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Continuous Improvement: What it Means for Leading Brands Today

Posted By: SGK February 12, 2019

This blog post has been contributed by Lian Stevenson, engagement manager, solution development, SGK.

Have you ever wondered what the spinning spirals are for on a jet engine? If you thought it was to keep the birds away, then you’d be right, but it also has another purpose which you might find surprising from this piece of mechanical engineering. The spirals are used a signal to the many ground staff working around a plane. The rule is, if you can’t see the spirals, the engine is still on and too powerful.

Once you can see them, it’s safe to walk behind. As a regular flyer I probably knew about the birds and not so much about the latter, but this is an example of a Lean methodology, a tool to prevent an error and injury.

When we talk about ‘Lean’ or ‘Lean 6 Sigma’ most people think it doesn’t apply to their business as it’s all about the automotive industry. And that is true, the very best manufacturing and automotive companies are very lean and efficient in how they work. They have to be because the cost of not being efficient can be very high. Imagine what would happen if a car came off the production line missing a vital bolt or part?

So what is Lean 6 Sigma? It is a combination of Lean methodologies that looks at reducing waste from a process (anything that slows it down), and 6 Sigma tools that seek to improve performance by reducing variation and defects through the measurement of data.

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” - H. James Harrington, Author & Management Mentor

When you think about your graphic supply process, have you really stopped to think about how efficient is it?

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? 

  • It takes so long to get the inputs collated
  • There are lots of people who need to be involved
  • We have to wait...
  • There is always a bottleneck at the same point
  • We are under resourced
  • We need to be quicker than our competitors

If the answer is yes, then there is opportunity to make improvements. But you shouldn’t be overwhelmed at the scale of the project. There will be some simple quick wins that that you can implement and there will be others that require more strategic thought, sponsorship & investment. For example, you can create of a simple briefing template to bring consistency at no cost with minimal effort or you may need to implement of a new technology system which would require considerable investment.

So where to begin?

Define your goals.

You firstly need to define what you want to achieve. Try to be as specific as you can so you can measure success against it. For example, do you want to improve your RFT rate or reduce your cycle time rate.

READ: The Time for Transformation Is Now: Make It Happen 

Identify where you stand.

Then, identify where you currently stand against your objectives. Hopefully, you will have access to that data but if not, you will need to spend some time collecting it to get an accurate picture.

For the most part you will know where those areas are that need addressing but knowing the data will support and validate the fact if it comes to needing a business case that requires investment.

Prioritize your target.

Once you’ve identified where you are, you can look at prioritizing the areas that need to be addressed first and if the target you’ve set is realistic and achievable. Your process needs to be capable of meeting or exceeding those targets so be careful not to be too ambitious, you can always increase your targets over time.

Like the jet plane spiral, what can be put in place as part of your process that acts as a rule to stop waste, redundant steps or ensure a desired action occurs?

For many of our clients the biggest challenges are around inputs; no source of truth, multiple stakeholders and multiple ways of working. There is also the mentality of ‘it’ll just get checked at artwork’ showing a lack of accountability and only moves the problem downstream.

WATCH: In Today’s Content Environment: “Hidden Factories” Undermine Success 

Get your inputs right and this will often drive everything else; reduced reworks, reduced queries, increased RFT, reduced or removal of waiting time and ultimately a reduced cycle or lead time. This is why we work with our clients to look at the complete end to end process as there are often dependencies between each step.

If you’re in an agency environment, how could you help deliver better outputs and results internally using the same thought process?

Lean 6 Sigma has to be collaborative, everyone working to a common goal otherwise success will not be realised. When making changes that affect people and how they do their jobs, your change management strategy has to be strong. Ensure you communicate early and often and get them on board.

It was Henry Ford who once said:

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Don’t forget, Lean 6 Sigma is not about perfection but about continuous improvement. Practicing the philosophy of continuous improvement is about getting a little bit better every day.

