argument. In practice, it’s just a question of whether the GDPR will be adequately enforced, once 25 May rolls around. If so, there should be no question as to its effectiveness, taking steps in the right direction. For companies looking at life after the legislation comes into effect, those first steps are always difficult, but it presumably gets easier. At least it should, after they try walking a mile in their customers’ shoes.

Quality Management: A Step-by-Step Process

Most consumers hear the word “quality” when associated with packaging and immediately think of the final product on the shelves in stores. However, its meaning is much different in the packaging and labeling industry.

A lot goes on behind the scenes of the packaging process. For instance, a quality management system must be put in place for the best chance of the product being a success, but what exactly is quality management? It ensures your packaging process is planned from start to finish, that all information is accurate, and that you provide an exceptional customer experience. It’s harder than it sounds to put in place though, as quality management processes vary depending on the industry.

The perception may be that a quality management process is implemented at the design and packaging stage of a product. However, many companies have deployed quality management systems at every stage. As an illustration, consider just how many departments are involved in the creation of a product, from its early stages until the package is in the customer’s hands.

All Information Should be Accurate

The quality management process typically starts with regulatory affairs and marketing. These departments take the data gathered from the manufacturers and strategically market the materials. Pharmaceutical companies must meanwhile impose strict guidelines on their products for health reasons. This is where the quality process comes in. All information needs to be clear and correct. No one wants to recall a product because of a small labeling error. A way to ensure the accuracy of packaging is by using quality management software to review your files before they are sent to the design department.

Ensuring Your Vision is Clear

Part of the quality management process involves precisely displaying your vision on your packaging. When planning the design and packaging of your product, it is essential to choose a supplier that understands your needs. Choose carefully though; You want to work with someone who will be able to bring your creativity to life. For example, if you are looking to take risks and be innovative with your design, your supplier must be equally willing to take that risk with you. Both the company and the supplier must be on the same page, or collaborating can become a challenge.

From Digital to Print

Woman and man communicating about print inspection

For businesses looking to take that risk and re-launch their packaging, having a physical proof is imperative. A proof, or a printer’s proof, is a copy of the design. These are made to ensure that the printer is meeting their client’s needs by helping their vision come to life. You want to make sure that not only is your design translated into an artwork file, but that it looks just as good in tangible form. When your clients receive the good, the packaging is the first thing they see. If your file has errors in it or isn’t color-consistent, go back to the drawing board. Work with the graphic designers to come up with a design that is both practical and conveys your brand’s message. Proofreading software can also be used by designers to review files for artwork accuracy, by comparing proofs to the internally approved original.

Validation Of Your Packaging

After your product has been packaged, the next step is to put it through a series of tests. You want to make sure that package is of the highest quality and you provide a positive customer experience. Most companies perform the following analysis on their packaging: Installation Qualification (IQ), Operation Qualification (OQ) and Performance Qualification (PQ). IQ ensures that the sealing equipment is installed at the manufacturing facility. PQ tests the integrity and repeatability during the sealing process. Lastly, OQ makes sure companies perform durability, rub, and drop tests to so the package will hold up and not fall apart during transportation by the time it reaches its destination.

Conclusion

Even when your product is sitting on the shelves of stores, it must provide a good first impression to potential buyers. A product that looks high-quality will grab consumer’s attention and earn their loyalty. In other words, it’s important that your packaging be error-free and created the way you had anticipated. If you decide not to design your packaging in-house, partnering with the right supplier is essential. You want to work with someone who is on the same page as you, especially if you’re looking to revamp your brand. Ensuring your packaging is of the highest quality is the ultimate goal, whether you’re in regulatory affairs or work on the design team.

Regardless of your position, you play a major role in quality management, which should ideally span multiple departments. Consumers who see the value in your product are likely to stay put. After all, a company is only as successful as its packaging.

Author: Kajetan Wyrzykowski

Packhelp is a start-up manufacturing custom packaging. In order to create a box, our customers can use an intuitive and easy-to-use online design tool. Additionally, the minimum quantity of orders is only 30 pieces and the production times begin at 14 days.

Researcher working with machine on a cartoon background

There are some constants that cannot be ignored, even between two radically different products.

If you were to take those two products and examine them, there is no denying there would be a long list of properties that vary greatly between the two. We’re talking shape, size, purpose, etc. In a way, they cannot be compared. Nevertheless, whatever the industry, products tend to follow similar development lifecycles. From the point at which a light bulb goes off in someone’s head up to the release of the product to the market, set stages are followed. One such stage, testing, is as universal as it gets in principle.

It’s then that the IQ, OQ, and PQ enter the picture.

