6 ways to improve your brand’s new product development, packaging and product lifecycle management processes

In the fast-paced, tight margin world of packaging design and production, even the smallest inefficiencies can add up to a significant waste of time and resource, which can be costly to your business.

To help you better optimise how your company designs, creates and manufactures product packaging, Gap Systems has put together six top tips for improving the end-to-end process:

Tip #1 – have a clear agreed plan from the outset

As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and nowhere is this truer than managing a complex new product development (NPD) or product lifecycle management (PLM) packaging project. Make sure you identify up-front the budget and timescale for delivery, the key stakeholders that will be involved and the critical path required to support the production process objectives.

It’s also important to develop a feedback and approval hierarchy, so projects don’t get slowed down because somebody doesn’t realise that the latest task or asset approval stage have been missed. While you may not need every person to review every single development or change, it’s important that everyone with sign off responsibility, either at stage gates or at the final product approval, is involved at the critical moments. This will ensure there are no issues downstream with key elements or regulatory requirements being missed. Having a clear plan and engaged stakeholders will ensure that the project runs to an approved budget and the team remains focussed from concept to delivery.

Tip #2 – centralise workflow for greater visibility

The most efficient way to work is to invest in workflow management software that centralises all tasks on a single dashboard. These can be tailored so that users only see the elements of the project that they are involved with, but those who are managing the end-to-end process have complete oversight of who is delivering what, and by when, to ensure workflow stays on course – and on time.

Tip #3 – manage task feedback and approvals in a single place

The greatest inefficiencies in product design and project and production management are often caused by people being either too slow to come back in regard to key task or actions, annotating the wrong version of a document or piece of artwork, or replying with multiple files and formats, making it difficult for whoever is responsible for making any changes to see exactly what needs to be done.

A good workflow management solution will have a system for managing the feedback and approval process as part of its dashboard, so that everyone involved in reviewing work knows exactly what version they need to look at, when their comments are due, and what others who have already reviewed the document or piece of artwork have said.

Tip #4 – automate key project processes to speed up time to market

In addition to capturing and managing all project tasks and feedback in a single place, one of the reasons that we advocate using a workflow process management tool is that it can take out a lot of the manual administration steps that typically slow the overall project down.

For example, automatically notifying users when they have been assigned a task can significantly speed up the chain of command when it comes to pushing projects forward. Equally, setting up automatic notifications when a task or document needs to be reviewed can make the feedback loop function much quicker.

The key to being successful here is to find a process that works for your business, and then use your workflow management system to automate as many elements of it as possible. You need technology that works around what you want to achieve; not a system that forces you to work in set ways because of its limitations.

Tip #5 – track time and costs to keep a tight rein on project management

Speeding up NPD and PLM task control and artwork production is supposed to make the overall process more cost effective, as it means either new concepts or changes to existing packaging can be addressed quicker. However, some companies use the fact they have greater visibility over a project to throw more people at it, which results in the overall cost of delivery becoming more expensive.

Make sure you invest in a business process workflow management system that features a time and artwork budget tracker, to ensure your actual resource investment matches the allocation you planned at the start of the project.

Tip #6 – never stop analysing and learning

By incorporating the first five tips into your project management, you will very quickly see reductions in the cost and time to market of your NPD and PLM process. However, as we said at the start of this blog, even small inefficiencies can have a major effect on a project’s ROI, so your business needs to be continually seeking incremental improvements.

Use your workflow process management software to analyse the success of each job you undertake, and understand what can be changed or refined next time against project KPIs. This will ensure that you continue to optimise the way you work, to produce new product packaging of outstanding quality in the most resource-efficient way possible.

For more information on tackling your NPD or PLM challenges, visit our Smartflow solution product page.