'Packaging is not easy to produce at the drop of a hat, particularly artwork. That’s why the food industry has been looking at the automated production of artwork; to create print-ready, amendable files interactively.
But, you may ask, these are only achievable with a third party agency or your own team of experienced artworkers? Well, no actually.
Align your business processes
These standalone automation processes – sought after by manufacturers, brand owners and retailers – are now becoming a reality.
Software has developed at a significant rate over the last few years. Vendors now have tools that enable your valuable pre-approved copy to flow directly onto artwork files – making the whole process easier, faster and cheaper.
So, why isn’t everyone doing it? Mainly because the answer isn’t as simple as updating your software. You need to align your business processes and people’s roles and responsibilities with the software capabilities that are being introduced.
More importantly, you need to be able to realise the very real commercial and productive benefits on offer. This is a game changer, and to reap the rewards there will have to be radical changes to your current processes.
When was the last time you examined your new product development process with a fresh pair of eyes and challenged what may have been the status quo for many years? It’s no longer about starting from the copy, cutter, and design file – it needs to start much earlier than that.
The end consumer
Consider automation right at the beginning of the process, in the design phase. Is that degree of variation between the design layouts for products in the same range essential? Could those logos all appear in the same location on pack? Do those different designs add value in the eyes of the end consumer?
Of course, these questions bring up the age old debate of design creativity vs. standardisation. But whilst automation may not work for everyone, you can still achieve a happy balance.
Next, look at how you manage and maintain your copy. Is it always accurate and legally approved when it goes into the artwork process? Or does it only get finalised on the 15th round of artwork approval, two weeks after the files should have been at the printers? When do you make the ranging decisions regarding which regions or countries your products are going to be sold in and how do you handle the copy translation that those other regions require?
Pressing the button at the end of the process is the easy bit. The hard bit is getting your business processes to deliver the information you need at the time it is needed. How do you bring all the stakeholders involved in these processes together in one place so that everyone can see what’s going on?
This is why businesses are looking for software tools that bring those stakeholders together around one environment efficiently, saving time and money. The human aspect is still an important part of the process, which is why brand owners and private label retailers should be supported by a team of experts who understand the many complexities of the automation journey.
Done right, automated artwork saves time, money and hassle. That should be reason enough to make sure you have the right system.'
Darren Heathcote is business unit director, SBT, Sun Branding Solutions.