For the uninitiated, the “Q” stays the same with regard to each of the above acronyms. They stand for Installation, Operational, and Performance Qualification and each impacts the product development process and quality control in its own way, but as steps, one after another.

As an illustration, consider the pharmaceutical industry. Each piece of equipment or system that enters into a drug’s “chain of custody” must be tested as being qualified for use. “Validated” is another way to put it, with validation defined as, “evidence that provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process will consistently produce a product meeting its pre-determined specifications and quality attributes.”

It’s an exhaustive process with many ins and outs, starting with the IQ.

Installation Qualification (IQ)

The IQ, or Installation Qualification, ensures, as its name suggests, that a product is properly installed.

Physical products like instruments or tools may call for properly allocated floor space, correct operating conditions, and that there is physically no damage to the unit in question. In the case of software, this means verifying items like whether the folder structures are intact and that the minimum system requirements are met. Checks may also include the memory of the workstation on which the software is being installed, the operating system, software libraries, and that all required files to run the application are accounted for.

“Minimum requirements” is perhaps a good way to put it in general. Whether it’s hardware or a piece of software that’s being tested, the Food and Drug Administration’s IQ definition applies. It states the objective is to document that the “system has the necessary prerequisite conditions to function as expected.”

After ensuring that the system in question can run, the focus shifts to how it runs.

 

Operational Qualification (OQ)

The OQ, or Operational Qualification, is next up. It is traditionally started out once the IQ has been run through, acting as a pre-requisite for technical acceptance of the software, equipment, or facility. In this capacity, the OQ tests that the functionality of a product is as desired. It acts as a review of start-up, operational, maintenance, safety, and cleaning procedures where applicable.

Each critical button/ function is tested to make sure it does what it should. This holds true for both software and hardware and includes everything from the smallest of details on displays to the exact range of temperature fluctuations, etc.

What’s critical is that every piece of equipment and software operates within the stated limits. Ultimately, that’s the point of the OQ. Once each is proven to, it’s time to test those limits.

Performance Qualification (PQ)

The final step in the qualification process, the PQ, or Performance Qualification, is meant to ensure the product stacks up against real-world conditions, albeit in simulated scenarios. Whereas the OQ verified functionality, the PQ is results-oriented. Tests tend to have expected results attached to them, meaning they have to be consistently reproducible.

The detailed test plan itself is created from the product development lifecycle. Both the Functional Requirements Specification (FRS; document detailing the requirements that are expected to be performed) and Detailed Design Specification (DDS; document detailing how those operations are performed) factor in. System and unit testing (testing done at the modular level) are also taken into consideration.

The goal here, aside from making sure everything works, is to make sure the system is able to be validated. After all, the validation document serves as proof that the system works as expected when it is being installed at a customer site. That documentation is something the customer holds onto, if ever an issue or audit arises sometime down the line.

At their cores, the IQ, OQ, and PQ are sub-sections of validation, simply parts of a larger process. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, though.

GlobalVision as a Test Case Scenario

Take, for instance, GlobalVision, which develops automated quality control software (and various hardware accompaniments like scanners) for packaging components and product collateral. While its own quality control process is as thorough as you would expect and of course includes internal validation, let’s re-examine the pharma example from earlier.

GlobalVision offers validation execution services with industries like pharma in mind. Pharma is renowned for its stringent requirements revolving around standard documentation and GlobalVision has decades of experience within that space, among others, and caters to the top 10 pharma companies in the world.

As mentioned earlier, each piece of equipment or system that “touches” a product during its development has to be validated. Packaging proofreading software falls into that category. The pharmaceutical company in question could theoretically validate an application on its own. However, GlobalVision doesn’t just supply its own validation documents, extensively developed through its decades of experience working with companies in the industry. GlobalVision offers to execute them onsite, thereby further saving the company time and resources better devoted elsewhere.

In this case, validation execution is a value-added service tacked on to the product itself, the software. Software is somewhat of a particular case as multiple versions of a program are generally released, with each version theoretically an upgrade relative to the last, either through fixes or the addition of new features designed to address issues that had been encountered.

It further proves just how critical testing is to the success of a product, how it’s ongoing. It’s essentially one lifecycle that never ends, further bridging the gap between different industries. Testing and the success it endeavors to achieve is their common ground.

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A New Era for Quality Management Systems

The fourth industrial revolution, sometimes referred to as industry 4.0, has been widely predicted to be the next step for the manufacturing industry. Technologies such as the cloud, robotics, and the IoT are changing the manufacturing world as we know it.

According to a survey made by the DMDII (Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute), a vast majority of respondents considered digital design and manufacturing to be a significant force driving competitiveness. The same survey also found that only 13 percent of respondents believed their companies possess a high digital capability.

