As packaging artwork becomes more important to the product, delays in delivering accurate and approved package artwork have an increasing impact on time to market and a company’s bottom line. This is why the artwork surrounding your product is just as valuable and important as your product itself and it requires a well-managed process.

However, incorporating artwork management into the product lifecycle can present a range of complex challenges – especially without efficient processes in place. The desire to consistently bring new products to market ahead of the competition, while managing emerging packaging and artwork design requirements, evolving regulatory compliance, the complexity of new packaging materials, and the globalization of emerging brands, provides a range of potential disruptions to maintaining a critical path for each project. And in today’s vast global marketplace, it’s likely you may be managing hundreds of projects with variations for each simultaneously.

Adding to this complexity, during their journey, products will transcend multiple internal departments and stakeholders and interface with external resources including design shops, graphic houses, and printers. With so many stakeholders, it’s important to tightly manage the process and the routing of materials for edits and approvals. Without an efficient process in place, there is likely to be increased risk of error and potential bottlenecks in the process.

Drowning in Spreadsheets

To manage product artwork efficiently, you need an automated artwork approval process that can be incorporated into your product lifecycle and managed across your global enterprise. However, there are still many companies today using antiquated manual processes for artwork management. Inconsistent data, limited access to a digital assets, poor visibility, reactive communications, and labor-intensive and error-prone processes mean that teams working in operational silos spend an inordinate amount of time creating and editing artwork. Then there’s the chaos that ensues when trying to determine which version is the most accurate, what step is next, and who is left to approve.

Traditionally, many companies have used spreadsheets to manage their artwork and approval processes. This manual process (which entails routing of printed documents through folders and emails) presents a host of risks and inefficiencies. First and foremost, these documents can easily be lost, damaged (think of how a spilled cup of coffee might impact plans), or misplaced, costing valuable time and energy. Then there’s generally confusion around which document copy is most current. Without proper version, it’s not always clear if your spreadsheet has been routed to the right parties, and it becomes increasingly difficult to manage changes and provide access to final, approved content.

Then there’s Excel – although this path may offer a digital alternative, it still involves a range of inefficiencies. Data entry can be time-consuming and error-prone, and these Excel docs are difficult to maneuver and maintain. Also, with Excel, real-time comments and collaboration are out of the question and the ability to quickly analyze historical data is simply not possible.

Ultimately, using labor-intensive and inefficient digital options, as well as unreliable and error-prone manual processes (including the use of spreadsheets and routing of physical folders) adds time and risk to your product lifecycle. This is especially true when there are multiple teams involved and individuals are not completing their tasks on time. Spreadsheets and trackers can be overly complex in size and result in too much time sourcing, chasing, and trafficking. These spreadsheets often require a project manager to update a master spreadsheet regularly to ensure all changes have been captured.

Also, getting reviews and approvals can be a considerable source of delays with new packaging, especially when your artwork management process needs to be coordinated across a global enterprise. Therefore, getting approval for a piece of artwork or packaging is not a process that should be left to email or the routing of physical proofs. Verbal approval isn’t enough either, especially in regulated industries where it’s critical to capture audit data. Manufacturers need to implement a process where everyone within a project can see if a specific piece of artwork is approved, useable, and compliant with existing regulations.

Optimizing for Success
By avoiding manual, error-prone processes and inefficient Excel options and opting for cloud-based deployments with managed services, you can realize real-time collaboration and visibility while focusing your time and resources on your core business. A comprehensive artwork management solution streamlines packaging design and workflow by bringing accountability and structure to the process. By connecting users, departments, geographic silos, and business partners across your global enterprise, you can unlock massive benefits with an overall reduction in administration and elimination of duplication effort and errors.

configurable and automated solution enables you to easily manage packaging artwork and the end-to-end business processes with complete access and full transparency. The right type of solution transforms project management, streamlining the packaging concept to shelf (or end consumer) process, enabling you to lower costs, improve control and regulatory compliance, significantly decrease complexity, and reduce time to market.

Josh Roffman is VP Product Management, Loftware (

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of PARCEL.