Guest Column | January 16, 2014

Packaging And Labeling: Change Management Issues In Artwork Improvement Programs

By Stephen McIndoe BEng CEng MIET, VP Consulting, Be4ward

My previous articles have discussed the processes and capabilities required to develop a performing artwork and labeling ability in your organization.  The next series of articles will now focus on some of the considerations to make when setting up a program to make these changes happen. 

To start this series, let’s first look at some of the change management issues that can happen in an artwork improvement program. From our experience, what we see is that an artwork improvement program is a complex interrelated set of activities, requiring an integrated program to address with a strong emphasis on change management.

What Causes The Change Management Issues In Improvement Programs?

Looking at the many improvement programs we have been involved in, they are typically based on a process redesign and/or a technology implementation. These typically create a series of issues impacting process end-users, including:

  • Changes to roles and responsibilities
  • Changes to organization designs
  • New capabilities and competencies with subsequent education and training requirements
  • Different performance measures and expectations

So even if the improvement is heavily focused around technology, there is a people element that needs to be considered – it is people who will use the new processes and technology. Artwork development is a highly people-driven process and people are therefore key to the success of any artwork change activity.  Moreover, because of the cross-functional and cross-geographical aspect to labeling and artwork processes, these people issues are usually more significant than expected.

If you look at the change implications from the perspective of a local country regulatory manager, labeling and artwork changes are likely to be a relatively small part of their job.  Indeed, for some people located in small commercial sales operations, they may only execute the process once or twice a year. Work is sent to them from geographically distant teams and they perform their part of the labeling or artwork change in isolation. They may never have met other members of the ‘team’ and many members of the ‘team’ may change depending on the product or pack changing.  It is therefore essential that users of the process clearly know how to do their job, they undertake their tasks to the standards required, know where to go for help, and have the support available to ensure they are successful.  To ensure issues are identified quickly and corrective action is undertaken in a collaborative way, ongoing global end-user support processes need to be built into change management activity.

The management of the labeling and artwork process provides further change management challenge.  As the process is multi-functional and often multi-company, no single management team can have responsibility for either the full process or all of the people executing it.  It is very difficult to observe directly what is happening in the artwork process; the nearest thing the management team may have is the process KPIs and incident reports. All of this makes management of the ongoing process and any changes to it particularly challenging.  It is also clear that many decisions about the design of the capability cannot be taken by one manager alone. There needs to be the cross-functional (and sometimes cross-organization) governance in place to ensure that the overall process is acceptable to all those parties involved.

Ensure Appropriate Involvement And Buy-In At All Impacted Levels

From all of the above, it is therefore important to ensure that the design of any improvement program has the appropriate change management activities built in to deliver a successful and sustainable outcome. The design of a labeling and artwork improvement project needs to be done in a way that involves all impacted stakeholders. This will help to ensure that the people impacted by the change feel involved in the development of the new capability and understand the decisions that were taken during the design. It will also help to ensure their buy-in to it. 

Making this sort of change happen is difficult and it takes time and a reasonable amount of resource to do it well. It then takes a continuous resource level to sustain it successfully. You need to ensure that your organization understands this and puts the right level of resource behind the change activity if it is to be successful.

In my next article, we will look at the change management activities required in more detail.