Misconceptions of Packaging Quality Control

by Reuben Malz

 
For most people, the commercial printer is no different than the office photocopier. You press print to make 100 copies, and out comes 100 perfect, identical copies. The expectation is no different when printing 500,000 Aspirin labels, cookie cartons, or potato chip bags, but is this true? Are commercial printers like photocopiers?

Let’s turn our attention away from the printer and look at the question of liability.

What if the printed components are shipped to the production plant and everything is packaged, filled, and distributed to all the warehouses across the country?

 

“How did the text copy I wrote change in the printer’s proof?”

A few days later, the brand company calls the printer very upset that the barcode is missing on all the cartons!

Even if the brand company settles with the printer without paying for the printing, that represents only about 5% of the total distributed cost of the product sitting on the store shelf. The loss is huge.

The loss includes the cost of the contents, the production cost, the cost of distribution, the cost of collecting and destroying the defective product, and eventually the cost to rerun the production again.

If the QC department at the printer or the brand company or the production company would have checked the printing, everyone could have saved a lot of money, time, and environmental impact.

Now let’s get the lawyers involved so we can blame someone and recoup the losses. Whose fault is it? Who is in the wrong?

The print job that the brand company thought was as easy as printing on a photocopier has become a huge liability.

So you pay for lawyers and may save the cost of the print job, but you’re still at risk for the loss to your supply chain and customers. What if the consumer gets injured or dies because of the printing error? It won’t be the printer who is liable.

So, next time you think there is no need to QC the print job, remember who carries all the risk.

 

Here is a list of the most common print errors:

  1. The right label on the wrong package
  2. The barcode is missing/wrong
  3. The colors are wrong
  4. One of the ink colors is faded
  5. An older version is printed
  6. The position of print is off
  7. Blurry text
  8. Spelling mistakes
  9. Missing logo
  10. Smears, ink splatter, smudges
  11. Cut-off section
  12. Folded wrong

Put simply, proofreading protects the brand company against errors like these by helping to verify shipments from the printer. The above cautionary tale is an example of what can go wrong when both parties fail to do their due diligence.

It is undeniably a misconception, considering printers as being one step removed from photocopiers. Truth be told, it’s much more complicated than that, and, yet, expectations of pristine packaging on the part of the end user remain a very real thing.

Numerous touchpoints along the workflow are necessary to get the job done, but also increase the risk of conversion errors, while manual proofreading can only catch so many mistakes before fatigue and human error sets in. Digital proofreading software is one logical solution that maximizes cost-effectiveness as it pertains to quality control, resulting in a less-strained relationship between printers, brand companies, and of course their customers.


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