July 19th, 2017

The 6 Most Common Inspection Failures and Why They Happen

Inspection failures can cost a business millions, particularly in the pharma and medical products industries. In this guest post, GlobalVision’s Ryan Szporer shares six common inspection failures, and some smart solutions for eliminating them.

The quality control process consists of different phases, each dependent on the industry, type, and size of the business. However, there is a general rule of how inspections of packaging and labeling are carried out: The workflow usually runs from the digital file down to the printed components.

As a result, automated software solutions have gained momentum within the field as cost-effective means of weeding out inspection failures early on in the process.

Ryan Szporer, GlobalVision Quality Researcher

Guest post by Ryan Szporer, GlobalVision Quality Researcher

The earlier the better, as failures result in potential recalls and subsequently heavy financial losses. They can occur for a variety of reasons, many of which are avoidable. They include:

  • Your company may not have a well-defined workflow.
  • You may have yet to standardize software programs and versions throughout the supply chain to help limit conversion errors.
  • You may not feel that optimizing technology leveraged during the manufacturing process is a top priority.

Whichever best defines your current situation, preventing failures begins with understanding each of the different types. Here are the six most common:

1. Spelling Errors and Typos

One of the first phases in the creation of packaging and labels is producing and inspecting the written copy. The copy is especially important in industries like pharma, where dosage and drug information needs to be completely accurate.

In most cases, it will go through several checks by different stakeholders. With pharma projects, this copy is usually sent to a regulator like the Food and Drug Administration for approval.

Copy failures can occur if spell checks haven’t been carried out or if the appropriate inspection tools aren’t used. Maybe people working on a given document just assume someone else is checking it instead. These compounded mistakes can result in hypothetically dangerous typos that, in pharma, can put human lives at risk.

Detecting text errors is critical for medical products.

Detecting text errors is critical for medical products.

The solution to finding and stopping text errors in their tracks is simple: Use a text inspection module to compare your word processing file copy to a digital artwork PDF. You can alternatively compare two different artwork files featuring copy instead.

2. Barcode Errors

When packaging artwork is produced, it is common to find a placeholder barcode on the design (also known as an FPO, or for position only, barcode).

If the final barcode hasn’t been inserted into the final artwork version sent out to the printer, an inspection failure will inevitably occur at the printing proofing phase. That is, if you’re lucky to catch it.

Barcode errors can wreak havoc across the supply chain, potentially rendering entire shipments of product unable to be sold. As the data isn’t readable to the human eye, a manual proofreading operator simply won’t be able to detect whether you have the correct barcode.

That’s why a barcode inspection module, which will check and grade each of the ones in your file(s), is necessary.

GlobalVision’s barcode software.

GlobalVision’s barcode software.

3. Version Mix-ups

Files can get easily mixed up if you’re working with different revisions. For example, someone may make the right change or correction, but on the wrong version of the file. If you’re not managing and storing documents in an organized fashion, you can ultimately end up printing the wrong packaging altogether.

There are preflight tools that can automatically check your files.  You can use them to check the version of the PDF you’re creating to make sure you’re following the right standards; that you have the right fonts in your files; and that you have certain font-size regulation in your files as well.

4. Print Job Mix-ups

If the company isn’t requesting print-proofing samples from the printing supplier or department, the incorrect package label may be printed, resulting in material waste and financial losses. As a company stakeholder, you should always request a proof from the printing supplier.

If you’re dealing with a print supplier, consider that they could receive hundreds of print jobs on a daily basis. Some of the errors that can occur including mixing up the products or using the wrong product in the print job and not realizing it until the actual print job is done.

It's possible to mix up a proof.

If you’re outsourcing this phase of the process, it’s really important that they double-check to make sure they have the right product for an actual print job.

5. Print Defects

An incorrectly set-up printer can also cause defects, conversion errors, and poor print quality in general. A quality control inspection tool should let you scan in samples and check the printed components against your approved PDF.

If you have a label printing supplier, they might have to optimize it for print. In these cases, a few rounds of prepress inspections are critical. One-up files are inspected against press sheets or press-plate files to ensure there are no mistakes. If there aren’t any, that would mark the end of the off-line inspection phase.

Prepress inspections are critical.

That leads into what is referred to as a 100% in-line inspection, during which everything that’s being printed is checked for defects during the printing process itself. A final inspection can be done once it is over, in part for the sake of completeness, in part to put your mind at ease.

6. Color Defects

Color defects usually happen at the printing phase. If the printers haven’t been properly checked and calibrated, they can be common.

They can also occur if the printer is optimizing the digital file for printing and not checking the 1-up file, or the approved PDF featuring a single impression of the image in question, against the final version.

This is yet one more error that can be avoided by requesting a printer’s proof before launching the print job.  

Automating the QC Inspection Process to Reduce Failure Risk

You can either integrate quality control automation modules as steps in your current packaging process or use an all-in-one platform to minimize failure risk and speed up the process.

The key here is to define your quality control steps, and what kind of inspections you require. Do you inspect within the marketing, within the graphics/labeling department, or do you have your suppliers conduct the inspections for you?

Quality matters.

Once you have established which inspection modules you need, mapping them to those inspection points and integrating a given quality control platform into your operation becomes simple.

Finding mistakes will conversely always remain difficult in principle. It’s very rare that each and every error stares right up at you.

That’s why it’s imperative every precaution be taken to prevent them from creeping up when it’s far too late. With that in mind, entrusting automated software to ensure it doesn’t happen is one of the first—and easiest—steps to take.

GlobalVision helps businesses eliminate errors on packaging by adding accuracy and speed to your quality control process with the ability to detect errors consistently and earlier. More than 3,000 customers around the world use GlobalVision as their quality control solution of choice to produce error-free packaging efficiently and on-time.

Find out how to overcome your biggest converting and packaging challenges.

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