Although there’s been progress in digitally transforming functions such as development, research, maintenance, and production, businesses still have a long road ahead when it comes to the digitalization of quality management systems.

The reactive approach to quality is currently the law of the land, where disparate quality applications and manual inspections are used to track quality within production lines. Of course, it’s needless to say that this approach results in frequent errors, leads to cost overruns, and ultimately diminishes product quality.

A reactive quality control means having a stack of legacy applications performing multiple quality functions, but the lack of a holistic approach in this type of quality management system creates ineffective communications between the quality and production departments and a disorganized work environment. As a result, productivity is impaired by simple errors like inventory pile-ups, and staff members have to invest an increasing amount of time and effort in quality-related repairs and reworks.

Adjusting to a Shifting Landscape

Why is it that, in spite of the rapid technological advances we are witnessing, a wide range of consumer, pharma, and technology products are recalled every year? The issue lies in the conventional quality management system, which operates in concentrated silos instead of offering a holistic, company-wide view. With the advent of stricter regulations and demanding customers, it is the moment to think about new quality strategies and start implementing a digitalized, integrated quality management solution.

Several case studies have concluded that integrated quality management systems help maintain quality throughout the product’s lifecycle, improve preventive and predictive capabilities, and offer a greater visibility into the whole manufacturing and quality control process. The digitalization of quality management ultimately helps companies to deliver consistent quality products faster while at the same time optimizing costs and efforts.

Why end-to-end quality management systems are the answer

End-to-end automation of quality management systems – including planning, control, and improvement – allows for the easy monitoring of quality across the production lifecycle. A comprehensive view of all the operations helps identify issues proactively, optimize product performance early in the development cycle, and analyze and uncover the root cause of such problems.

Over time, integrated quality management software will lead to clean and lean production capabilities – all thanks to automation advances. This is currently laying the foundation for the digital end-to-end manufacturing cycles. Soon, the establishment of machine-to-machine interactions will enable real-time access to needed information.

These integrated ecosystems will further spread proactive and holistic quality management across all aspects of the production, including process enforcement, quality process standardization, personnel and skill qualifications, configuration and production process verification, and in-process inspection.

Aligning Digital Technologies for Better Quality Insights

While there are countless ways in which analytic solutions and digital technologies can be used to modernize quality management systems, without a doubt, the first place digitalization needs to be applied to is the plant floor. This will allow for better quality insights that eventually lead to the implementation of critical preventive policies.

For instance, the integration of mobile and cloud-based technologies can ensure the inspection of the manufacturing site by remotely located experts. This real-time collaboration between different types of users will lead to the timely identification and resolution of errors. Also, the visualization of real-time defect data can also help maximize supply chain processes and efficiencies.

Big companies like Toyota are taking advantage of advanced analytics and APCs (advanced process controls) to fix, in real time, any quality-related problems in production, thus minimizing scrap and rework and even enabling manufacturers to reduce quality control costs by 10-20%.

Why aren’t all Companies on Board with this?

Any company seeking to achieve real recognition, growth, and success must embrace this new era of digitalization. Unfortunately, not all of them end up following the advice and philosophies that quality practitioners have to offer. Like most changes, the evolution of quality management systems in the industry is a process that takes time and, in some cases, a few tries. But one thing’s for sure: perseverance and consistency are fundamental aspects of continuing with the promotion of this change.

In spite of this, there have been multiple businesses that successfully shifted into digitalized systems. In part, this is thanks to companies like GlobalVision, which is one of the leading automated quality control service providers in the packaging world, offering quality inspection tools that range from text and spelling to design, print and Braille inspection. Just recently, GlobalVision’s technologies were built in Esko’s automation engine, creating a new type of prepress workflow where quality is assured all the way.

Stepping into the future

Living in this highly competitive marketplace, low-quality products can impact brand reputation and market share significantly. The reactive quality control approach, therefore, needs to fade away and allow integrated quality management systems to ensure the complete coverage of the production cycle. With the addition of early detection capabilities, companies can initiate timely corrective actions and prioritize maintenance resources, minimize downtime, reduce costs, and maximize product quality.

It’s definitely a big challenge – one that most companies are wary of making – so where are we supposed to begin?

First of all, achieving integrated, holistic digitalization of quality control systems demands a systematic approach. It requires a deeper understanding of the quality-related nuances of all aspects involved so companies can then stitch them together into comprehensive frameworks infused with advanced technologies.

Then, and only then, businesses can begin stepping into the future of digitalized quality management systems.


