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
The 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
So 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
Automation 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.