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Knowledge is Power: Why It Pays to Know Your Agencies’ Core Capabilities

Posted By: SGK June 09, 2016

When your organization decides it needs to improve its agency selection process, there are a few key questions to keep in mind throughout evaluation. If you’ve already done the work of creating classifications that link design assignments with the highest level of strategic thinking and have determined the level of strategy needed, next, our Continuous Improvement Practice recommends identifying and understanding your agencies’ core capabilities.

This goes beyond just working with your account manager -- you should also know, or at least meet, the creative team. To help pick your perfect creative collaboration partner, here are a few crucial agency history questions you should ask:

  1. How has the agency grown or expanded their capabilities over the years? For example, did they start as an industrial design agency and are now expanding into graphic design?
  2. What are their roots – how does the agency promote itself?
  3. Are they experienced in your industry?
  4. Do they focus more on short-term goals, or are they working toward an on-going relationship?

This investigation helps reveal their core expertise.

But beyond agency history, know the creative team who will be working on your account including their background and other accounts they support – does the creative team have a positive reputation with these other account? Evaluate the agencies’ body of work, understanding key contributions they make to the creative assignment. For instance, did they simply take the advertising concept and adapt it to the package or FSI execution, or did they generate the strategy and creative idea?

It’s also important to evaluate the stack up in terms of agency spend and production requirements – are you the biggest or smallest client? By knowing this, you can ensure the agency of your choosing has the bandwidth and technical ability to meet your requirements on time, and most importantly, you will love the output.

After you feel confident and informed about the agency’s history and core competencies, build and create your organization’s agency roster, and be sure to make it clear to the organization who should be engaged for different creative assignments.

For more tips on how to match the right agency with the right creative job, download our latest whitepaper: The Right Fit: 5 Tips to Help You Match the Right Agency with the Right Creative Job 

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How to Bring Process and Visibility to Agency Selection

Posted By: SGK April 18, 2016

Organizations of any size can find themselves challenged to improve their agency selection process. In many cases, this process is either outdated or missing entirely. But when organizations take the time to do it right, improving the agency selection process can yield great returns. 

One tactic, recommended by our Continuous Improvement Practice, is to classify creative by levels of strategic thinking that are required. Create classifications that link design assignments with the level of strategic thinking. For instance, many organizations use a grading scale (A, B, or C) for the level of design work. The highest grade requires the highest level of strategic thinking.

An example would be new-to-the-world product innovations. Typically there is a high level of organizational investment and financial investment in this type of project. Classifying this assignment as an “A” project ensures that the organization is investing the right amount of dollars to guarantee consumers understand the product’s benefits, as well as how the design fits into the overall brand architecture.

For the most part, it’s easy to discern the most strategic “A” projects. Where this matrix comes in handy is when you begin to designate your design assignments as B or C projects. Pushing design work down the matrix can also help save money on design adaptations or line extensions. Using this kind of framework for creative assignments has demonstrated up to 37% savings within marketing budgets from improved grading of design initiatives.

As you can see, common pitfalls can be avoided by adding strategy, structure and rigor to the agency selection process. To correct the course, our Continuous Improvement Practice has outlined the most effective ways to bring process and visibility to agency selection.

Download the whitepaper: 6 Ways to Get Your Branded Materials to Market Faster 

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How To Remove Communication Roadblocks That Are Hurting Your Speed To Market

Posted By: SGK August 03, 2015

Communication is the key to any successful relationship, including the valuable partnership between agencies and their clients. But good communication can be challenging: agency and production partners are often frustrated by excessive communication pass-throughs by clients and the red tape that barricades information required to create branded materials. 

So how can you eliminate those communication roadblocks? 

Trusting your partners and enabling them to communicate deeper into your organization provides them with a roadmap for information. Empower them to initiate approval routes inside your online approval tool. This ignites the added bonus of helping your team push down tactical tasks, freeing them to do the work that they love and that you are paying them strategic dollars to execute. 