Join the GlobalVision 4.1 Webinar

We have recently released GlobalVision 4.1 for Desktop, and invite you to join our webinar to learn how this new release can help streamline your quality control process.

 

Cartoon pamphlet, bottles, barcode and jar

Business owners and manufacturers know that flawed packages carry a negative message for their brands. An imperfect package is an imperfect business, especially living in a world with customers that have lofty expectations. A simple crooked label can transform people’s views of your brand and possibly change their purchasing decision forever.

Companies around the world place great value on packaging inspection. These quality control regimes must be set in motion in order to spot and reject printing errors, wrinkled labels, or crooked caps before they see the light of day.

Given the fast-paced packaging and manufacturing environment we live in, machine vision systems are the ultimate tools that will quickly pay for themselves by decreasing your business’ labor costs while also reducing liability due to complete recalls. More importantly, they are unflagging, communicative solutions that can adapt immediately to changing inspection parameters.

What makes vision systems so effective is their integration of lighting, camera, and imaging processing software that allows them to “see” products and inspect them for flaws – all done at high-speed, with near-perfect accuracy. The brain of this solution is the analytic software in charge of processing what the camera captures, comparing it to the stored “ideal” images.

Today’s machine vision technology is so advanced that these solutions can quickly and accurately tally every item, contrast them with ideal images, point to printing errors, and verify barcodes in a matter of seconds. However, one of the biggest benefits provided by these systems is user isolation. Users don’t need to understand its complex algorithms in order to use them. Through their HMI (human-machine interface), users just have to choose their inspection target, set the parameters, and press “Go”.

Building a strong brand identity through packaging

Complete Packaging Inspection

Besides letting you inspect packaging and products more easily, modern machine vision systems can also proof and verify barcodes, alphanumeric codes, and data matrix images. If you need it, these systems will also check the quality of incoming materials and ensure all steps and processes are done correctly. They can even take care of the quality of your pallet loads before shipping them to a customer. Therefore, because of this complete integration, your whole packaging line will be optimized.

In addition to the increase in inspection accuracy, which will boost your presence in the market, vision inspection software can communicate with your business’ computer system and update your production, inventory, and maintenance records. It also provides reports on total flaws detected. So, if these are higher than your threshold, it will shut down your entire production line until you make the necessary adjustments.

Of course, this level of efficiency in packaging automation varies depending on your needs and the amount of money you wish to invest. The market is filled with different systems that offer a wide arrange of features, from the described above to mere label inspections or barcode reading from the run sheet of the day. The best part is that the majority of them are quite adaptive; You can accommodate them to new products that require new camera positions or conveyor speeds.

Key Advantages

User-Friendly

Most, once installed, are very easy to use and require minimal maintenance.

Tech Support

Reputable machine vision providers usually offer training programs for operators and ensure technical support in case anything goes wrong.

Market Diversity

The current vision market provides a wide range of alternatives, meaning you can choose whichever best fits your needs.

Adaptability

Less-sophisticated solutions do not offer the ability to automate inspection changeovers, but modern high-tech systems can. So, if you run a diverse packaging line with a large variety of products, you can rest assured that you won’t be losing time doing manual changes every time a new product comes along.

The cost of Machine Vision Inspection

Like any new technology, especially when it comes to machine vision software, a certain initial investment is required. The actual amount depends on many elements, the main one being system complexity. This includes the total number of lights and cameras, the type of lenses, and many other parts like servo motors and conveyors that allow for system adjustment to different targets, shapes, and sizes.

However, keep in mind that with any new investment, the words “cost” and “value” don’t mean the same thing. Focusing only on the financial expense of these systems will skew your assessment. Any prospective buyer of vision systems needs to weigh in a variety of factors:

● What are the system’s benefits/ features?
● Will the investment include the mounting brackets or electrical cabinets?
● Will I have to rearrange my entire production line?
● Does the software allow for simple in-house modifications in case any new product has to be checked?
● Do I get technical support from the manufacturer?

Add everything up and you’ll get the rough amount you need to spend. Now it’s time to include the prospective savings into the equation:

● Will I have to reduce the number of inspectors and operators?
● If so, will I reassign them to other areas?
● How much will automated packaging inspection boost my productivity?

And, most importantly, but often ignored:

● What will be my company’s financial value be if I get rid of customer complaints and complete recalls due to packaging mislabeling?

One word of advice before you make any decision: Erase any preconceived ideas from your mind. High technology is no longer a luxury that only big companies can obtain. Machine vision software has evolved and the market is full of different choices, making packaging automation a gold standard and sophisticated practice available for small and medium companies alike.

