Artwork Management Maturity Cycle
Artwork System Sales Person: We are in the business of Artwork Management Software, etc. etc.
CPG Company Executive: What?!
That’s the first reaction from many Pharma and CPG companies (almost all of the Small and Medium businesses and many large ones too) when you talk about Artwork Management.
The need for a solution like this is hardly visible outside of the key stakeholders like packaging, regulatory, QA and marketing. IT department folks have never heard of it. So the team that manages Labeling and Artwork are left to fend for themselves, putting files on desktops, sending files for approval through email (believe it or not, sometimes through print outs) and cutting CDs to send artworks to the printer.
For the numerous small businesses this kind of operation is absolutely fine, since they have only a few products and low volumes and IT automation is the last thing on their mind. But for medium and large businesses, with growing number of SKUs, changing regulations and global expansion, it’s a no-brainer that the benefits of automation will get them faster to the market and help them be compliant. Automation gives the much needed consistency and structure that is required as a company grows.
The current state of Artwork Management in a company can be grouped into one of the following four stages
a) Manual or Email based processes
b) Basic Asset Library & Structured Workflows
c) Asset Library and Workflows integrated with other systems like SAP and PIM.
d) Global Enterprise wise Artwork Management System extended to Vendors and all 3rd party stakeholders.
Asset Library & Structured Workflows
Moving out of the manual processes and having a basic Artwork Management system which includes a central, searchable and version controlled Asset Library with structured workflows for review and approval is almost a requirement to consistently deliver quality products to the market. However, one of the biggest fears people have when looking for an Artwork Management solution is ‘Where do I begin?’.
Start with the process. Understanding the as-is process and mapping the to-be process are the first steps to a successful project implementation. From here graduate to the people who will perform the tasks, their roles, their inputs and outputs and how long will each task take to complete. While mapping out the to-be process, lookout for exceptions to the process, assumptions need to be validated and what-if scenarios handled. An efficient workflow is imperative to keeping track of your assets, it approvals and final delivery to print.
Continuous process improvement is in-built into the Quality Management System of many companies and this may require the artwork processes to be optimized as the business grows. Having an artwork system that can keep up with the changes with minimum effort is a business requirement. Starting with the core processes, the organization can eventually automate the entire artwork life-cycle.
Integration with other Systems
With processes now in place, its time to increase the efficiency at each step in the workflow. Users can do their job better and faster by using collaboration, annotation and proofing tools. Checklist based workflow approvals help in on-boarding new people into the system while online annotation tools help in accurately giving feedback to others on the artwork. With proofing tools checking everything from colors, fonts, images, dimensions, barcodes, braille and text, work gets done faster with less errors.
Data management is key to getting a ‘single source of the truth’. Product information is stored typically in an ERP, PLM or PIM system and can be reused by integrating with it. An Artwork system with ERP connectors and ability to integrate Product and BOM data is required. Change requests for an artwork can be raised in a Quality Management System, pass through to the Artwork Management System which pulls information like Item Code and BOM details from SAP and finally pushes the artwork after approval into an eCommerce Portal for online publishing. When the Artwork management system is integrated with these related systems in a seamless flow of data and files, it will result in faster time to market and compliance to regulations.
Integrating with design tools like Adobe Illustrator and Structural design tools for creating Dielines allows easy file management and version control.
Global Integration with 3rd Party vendors
With internal systems in place and interconnected, it is time to bring on board external vendors, 3rd party contractors, design agencies, translation agencies, print management agencies and anyone else connected with the artwork process. Bringing everyone on to the same platform increases visibility, reduces rework and puts in place a system which can truly scale as the organization expands globally. Control points can now be set where for example an invoice to a print vendor is released in the ERP only when the artwork is approved and the vendor is guaranteed to download the correct file to print. Expansion to new countries and markets gets easier and outcomes are more predictable across the entire enterprise. This requires a truly enterprise scale Artwork Management System built on a solid foundation of a BPM (Business Process Management) Engine, a robust Content Management framework and architectures to scale up and scale out with the needs of the organization.