Your marketing team should be tending to bigger branding pieces and media, like innovation or digital initiatives, than managing routing and approvals. It’s simply better resource utilization. If you have serious reservations about this, spend a few minutes evaluating your concerns to understand if they are related to control, partner ability or something else. The idea is to remove obstacles and simplify for speed. 

To that end, the solution could be as simple as assigning multiple points of contact based on areas within your organization. One consumer promotions agency was required by a CPG to leverage a single point of contact within the CPG’s brand design group to field all questions and requests. While this strategy was intended to ensure brand consistency across marketing media, it was inadvertently tripling the number of queues within the workflow for tactical requests. Eventually, the agency received key contacts across the CPG organization for tactical requests such as die lines, bar codes, legal copy and offer codes. 

This simple empowerment eliminated two workflow queues as well as the redundant communications management performed by the brand design manager and agency project manager. It can also eliminate inaccuracies and reduce internal frustrations, because a single point of contact can’t answer all of the questions that an agency will propose. For example, an agency may have a technical question about die lines that their contact can’t answer. A game of telephone then ensues, with the contact reaching out to the PM and then the technical lead, and more often than not the question that gets asked is no longer the right one. Instead of playing this game of back and forth, empower the agency to reach out directly to the technical lead. Questions will be answered faster and more accurately. 

Successful implementation of strategies such as removing communication roadblocks, validating your inputs, and streamlining your routing and approval process will help your organization cut non-value added time and energy from your branded material supply chains and streamline your processes. 

This supply chain optimization and increased productivity can drive your brand’s performance by delivering it to market more quickly, more efficiently and more cost effectively. 

To learn more about how to improve speed to market, download 6 Ways To Get Your Branded Materials To Market Faster.

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The Yellow Brick Road to Continuous Improvement: "Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!"

Posted By: SGK July 09, 2015

This blog post was contributed by John Lawrence, Business Development Director, Europe, at SGK and member of SGK’s Continuous Improvement Practice.

Many will remember the rhythmical chanting of Dorothy Gale (played by Judy Garland) and her unusual counterparts in the in 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz. For those of you fortunate enough to have experienced the film, whether as a child or through your own children, Dorothy is swept away to the magical land of Oz by a tornado and embarks on a journey to find the Wizard who can help get her home.

This classic film has featured prominently in my household over the last few months as my 4-year-old stares in wonder at the challenges and barriers placed in Dorothy’s way as she follows the “yellow brick road.” It got me thinking about process and the supply chain within the graphics industry. Dorothy asks a fair question that applies to our industry, “Is there a place where there isn't any trouble? Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?”

In the graphics industry, we all strive to find this place over the rainbow and similarly we also fear the lions, tigers and bears on the journey. Of course, the goal is to reduce our chances of meeting such characters and obstacles, but the real question is what we can learn from the ones we do come across. In Dorothy’s case her encounter with the Cowardly Lion leads not only to friendship and an alliance to achieve her ultimate goal of going home, but also to an understanding that he too has an objective to fulfill.

The yellow brick road is a metaphor for a prescribed journey or process to a destination. Brick-by-brick Dorothy gets closer to her destination with the help of her friends. She follows a prescribed and well-travelled route with no intention of ever leaving it. But on the other hand, she doesn’t look close enough at the solution, which she and her friends already possess. Glinda (the Good Witch of the North) had already revealed that the Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers were magical – just not revealing their specific power. 

Continuous Improvement is about listening, learning and implementing new ways of working to improve brand performance. Ultimately it is about reflecting on a process that delivers incremental and transformational change. In The Wizard of Oz, a transformational change is achieved by two characters: the Wizard himself – not because he had any magical powers – but simply because he was able to identify how Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man could take greater ownership of their challenges. The second transformational character was Glinda who had the solution all along, it was just that no one had asked her or, more importantly, no one had listened.

In the world of graphics supply chains it is often a belief that it is someone else’s responsibility to solve a perceived challenge or prevent it from occurring. But in reality all stakeholders within a supply chain should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance. 