Return on Investment

Due to the market’s wide diversification, prospective buyers now have a lot to evaluate. Every company considering crossing over to machine vision inspection should contemplate not just the capacity of the equipment, but also the overall completeness of the power supply along with its capability to adapt to new products and materials.

In addition, these systems typically provide quick ROIs, mostly because you’ll cut down on staff for manual inspection, not to mention all the savings related to fewer product recalls and fines from delivering flawed products.

Cutting down on staff is a tangible action. Therefore, you’ll get immediate results on your ROI. Decreasing fines and complete recalls are a lot harder to estimate accurately because the incidence of these events usually varies depending on the company, though. As a result, they usually are not considered at all when calculating the ROI for a vision system. In spite of this, always keep in mind that, in the long run, these intangible forces can positively enhance your brand’s reputation and boost your profits.

illustration showing laptop with process of folders

Looking Ahead

In the future, machine vision will probably advance in several areas. The market continues to grow and it’s expected to become a $14-billion industry by 2022. Current trends are drifting towards cost-efficient solutions suitable for all types of companies, but especially for packaging inspection. Advances will include, among others, a boost in system flexibility, an increase in smart technology, and greater software and hardware alternatives.

Just a few years ago we saw how smart cameras began to challenge PC-based vision systems by getting rid of the need for a separate processor. Although they’ve been available for over 20 years, they only just recently became small and affordable enough to justify an investment.

The quality of image sensors is getting better every year too. So, camera manufacturers are spending less time dealing with these types of defects and more on image processing. With the rise of complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors (CMOS), image sensors are also getting smaller, leaving room for developing further processing features, like color-processing, digital zoom, image enhancement, rotation, and much more.

With such high levels of integration and processing capacity, this all-in-one technology was once the emerging trend, but now has started to dominate in the market. We are likely to witness more evolution of smart technology in the years to come.

When it comes to the packaging industry, advances in user-friendliness are likely to simplify the set-up and usage of these systems even more. Ease of use will no longer imply a point-and-click graphical user interface, but a comprehensive approach with access to all features.

Less training will be needed and people with very different skill sets will be working with these machines, eliminating the need for time-consuming and pricey training programs.

Although prospective users might want to wait for what the future holds, the current vision technology developments mentioned throughout this article imply that the future is now. It’s an exciting time, and one for manufacturers and packaging companies to jump on board with packaging inspection automation.

Print Inspection for Packaging

GlobalVision also has a wide range of packaging scanners available to suit different packaging line needs. They include non-contact scanners for wet-ink press sheets to cylindrical scanners for cans, jars, bottles, and any other type of cylindrical container. Above all else, GlobalVision offers its Print Inspection tool, which allows for easy comparison of printed packaging vs. approved digital artwork. This tool is the perfect solution to avoid reprints and reworks of any kind, due to printing errors like blemishes, smudges, and unwanted marks in general.


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Sample of GlobalVision Barcode Inspection with Grade Level

The use of barcodes dates back to the early 1960’s, initially deployed within the automotive and railroad industry. In the early 1970’s they were implemented within the retail industry, mainly in grocery stores.

The 1980’s marked the period of barcode rules and regulations establishment and they officially became a necessity in all industries. Since then, barcodes have become much more advanced.

What Is a Barcode?

A barcode is an optical, machine-readable, and graphically presented image of a set of product related data.

The standards, the types, and symbologies of barcodes are defined by the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Major industries have a defined set of standards for barcodes. For uncommon industries, which still don’t have defined standards, there are different symbologies to choose from. The choice will depend on the barcode purpose and amount of data that it should contain.

A barcode may contain small to large amounts of data, mapped by basic computer programming languages such as COBOL, QBasic, and Fortran.

The size of the data a barcode can contain depends on the type and the symbology of a barcode. More about that will be mentioned further into the guide.

Generating Barcodes

There are a number of ways to generate barcodes. The way a barcode is produced and printed will largely depend on the available resources of a company and the purpose of the barcodes.

A company may choose to encode and generate their own barcodes,but this requires advanced programming knowledge, advanced software and in-house developer.

There is a great online technical in-depth barcode guide with all of the advanced technical information for businesses that choose to create their own barcodes.

Barcode, braille inspection in GlobalVision 5.7

Barcode applications vary accordingly to different variables, such as:
● Industry specifics
● Amount of data being encoded
● Purpose of the barcode
● Printing methods

Other ways for generating and printing barcodes are:
• Specialized licensed software for creating and printing barcodes (comprehensive solution for companies that require high-quality barcodes, barcodes with large amounts of data, industries with strict rules and regulations)
• Free barcode generators (a good option only if the required barcodes have basic requirements)
• All-in-one software for creating and verifying barcodes and labels (best solution for companies looking to automate packaging quality control process, increase time efficiency, reduce errors and risk)

Verifying Barcodes

The verification or inspection of barcodes is carried out through specialized barcode inspection software. This type of software either comes in the form of device-specific barcode verifiers or online barcode verifiers. It’s important to remember that a barcode verifier must comply with the ISO/IEC 15426-1 packaging quality control standards.

