Three areas holding you back from packaging and labelling process optimization

Mike Baird of Esko shares how to critically review and improve your current packaging processes

For packaging and labelling professionals it is a daily challenge to become both efficient and compliant. They face complex projects, often with inflexible manual processes and limited visibility. They have to communicate with disconnected departments and struggle to effectively manage artwork and information access. This creates a number of inefficiencies, can increase costs, and raises the risk for compliance incidents.

In a recent webinar, Mike Baird, Global Head of Business Development for Healthcare and Life Sciences at Esko, analyzed these issues commenting that “the impact of these challenges can be severe. The worst case scenario is obviously patient safety issues, but we also have product recalls to consider”.

He believes that one of the most important steps packaging and labelling professionals can take to address this is to critically review and optimize their packaging artwork and labelling process.

Only 9.5% of professionals believe their packaging and labelling processes are sufficiently optimized

When asked ‘Do you think your packaging and labelling processes need to be optimized?’, 66.7 per cent of the webinar audience said ‘Yes’, 23.8 per cent were on the fence, and only 9.5 per cent were confident that their processes were sufficiently optimized for the task.

Speaking to these results, Mike said that it is “ not a huge surprise”. In his experience, “there are a lot of businesses out there who need help in refining, reviewing and improving their internal processes.”

Deep Dive: To hear the four best practices to improve your end to end packaging and labelling process, watch the full webinar with Mike Baird


The three areas holding back optimized packaging processes

Before they can optimize their packaging process, organizations must be aware of three internal obstacles which create significant inefficiencies.

These are: silos across the organization; a lack of integrated information management systems; and inflexible technology and application infrastructure.

As Mike points out, “silos in the organization… [are] the number one source of frustration, miscommunication and errors.” Too often, departments are disconnected and therefore delays are caused by a lack of consistent and reliable communication. People may be unaware of the stage at which a project has reached, which stakeholders need to be involved and which deadlines must be met.

Information and decision silos are the number one source of frustration and delays

Mike also commented that “not only are there decision silos between departments, there are information silos as well.” Many companies are not operating integrated information management systems, which can lead to errors from mismanaged data and different versions of information being circulated and used. This can, in turn, lead to compliance issues and product recalls. Patient safety can also be impacted if the wrong information is used on a product.

Inflexible application infrastructures and technology also compounds this problem by adding complexity to the task, increasing the risk of human error and causing further disconnect.


Moving from your current map to the ideal process

To address this issue, Mike’s first recommendation is to “perform a value stream mapping exercise to identify the processes that need to be reviewed.”

A crucial element of this is to be realistic and understand exactly what is currently happening in your processes. Many companies face the challenge of limited time and resource to objectively review their processes from end to end, but to make significant optimizing progress you must understand how the full system is being run.

Often, companies continue to operate in the way things have always been done or don’t look to change a process as they have not faced a direct problem. However, Mike points out that “over the past 10 years of performing these services, you find out that there are issues throughout the process that people are unaware of.” These unknown issues may be having a substantial impact on your bottom line by increasing risk, recalls and errors throughout the process.

Understand the gap between your current process and your ideal process to find areas to improve

To understand how best to optimize your processes, you should review your current process map against your ‘future state map’. This ‘future state’ is the ideal process you want to be following as an organization. You then need to design a plan to close this gap and look to bring your process as close to this ‘future state’ as possible.

Understandably, you will not be able to run a process perfectly every time, but critically analyzing your current process should have highlighted areas of inefficiency to address, showing you where you can improve operations or break down decision silos.

Mike holds a simple rule of thumb when reviewing processes: ‘If it’s adding value, leave it in, but if it’s not, take it out’.

As he concludes, the process optimization stage “is crucial before any other actions [of improvement] are taken.” To succeed, you must get to the bottom of this fundamental part of the process.


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