As consultants we examine more strategic elements that include deciding how to increase the value of the delivery process output to the customer and how much flexibility is valuable in the process to meet changing needs. Our goal however can only be achieved through these stakeholders appreciating their critical role and ownership of the solution.

Granted that the film itself would have been very short if the characters had identified “value add” vs. “non-value add activity” too early on in the story, but they would have achieved their objectives far quicker and more effectively.

In the real world we must also determine the best avenues of support by stakeholders in the supply chain, technology, resource and agency partners. We understand that by developing the most efficient workflow a business will benefit from:

•    Increased customer loyalty and market share
•    Achieve growth in sales and earnings
•    Sustain competitive advantages
•    Improve stakeholder value
•    Reduce risk

In short, evaluation and implementation of better ways of working drives quality, delivery and a key element in the current environment: cost. 

SGK’s Continuous Improvement practice recently worked with a global FMCG organisation that was faced with the common challenges of an outdated graphics design workflow, as well as global markets challenged by a lack of resources. They sought improvements to cost, service and agility of design execution across the graphics supply chain. This business recognised the need for change and has since evolved its model – by listening to employees – and implementing new ways of working that have delivered multi-million pound (£) savings, reduced risk of product recall, quality consistency in operations across large and small markets, increased delivery capacity, and importantly, wide ranging acknowledgment of the improvement and efficiencies in the working lives of key brand owner stakeholders. This organisation’s graphics “yellow brick road” was a far more pleasant journey through the collaborative approach to improvement and a sustainable approach to implementation.

Why evolving through Continuous Improvement is a must:
Inefficiency is common as organisations grow over time. As companies change additional layers of stakeholders can lead to decentralised and ambiguous accountability of process. What should be a relatively straightforward, streamlined workflow becomes bogged down in a complex and time-consuming web of competing agendas, obsolete policies, and siloed communications. 

Just as in The Wizard of Oz, self-inflicted barriers within brand environments can make for a long road to your destination. However there are tools and practices that will improve the quality of your branded assets, allow you to go to market faster, at a lower cost and with more efficient use of resources that will help cut out non-value-added time and energy from your branded material supply chains

At SGK, we don’t claim to wear ruby slippers, but we do recognise from experience that stakeholders within your business do. Given the opportunity to tap them together, change can happen and the results truly can be magical.

Learn more about how to achieve better marketing supply chain performance from SGK’s Continuous Improvement Practice.

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Drive Brand Performance With An All-Digital Workflow

Posted By: SGK May 26, 2015

To become more nimble, marketing organizations need to think “lean” and remove non-value-add tasks from their branded material supply chains. Although this is much easier said than done, being “lean” can and should be applied to every area and every process in your organization. This means leveraging automation and technology advances over manual, resource draining tasks: going digital.

Take for instance, the everyday hassle of having to request and traffic files using CDs and printouts. This is the absolute opposite of a lean process, especially for large, global companies. Those files need to be shipped, stored and managed, and they can’t be indexed for searching on your computer. Issues also arise when different departments or approvers are trying to access the “latest” version of a file. Where does it live – is it stored in multiple places? How do you know that the asset you’re looking at is the most updated version? Who owns the “original” version? These questions all have consequences including wasted time, rework, inconsistent updates, routing and approval churn cycles, and lost or corrupt files. 

This is where an all-digital workflow comes in. Eliminating manual tasks and utilizing an all-digital workflow can empower your organization and drive speed, efficiency, and accuracy throughout the enterprise. And this velocity can help you achieve the competitive difference that you’re seeking. 

Recently, a health and beauty client we worked with had been requesting hard disks and three sets of printouts for all of their final artwork files. These assets were then stored and scattered across expensive office space in midtown Manhattan. After working through the perceived needs of the organization, we suggested a workflow and file management strategy to completely eliminate all of the disks and printouts. 

The results? The client was able to save thousands of dollars in shipping and courier fees, cleared up valuable office space and mitigated the need to organize and store thousands of files annually. 