Barcode Printing

The way a barcode is printed will depend on the way a barcode is generated and also on the purpose of the barcode.

Some businesses will require barcodes to be internet-compatible.

So, as well as being able to print error-free barcodes, which are physically readable by scanners, barcodes should also be server-compliant, web-page and web-application compatible, compatible with mobile devices, and of high-quality resolution.

Some of the most common barcode printing methods in a trading process are:
Printing labels with barcodes
• Printing the barcode with the label artwork directly onto the packaging
• Printing directly onto packaging during the packaging process

Barcode Industry Standards

Below are the established barcode standards for the most-common large industries. These standards define the way barcode readers and barcode verifiers scan, read, and test a barcode and are crucial in the process of generating barcodes.

INDUSTRYPURPOSEBARCODE STANDARDS
Pharmaceutical & HealthcareBlood banks, laboratories,
healthcare products, etc.
ABC Codabar
ISBT 128
RetailLabelling and selling consumer
goods worldwide
EAN and UPC
GTIN and GS1
Supply Chain, LogisticsShipping goodsSCC-14
EAN-14
AutomotiveAll productsAIAG
Defense and GovernmentEncoding large amounts of
sensitive data
DOD UID
LOGMARS
MIL-STD-130
Mail and PostingMail routing and trackingPOSTNET
USPS
Press and BooksBook and magazines serial numbersISBN
ISSN
Bookland

Barcode Types and Symbologies

It’s important to note that a barcode standard doesn’t necessarily have to match the barcode symbology and type when choosing the best barcode for a product.

However, if there is an established standard for a barcode type and symbology a certain business belongs to, then only that barcode can be used. A choice isn’t available.

The main types of barcodes are 1D (1-dimensional) or Linear Barcodes and 2D (2-dimensional) barcodes, which can contain much more data than the former. Both have subtypes.

Additional types such as the QR Code and PDS417, are the newest and most advanced types and look different to the general form of barcodes. They’re also known as data matrixes.

The table below covers the most common industry specific barcode types and symbologies:

Industry Barcode TypeSymbologySymbology VariationsSymbology Types
Pharmaceutical
& Healthcare
1D1DCodabarGS1 DataBarCodeabar, Ames Code, NW-7, Monarch, Code 2 of 7, Rationalized Codabar, ANSI/AIM BC3-1995, USD-4GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional, Truncated, Stacked, Stacked-Omnidirectional, Expanded, Expanded Stacked, Coupon Code, LimitedRationalized Codabar
USD-4
NW-7
2 of 7 Code
Retail1D2DUPCEANCODE 93GS1 DataBarMSI PLESSEYQR CODEDataMatrixUPC-a,
UPC-eEAN-13
EAN-8CODE 39GS1 DataBar Omnidirectional, Truncated, Stacked, Stacked-Omnidirectional, Expanded, Expanded Stacked, Coupon Code, Limited
UPC
UCC12ISBN
ISSN
Bookland
JANHIBC LIC
LOGMARS
MIL-STD-1189B
MIL-STD-129
MIL-STD-2073-1C
MIL-STD-129NMSI Code
Pulse Width Modulated Barcode
Supply Chain, Logistics1DCODE 128CODE 93CodabarCODE 39Codeabar, Ames Code, NW-7, Monarch, Code 2 of 7, Rationalized Codabar, ANSI/AIM BC3-1995, USD-4CANADA POST
USPS
ISBT 128
USS Code 128
ISS Code 128HIBC LIC
LOGMARS
MIL-STD-1189B
MIL-STD-129
MIL-STD-2073-1C
MIL-STD-129NRationalized Codabar
USD-4
NW-7
2 of 7 Code
Automotive1D2DCODE 93PDF417CODE 39PDF417-TruncatedHIBC LIC
LOGMARS
MIL-STD-1189B
MIL-STD-129
MIL-STD-2073-1C
MIL-STD-129N
Defense and Government1D2D2D MatrixCODE 93PDF417DataMatrixCODE 39PDF417-TruncatedMicro-DataMatrixHIBC LIC
LOGMARS
MIL-STD-1189B
MIL-STD-129
MIL-STD-2073-1C
MIL-STD-129N
Mail and Posting1DUSPS IMbPOSTNETPLANET 4-State Customer Barcode
4CB or 4-CB
OneCode Solution Barcode
USPS4CBZip
Zip + 4
DPBCUSPS CONFIRM
Press and Books1DEAN-13 ISBN
ISSN
Bookland
Packaging1DITFInterleaved 2 of 5ITF-14
EAN-14
SCC-14
GTIN
DUN14
USPS
Transportation2D MatrixAZTEC  
Entertainment2D MatrixQR CODE  
Advertising2D MatrixQR CODE  
Electronics2D MatrixDataMatrixMicro-DataMatrix 

How to choose the best barcode?

