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FLEXO Magazine : October 2009
www.flexography.org OCTOBER 2009 FLEXO 15 impacts the bottom-line---by reducing a product's competitive advantage and keeping it out of the hands of revenue- generating customers. Unfortunately, the winds of market- place trend have been blowing squarely in the face of efficiency. Heightened compliance review requirements, for example, and increasingly broad geographic distribution missions have combined to add time and cost to prod- uct development and roll-out schedules. And often, when companies make efforts to streamline production cycles--- by leaning workflows and reducing investment in support infrastructure, for example---they tend to end up hinder- ing their ultimate progress by reducing their ability to simultaneously manage multiple complex output processes. In the case of new product launches, some companies put off automation [hoping to save time associated with platform implementation] in order to get the products to market sooner, said a consultant and 40-year packaging indus- try veteran. But that often comes with a high cost in terms of efficiency and time spent on the actual production. Difficulty in maintaining the quality and consistency of outputs across multiple geographies, languages and media. To a creative professional, getting a precise mix of elements to co- exist within a given piece of work is dif- ficult enough. Pulling off the same task when the product, package or collateral must be adapted for dozens of dispa- rate markets (each demanding their own language and image customiza- tion) is a downright daunting challenge. And even though the costs of doing this right are significant, the costs of getting it wrong can be even higher---ranging from the embarrassing (misaligning the colors within a logo, for example) to the dangerous (misrepresenting the role or recommended usage of a given pharmaceutical drug, requiring a costly product recall). Digital asset management and new graphic design platforms, survey re- spondents said, have made the process smoother. But so long as production workflows remain so cumbersome--- while materials must make their long voyage from strategic conception to graphic designer, through marketing, le- gal, package engineering and a host of other stops along the way---the broader process will forever be exposed to the risk of failure. Quality, content, timing and cost are all imperiled, respondents said, by each human interaction. Compliance is a big issue, and with a manual system we were releasing artwork with errors, said one current CWM system user, a brand manager at a large health and beauty products company. Our processes simply weren't robust enough to find and fix them before they went out. The cost of rework or recalls can also be incredibly costly---often more so in terms of en- dangered brand equity and consumer trust than actual cash flow. Increas- ing demand for sophisticated, multi- channel product launches have only compounded the problem, demanding that output meet existing quality and timing requirements all while adapting to a host of different potential media. The process of managing it all, some respondents said, is never easy. To a CMO, the whole [product launch] process is just organized chaos, said a senior executive of a large packaging and design services provider. It's getting really problem- atic, requiring a significant increase in sophistication to manage it all. Increasingly high regulatory and brand compliance hurdles, adding time, cost and risk to product roll-outs. In a marketplace that has been shaken over the last three years by economic upheaval, it's safe to say that no vertical segment is safe from the scrutiny of legislative or industry regulators. From financial services to travel to e-commerce, the movement to protect consumer interests has even risen to the top of the political agenda. Such oversight is old hat for many product manufacturers---including food and beverage, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical makers---who have long had to contend with the dual hurdles of regulatory and brand compli- ance. But while attention was once focused on ensuring the integrity of a given product, that scrutiny has increas- ingly migrated to the content, format and presentation of the supporting packaging and marketing materials. To product managers, that has only served to inflate budgets, timelines---and frustration. Historically, respondents said, product-oriented industries have not adequately budgeted for the revision processes that are inevitable to accom- pany any major product launch or mar- keting campaign. Nor have they, said
Sustainable Fall 2009