Beyond Excel: How Automated Image Management Systems Can Improve Pharmaceutical Packaging Efficiency


Troy Walker, Smartflow Account Manager at Loftware, examines how digital artwork management systems can help streamline processes for pharmaceutical packaging suppliers.

For a global pharmaceutical manufacturer, packaging is essential. After all, without it the drugs don’t budge. In the tightly regulated market for prescription and over-the-counter drugs, accuracy and the ability to handle the ever-increasing amount of content that must fit on a label is paramount. Pharmaceutical manufacturers must comply with the growing number of global and regional regulations, which add levels of complexity to the labeling management process. Labeling errors can lead to costly recalls and significant fines, as well as damage to the company’s brand and reputation.

For all these reasons, in addition to the need to meet the different deadlines of the supply chain and to take into account the requirements of the brand and the translation, the development of new packaging illustrations for a new drug or a new treatment can be a complex process.

The problem with spreadsheets

This challenge is further exacerbated by the fact that many pharmaceutical manufacturers still use spreadsheets (especially Excel) today to manage their packaging and illustration processes. Heavy use of obsolete technology like this often results in manual and time-consuming processes prone to errors and inconsistencies, which typically hamper companies when creating product labels and packaging designs. Spreadsheets are relatively easy to access and most workers have a basic understanding of how to use them, but that’s where their benefits end.

Basically, artwork management is all about managing workflows, enabling collaboration, and ensuring good content management, but you can’t store images in a spreadsheet. At most, you can put a note as to where they are to be found in a directory. It works until someone moves a piece of art without updating the directory, or vice versa. This coincidence is more likely than not, as 88% of corporate spreadsheets contain errata.

Second, there is no good way to store annotations or conversations. To be fair, a collaborative solution like Google Sheets allows different users to enter comments on various action items, but no one wants to read a comment, no matter how constructive, if it is overwritten in a small cell on a sheet. Calculation. Not to mention that it is very difficult to find a particular comment in the middle of a large spreadsheet with several lines and dozens of pages.

Last but not least, there is no good way to implement version control on a spreadsheet. There is a lack of structure and responsibility. In fact, there are only two ways: email each team member a new version of the spreadsheet every time you make a change, or make collaborative changes in a spreadsheet. cloud computing. Both ways are bad. You can make changes in the cloud, but it’s hard to see who made those changes, what changes were made, or when they were made. If the changes are wrong, then it is difficult to undo them. Email is a complete non-starter – people will lose the thread, lose files, and work on incomplete or incorrectly versioned documents without realizing they are out of date.

This kind of deadlock is not only an obstacle to efficiency. On the contrary, it creates the very real danger that a product will be put on the market with the wrong version of the work of art or potentially with an error. At best, the error is something small – an incorrect color or design component, say. In the worst case scenario, the error is something very serious, such as a dosage error on a box of medicine or the lack of an allergen list on a food product.

In this case, the worst-case scenario occurs relatively often. According to a report from Kaiser Health News, approximately 8,000 drug brands were recalled from January 2013 to October 2018. In addition, evidence indicates that approximately 50% of all drug recalls are believed to be based on errors in product labeling and illustrations.

Recalls usually come with a plethora of costs as well – there’s the cost of sending recall notifications, the cost of destroying or repackaging a recalled product, brand damage, and even fines and lawsuits.

Find a solution

To meet and mitigate these challenges and effectively manage product artwork, organizations need an automated artwork approval process, supported by an automated and configurable artwork management system, which can be integrated into the lifecycle of their products and managed across their global business.

The features that this approach can offer are far more efficient than spreadsheets and can help streamline the artwork management process and enable compliance through full version control and audit and traceability reports. For example, a fully automated artwork management system will track all workflows to keep a permanent record of all approval points, statuses, dates, and users. Role-based access provides additional security and electronic signatures provide traceability that shows who made a change and when.

Organizations can create workflows that require project managers to incorporate the necessary packaging requirements from the start. Once these prerequisites have been defined, the first phase of packaging illustration can begin and will automatically trigger each progressive step.

Organizations can implement advanced content management to streamline the review and approval of artwork and packaging in highly regulated industries.

Extending collaboration to partners, vendors and suppliers makes everyone’s job easier. When everyone has real-time visibility into product packaging, you see where your packaging is in the product lifecycle, and who or what is blocking it.

The ability to manage localized content enables companies engaged in the management of works of art to create, manage, track and use multiple sentences to describe the same product in different countries of the world. Datasheets can be used to replace Excel to more effectively manage project content; help in collaboration; and monitor the progress of artwork deployment.

Once the packaging artwork has been approved by all stakeholders, it can then be automatically saved to a digital asset library allowing everyone to access the latest print-ready file and document. Hosting all of your artwork files, artwork versions, videos, cutouts, finished artwork, branding materials, images, and packaging on the same platform you use to approve content makes life easier for everyone.

Managing the control of content used in packaging artwork is critical to meeting deadlines, ensuring compliance, and enforcing brand consistency. An automated and configurable artwork management solution allows users to exercise this level of control over their processes and projects. With the most efficient art management systems, organizations can create dashboards from which they can control, filter, and slice everything that happens in their packaging processes. The end benefit here is improved visibility and insight which provides the ability to resolve bottlenecks and create new efficiencies.

Forget Spreadsheets – Why a Digital Art Management Solution May be the Answer

Managing packaging artwork is never easy, but you don’t need to get overwhelmed with manual processes. With today’s growing pressure to bring products to market by transforming compliant packaging artwork more efficiently, the manual, spreadsheet-based approaches of the past are no longer viable. Forward thinking companies are turning to digital and automated solutions to manage and control the compliance process. With a digital artwork management solution, you can eliminate spreadsheets and manual processes to streamline your packaging lifecycle to get to market faster and gain an edge over your competition.

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