Some of the most common concerns many businesses face is the space available for a barcode on a product label and the accuracy of a barcode, so that the risks of time and money loss are a minimized.

The most efficient barcodes, in terms of area coverage and error reduction, are:

– DataMatrix
– UPC
– Code 128
– Code 39
– PDF417

As mentioned at the beginning, the best barcode is the one defined within the industry, which has established a set of standards for creating and reading barcode types and symbologies.

However, if a company doesn’t belong to one of these industries then the barcode can be chosen depending on the purpose, amount of data to be encoded, and the printing method being used.


GlobalVision is the leading developer of proofreading technologies for retail and consumer packaged goods. Learn how GlobalVision has helped Consumer Goods companies of all sizes in quality control.

Request a free trial for GlobalVision Digital Inspection Solution


Learn More about How to Manage Barcodes in Packaging Quality Control

Text inspection on globalvision on cartoon background
 

 

What’s at stake with a product misspelling? For any other type of business, it would mean a complete recall – costly, but maybe otherwise harmless– but, when it comes to the pharma industry, a whole other set of issues could present themselves.

Setting aside the financial costs of a recall and the time you have to lose by fixing these issues, we have to keep in mind the obvious: Patients rely on their prescriptions to help them maintain their health. Errors in pharma labeling can be devastating because they lead to drug misuse and the appearance of potentially lethal consequences.

So, what might be an unfortunate and mild inconvenience for almost any other type of company, becomes a major, life-threatening issue for a pharmaceutical one. The risk placed on people’s lives, the money and time you have to consume, and the damage to your company’s image and reputation makes pharma labeling a process that must be undertaken with extra care and meticulous attention to detail. Sadly, however, misspellings in the pharma industry continue to happen time and again.

Why does a process that’s supposed to be highly technical and scrupulous keep encountering problems with labeling issues? It’s hard to pinpoint a single reason, mainly because medical packaging methods and techniques are different for every company. Let’s stop to analyze some common causes of medical and pharmaceutical spelling errors and what can we do to eradicate them.

Medical Terms Are Difficult to Understand

For the average person, medical terminology can be like an alien language. Most medical terms have their roots in Latin or Greek, which can make them hard to decipher. We also have to keep in mind that medical terms can often sound alike but have different meanings.

Old lady reading pill labels with the pharmacist

Differentiating between the two is simple for a doctor, but almost everybody else cannot, making them difficult to understand. Pharma terms are completely different, as they often don’t relate to anything even an experienced doctor has ever heard of. Names of drugs are harder to get right because most of the time they might not even make any sense to the casual observer.

The truth is there is a lot of time and money spent on the branding process of a drug. The name has to be sexy and appealing, while also remaining original and not too similar to the names of other drugs.

Take “Lamictal” and “Lamisil”. The former is an anticonvulsant used to treat seizures in adults and children and also helps delay mood episodes in adults with bipolar disorder, while the latter is used to treat fungal infections. Just think of the consequences of what would happen if someone were to confuse the two drugs.

One of the main reasons why the Food and Drug Administration rejects drug names is because of name similarity. The aim is to prevent doctors and pharmacists from confusing the names and administering the wrong drugs.

In spite of these efforts, generic drug names can also be quite similar to each other. It’s easy to mix up names like “tramadol”, “trazodone”, and “toradol”, “acetohexamide” and “acetazolamide”, or even “cycloserine” and “cyclosporine”. This is especially true if companies use manual quality control methods. But the main reason spelling mistakes in the pharma industry are so common is due to the fact that regular people don’t use these words on a daily basis.

Manual vs. Automated Spell Checks

Many growing businesses today face an important question: Should you hire more people or should you automate your packing operation? While current studies lean towards automated technology, both this and manual methods have their own disadvantages.

When it comes to reducing costs, manual processing might seem cheaper than investing in automated technology. Of course, you have to remember humans are prone to making mistakes. So, adding extra workers into your process also means increasing the likelihood of errors.