Another client operates regional department stores across the US, and runs a photo studio to shoot their sample merchandise for print and online imagery. The photo studio had become very conditioned to a manual workflow, which included checking off image shots on a piece of paper and circulating that one sheet of paper among photographers, stylists, and admins. These manual efforts resulted in wasteful time and a huge risk for human error. Understanding that there was a better option, we helped the client utilize and optimize software that could make this workflow digital, helping them save 31.25 weeks/year of wasteful work. It also vastly improved visibility within the entire workflow, since the merchandise teams could now log in and find the image and sample location, knowledge previously restricted to the studio teams.

So how do you know if your organization could benefit from an all-digital workflow? See if any of these tasks sounds familiar:

•    Printing artwork and supporting documents
•    Requesting files on disk
•    Requesting printouts of artwork
•    Manually routing printed artwork to stakeholders for approval
•    Storing hard copies in multiple locations

If you nodded in assent to any of the above, then it’s likely time to investigate, invest and implement a digital workflow to help you remove non-value-added time and energy from your branded material supply chains. Learn more about how to streamline your processes – Download 6 Ways to Get Your Branded Materials to Market Faster, by SGK’s Continuous Improvement Practice.

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4 Practical Ways To Focus Time & Resources On What Matters Most

Posted By: SGK April 17, 2015

We can all agree that when done right, speed-to-market drives increased sales, enables organizations to respond to quick-turn opportunities and frees up resources to work on growth objectives. But in reality, getting your packaging, promotional, digital and other branded materials to market quickly can seem overwhelming. 

We’ve discussed how practices like validating your inputs, streamlining routing and approval processes and eliminating redundancies can each contribute to achieving speed to market and driving your brand’s performance. Another tactic recommended by our Continuous Improvement consulting team is to re-focus your time and resources on critical consumer touchpoints. Here are four ways to get started:  

1.    Evaluate your mix of marketing materials and identify all of your existing consumer touchpoints. A touchpoint represents each moment a potential customer comes into contact with your brand; this includes before, during, or after a customer purchase. Touchpoints can vary quite a bit depending on your business, but may include: catalogs, social media, coupons, marketing emails, in-store promos, tv/radio spots, website, loyalty/rewards program, etc. Make sure to also identify the organizational unit that owns and manages each touchpoint.

2.    Analyze and prioritize these touchpoints according to growth, value proposition and any available consumer feedback. Then carefully evaluate all workflows that support the less critical touchpoints. Media that are not delivering should require little to no attention from marketing leadership in a $1B+ organization. Relentlessly pursuing this philosophy will free up staff to execute more efficiently on high-value activities. 

3.    Appropriately (re)allocate your resources. A major CPG client recently evaluated their customer touchpoints and discovered they were spending too much effort and time on FSIs, a low level and less critical touchpoint. The CPG removed all tasks related to design initiation, review, and approval processes for FSIs for their Marketing team. Across all divisions, this freed up a collective day and a half of weekly status, review and kickoff meetings for resources to focus on business-driving efforts.

4.    Measure the effectiveness of your touchpoints and marketing materials. Is the touchpoint meeting internal expectations? Is it meeting, exceeding, or failing customer and competitor expectations? To collect this data, use a set of tools that are expressly designed for gathering real-time, front-line business intelligence, including voice of the customer information. Consider customer feedback and exit surveys, social media monitoring, focus groups, and advertisement tracking for starters.

Measurement will set parameters for understanding and improving the customer experience. It is also the foundation for any successful continuous improvement initiative. Learn more about how to focus on what matters most and drive brand performance. Download 6 Ways To Get Your Branded Materials To Market Faster.

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On a path toward improved speed to market? Here’s how to overcome organizational roadblocks

Posted By: SGK February 10, 2015

Picture this: A way to ensure that all systems at your organization are functional, all work is streamlined and all personnel are working at their highest capacity. 

