Mastering Print Inspection for your business
Creating error-free packaging is a daunting task. With so many parties involved from brands, marketing agencies, pre-press, and print suppliers, ensuring no errors go by can be challenging. We’ve compiled a list of industry best practices that you can use as a checklist to avoid errors getting through your printing process.
There are many different components involved when creating packaging, from the copy to the graphics, barcodes, and Braille. To help ensure that you create error-free packaging and reduce the risk of dealing with a product recall, it’s always helpful to implement some best practices to follow.
Create a check to make sure that you always have the most up to date PDF
Most times when approving packaging, the PDF can go through many revisions before getting approved. Files can also be stored across different network shares or even on someone’s local computer. It’s key to always ensure you know where to find the most up to date PDF. By doing so, you will avoid sending the wrong PDF to print!
Check barcodes early
It’s common for graphic artists to put placeholders for barcodes to show where the final barcodes will be positioned on the final packaging. You may notice the FPO symbol on top of a barcode which stands for “For Position Only.” We've seen this get missed when the print runs, meaning the correct barcode won’t appear. It’s recommended to check barcodes on your proofs, which can be done with software for checking barcodes or printing out the proofs and using a hand held verifier.
Proofreading the printer’s proof prior to approval
It’s easy enough to give a quick glance over and tell your printer to go ahead with the job, but you really have to spend enough time to make sure there are no mistakes. Make sure that either you or the customer service representative does a proofread to check for things like spelling, color, barcodes and other content on the proof. One way to do this type of check is to do a line by line visual compare.
Standardize on design tools
Do you know what versions of Adobe Illustrator your suppliers are using? Chances are they are all using different versions. A different version of software equals different functionality and feature sets. Ensuring everyone is on the same version means everyone is talking the same language and you have repeatable results. You also know there won't be any unintended changes due to the software you're using.
Checking for the right products in a job
Often to save costs, a printer may mix different products in a print job. Mixing products has the benefits of allowing better use of inks and reduce wasted material. However, it can also cause a risk of printing the wrong products. If you are printing these “gang runs” make sure each product is accounted for on the press sheet to ensure you aren’t missing or adding any additional products to the print run.
Continuous quality and improvement
Continuous testing in software is the new approach when developing products. Most software products today will have some level of automated testing completed to check against expected results. This helps to continuously test code and ensure quality throughout the development process. There’s no reason why this methodology can’t be applied to packaging development. Using tools to perform routine tasks like preflight and PDF compare can enable you to automate on a continuous basis to catch errors early on before you release.
By implementing these best practices, you will see an immediate reduction in errors and overall improvement in quality. Delivering error-free prints will also increase your client’s confidence in your process, and your own!