Statistics show that over 80% of process deviations in the pharmaceutical business are caused by human error, so investing in automation is actually a great way to reduce the cost of recalls and fines due to labeling mistakes. In a manual process, labels usually go through several sets of eyes before being approved. It’s reassuring to know that 6, 8, or even 10 people proofread something before sending it to printing, right? Not quite.

Team collaboration on the product packaging layout, design, and content

Think of it this way: The first person may quickly look it over, knowing there are many people left in the process to catch any mistakes, then the second person will think,

“Oh, I’m sure it’s fine; The last person didn’t find anything and, if I’m wrong, there’s still a lot of people left to review it.”

When the product reaches the last person, they may not feel comfortable contradicting all the previous proofreaders and, so, if they spot a mistake, instead of flagging it they could be more inclined to think,

“Maybe it’s meant to be like that?”

Cynical? Perhaps, but that’s how simple spelling errors can go unnoticed or even ignored all the way to drugstore counters. It’s up to manufacturers to develop systems that can detect these types of errors and make sure your product is up to standard.

Simple actions, like providing clear instructions, maintaining good communications, and ensuring your employees have all the qualifications needed for the job, can definitely save you from a lot of trouble.

However, don’t let yourself fall into a false sense of security if your company uses automated technologies like medical spell checkers; Most medical dictionaries have their own challenges to overcome. In the end, it’s fair to say the main reason packaging and quality control methods seem to fail is not a matter of the type of process you implement rather than how you set it into motion.

The Medical Spell-Checker and Pharma Dictionary

Big companies with high proofreading demands can benefit from using automated spell check tools. These programs are able to catch errors so quickly that proofreading a text might end up being unnecessary; why do it yourself if a machine can do it for you?

The truth of the matter is that getting the right spelling tool for your company can be a difficult task, especially if you’re in the pharmaceutical business. In the current market, there are plenty of options for word-processor programs that include pharma and medical dictionaries, like Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, yet many of these automated tools are far from perfect. Most of them still need to overcome many challenges in order to truly save time for companies.

In a world where medical technology is always moving forward, new treatment alternatives are being developed every single day. That’s why it is so disheartening to learn that new drugs and medical terms represent a big problem for these programs. While spell-check tools will automatically correct any mistyped letters for common words, new medical words and pharma terms can easily be overlooked if they’re not incorporated into the medical dictionary of the program.

Imagine you are tasked with dealing with a brand-new drug that is just about to go to market. These types of programs will not guarantee you proper spelling because they simply won’t know the drug’s correct name. This is the reason why customized pharma dictionaries are so important when it comes to medical packaging.

The GlobalVision Spelling Inspection Tool

With over half a million technical terms, drug names, ingredients, and medical terminology included, GlobalVision’s unique spelling inspection software is proven to be the best of its kind on the market right now.

illustration showing Arabic Chinese and other languages on a global vision software

The best thing about GV’s spelling tool vs other alternatives is that it was created thinking of the medical packaging industry, integrating thousands of highly technical and commonly used terms so that you can make sure your ingredient lists, components, excipients, dosages, or any other info is 100% accurate and correctly spelled.

Its customized pharma dictionary allows you to build your own library and includes unique terms for your organization, like your brand name or newly developed products. This is an incredibly valuable feature, created to accommodate the latest pharma and medical terms and prevent misspellings related to new medical treatments. If your company provides packaging for other countries, the GlobalVision spelling inspection tool can also check the spelling of foreign language words, including:

Bulgarian
Catalan
Croatian
Czech
English
French
German
Greek
Hungarian
Latvian
Lithuanian
Polish
Portuguese
Russian
Spanish
Swedish 

If you value true flexibility, the Spelling Inspection tool is perfect for you. It allows you to perform complete spell-checks of your text in many formats, including Adobe® Illustrator®, PDFs, Microsoft® Word®, and web sites. The Spelling Inspection Report is also a unique feature included in this program. It generates a report every time you finish doing an inspection of your work, helping you track your progress and send the final product up for approval.

Conclusion

Millions of people rely on pharmaceutical companies to receive the right treatment. With all the methods and technology available today, there is no excuse for misspellings in the 21st-century medical packaging industry. Although labeling errors will most likely keep appearing in the near future, these companies must always strive for perfection by remaining up to speed with current packaging quality control services, making GlobalVision Spelling Inspection software not just one of the best, but one of the only choices they can make.


GlobalVision is the leading developer of quality control technologies for retail and pharmaceutical packaged goods.

See for yourself why Simon Lacroix, Quality Control technician at CCL Label, called GlobalVision

“One-hundred percent effective.”

→  Check out our Customer Story on CCL Label

 


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