All brand owners hope to achieve this harmony, but organizational roadblocks and redundancies impede their best efforts. And often, the “Do It Now” principle will only take your team so far before it begins to hinder your organization’s ability to grow and succeed. But cutting non-value-added time and energy from your branded material supply chains can seem like a daunting task. Where do you begin? 

First, take a step back and analyze the duties and tasks performed by your marketers, marketing communications staff, and agency and/or production partners. Look for redundancies in project management, approval processes, and meeting attendance. You’ll likely discover that many of the redundancies will be tactical tasks. For example, often CPGs and agencies are both proofreading art; ideally, the CPG should own the inputs and the agency should be accountable for proofreading. Similarly, empowering agencies to manage project timelines and institute weekly or biweekly check-ins can remove tactical day-to-day management by the CPG. Because while each task may only take a few minutes, adding them up annually over thousands of packaging changes, promotional materials, and meetings amounts to a significant loss of time and energy.

After identifying redundancies in duties and tasks, look for ways to eliminate them. To do this, you must create a thoughtful transition plan. First, identify the right person/function to perform the work. Then, communicate the changes to key stakeholders and any impacted vendors. Make sure to identify and implement the right tools and training necessary for the new person to perform the work. Circle back to key stakeholders and vendors to confirm the change once the transition is complete. Then monitor and measure the time and activities of both roles post-transition to ensure that the planned outcomes are being achieved. 

This investigation occurred recently at one CPG. All of the duties and tasks performed by junior marketers & marketing managers for packaging and routing approvals were considered and categorized. This analysis uncovered several redundant steps within a one-size fits all approval workflow. Namely, all packaging changes within the current state workflow required the same number of approvers and functions, whether the change was a complex redesign or a simple copy edit. In the recommended future state, defining project tiers based on complexity will allow the CPG to customize approvers by project, allocating the appropriate level of resources when needed or removing touch points. Eliminating half of the approvers from subsequent rounds of artwork approval will reduce organizational time spent approving packaging artwork by about 271 hours per year, the equivalent of seven weeks of full time work. These resources can now reinvest time in business driving activities. Tiering the approval process and removing resources from later rounds of approval will result in a future state routing & approval workflow with a 53% improvement in throughput. 

Being able to identity and eliminate unneeded tasks requires significant change and ongoing communication, but its an incredibly important factor that will strengthen your brand’s performance.

This can drive increased sales, enable your organization to respond to quick-turn opportunities with key retail partners, and free up resources to put against growth objectives. 

Learn more about how optimization can drive your brand’s performance by delivering it to market more quickly, more efficiently, and more cost effectively. Download 6 Ways to Get Your Branded Materials to Market Faster, by our Continuous Improvement Practice team.

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5 Tips to Improve Your Routing & Approval Process And Bolster Marketplace Agility

Posted By: SGK December 11, 2014

Approvals are a hot-button issue within any content-rich organization. In large companies, what should be a straightforward process can quickly become bogged down in a complex and time-consuming web of competing agendas, obsolete policies and siloed communications. 

But when it comes to improving speed to market, streamlining your routing and approval process is a challenge worth taking on. Yes, there are often competing internal agendas demanding involvement in approvals, but there is often just as much support for improving this process. 

Our Continuous Improvement Practice team shares these tips for streamlining your routing and approval process:

•    Standardize input collection. Create standardized artwork forms to collect information, and then lock in that information before it moves along in the approval process. A strict input management strategy will reduce cycle time, increase throughput and decrease risk.

•    Define accountability. Ambiguous or incorrect ownership creates an error prone process. Identify a “Workflow Management” expert to own your input collection, project initiation and project management responsibilities. Defining this role will drive efficiencies, eliminate redundant activities, and provide “soft” benefits (e.g., increased capacity for marketing and other participants) and potentially strategic value.

•    Remove unnecessary approval layers. Really dig in and question why so many people need to approve your packaging and promotional materials. The more people involved in approving work, the greater the drain on your organization and your marketplace agility. 

•    Establish parallel path approvers. Serial-path approval processes add queue time, and each queue can add 1-3 days to the process. Instead, look to create a parallel path approval process, which will both reduce queue times and reveal bottlenecks. For example, if R&D is consistently the last approver in a parallel path approval process, the team can then focus on ways to mitigate this issue with increased staffing, or by analyzing current duties and removing waste.  

•    Invest in technology. An online approval tool will let your team annotate a single file in real-time. Investment in a complete packaging workflow solution will enable the organization to increase speed to market, improve quality, minimize risk, and store all creative assets. 

Don’t let the speed to market of your branded materials suffer from additional layers of approvers or decentralized and ambiguous accountability. Your workflow needs to be streamlined and ready to quickly to handle a larger scale of work if required. 

For one CPG, the number of approvers required across all packaging and promotions routing and approval workflows was reduced by 67 percent. This equated to 4,000 hours of annual labor savings and reduced average routing cycle times by over one week.

For more tactics, download 6 Ways To Get Your Branded Materials To Market Faster, by SGK’s Continuous Improvement Practice team.

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3 Myths About Input Validation That Are Hurting Your Speed To Market

Posted By: SGK November 03, 2014

Getting packaging, promotional, digital and other branded materials to market quickly can feel overwhelming. And while it is daunting to address all the sources of delay that slow your brand’s delivery to market, focusing your efforts on key areas, including validation of inputs, will help you achieve your desired results. 

Validating your inputs might seem like a no-brainer, but most organizations struggle with this because it’s actually pretty hard. But don’t avoid it! Doing so will do more harm than good. 

Here are three myths that could be hurting your speed to market: 

1.    The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll finish. 
Design managers, production managers and agency PMs are under enormous pressure from Brand and Sales to “just go,” but this is a practice that must be abandoned. While this “fix-it-later” attitude may work anecdotally, at the enterprise level it drives multiple rounds of time-consuming revisions into both the creative and production processes. It also increases work-in-progress for the entire team, which stretches resources thin and reduces focus where it’s actually needed. This ASAP mentality allows projects to kick off with underdeveloped or missing briefs, dielines, approvals or instructions. This habit is a root cause of design and production revisions. Strong discipline and unwavering leadership are required to break it. 

2.    Something is better than nothing. 
Emphasis needs to be placed not only on collecting inputs, but also on the right inputs. Proceeding with inadequate inputs is just as bad as having no inputs. Validation implies something more rigorous than volume—it implies that the inputs are good and useful, which requires qualitative scrutiny. Thoroughly evaluate your inputs and institute a formal process to highlight and react to chronic inadequacies. In manufacturing, it's common practice for downstream teams to huddle with upstream teams at the end of every day to verify components and identify areas of improvement. While manufacturing and packaging are very different industries, creating tight feedback loops with your internal customers and partners can be instituted anywhere. Formalizing communication and validation of process inputs will result in reduced confusion, reduced rework, and fewer delays.

3.    If you want it done right, do it yourself. 
Most people can't (or shouldn't) focus on input validation and input completeness. Marketers have too many high priority activities competing for their time, so they do a poor job of wrangling inputs and people. When producers (i.e., Design managers, designers, and production folk) are tasked with input management, the task directly competes with their primary function, which ensures that input collection and evaluation will receive only second-tier focus. Good inputs should be a primary focus for process managers or support resources that have dedicated capacity for this task. Establishing appropriate accountability will improve input quality and completeness and dramatically improve process speed.

The difference between organizations who do validation well and those who struggle is striking. Organizations who have stringent validation procedures in their packaging workflows see more than 85% of all packaging changes approved in one round!

Organizations with poor validation procedures perform much worse, with only 60 percent of changes approved in two cycles or fewer. This 25-percentage-point difference can translate into thousands of hours of lost workforce capacity, weeks added to each project, and significant change fees from agencies and production partners.

Optimize your validation procedures and get your branded materials to market more quickly and efficiently. Learn more in our white paper: 6 Ways To Get Your Branded Materials To Market Faster.