Development and Control - key factors for high quality printed packaging

Company Alkaloid started the project of improving the printed pharmacy packaging two years ago in cooperation with company Grafik.net from Zagreb and Mr. Dean Tolp as the project manager. Through consulting and research, a new packaging development department has been set up, whose connection with the Quality Control Division has provided very high standards for quality, safety and packaging control.

How would you evaluate the success of the project and in which segments (departments) has the greatest progress been achieved? What are the biggest challenges you have encountered regarding organization?

Alkaloid is primarily a strategically export-oriented company that successfully operates in more than 30 markets. Pharmacy is a strictly controlled industry and all standards are set to the highest possible level. There is also a huge competition so there is no room for error. Every market, including the pharmacist, has its own demands and expectations, and there are still specific customer desires. Led by our desire to raise the quality of our pharmaceutical products even more, we have started the packaging standardization process. The project that had a great impact in the organizational sense within our company was successfully completed. I am particularly thinking of forming a new Packaging Development Department as well as further improvement of the Quality Control Department by introducing new measurement methods and standards.

How and why was the Packaging Development Department created? What was the role of Mr Dean Tolp from Grafik.net?

The Packaging Division itself was created from the need to improve the packaging, especially secondary and tertiary, by defining the exact standards of the graphic industry and introducing new standards, methods and innovations in this area. Undoubtedly, Mr. Tolp gave a special contribution as a proven professional who has worked for many years in this profession and in this business, and I would like to point out that he is one of the few FOGRA certifiers in our region. The internationally recognized institution "FOGRA Institute" is a graphics research association that issues certificates with proof that the printer works according to standards. Our wish was that we and our suppliers introduce and apply highest standards in the profession so that the choice of Mr Tolp as the leader of this project and his suggestion of setting up a department dealing exclusively with packaging proved to be an undoubtedly excellent decision.

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What will be the main function of the Packaging Development Department within the organisational structure in the future?

Basically, this is the department that primarily deals with packaging, primary, secondary and tertiary, and takes care of the packaging in terms of its functionality, applicability, quality, type of material and form. The department needs to create new packaging and improve the existing ones according to the above mentioned criteria. In addition, this department must seek and offer the optimal solutions that will meet both procurement and marketing, which means a kind of compromise - the products must be aesthetically beautiful and attractive on the one hand, and on the other financially cost-effective.

It is essential that the Packaging Development Department cooperates with the Technical Department of Production to test new and improved existing products, and to consult the Investment Department when purchasing new equipment. Of course, the department also cooperates with packaging suppliers in order to create standards for each product, and in parallel with procurement to adjust the type of material and price. The Packaging Development Department  is a department that sets standards which quality control applies.

What does the procurement of modern measuring equipment, the training of employees for its use, application of graphic standards and the adopted document the Book of Standards for Printed Packaging mean for the Quality control of the final product?

I think we've made the biggest breakthrough here. In order for each product to satisfy quality standards, it is necessary to accurately describe its characteristics, define measurement methods to check those characteristics, and the tolerances within which a certain value must be set. In the Book Standards for Printed Packaging, we have clearly defined a series of critical points to achieve a level of packaging quality which is desired and uniform. Defined conformity checking procedures, as well as the values ​​that must be achieved in production, will avoid possible misunderstandings between suppliers and Alkaloid company. Defining new methods also implied the procurement of measuring equipment and training of employees so they can use it. Defining the colorimetric values ​​of standard offset printing, halftone values for process and spot colours, and allowed deviations, led to the introduction of measurement fields on the flaps of each box. In addition, we have defined sampling procedures, testing of both existing and all new measurement methods for areas that have not been standardized yet.

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Continuous improvement in the quality of printed pharmaceutical packaging creates new demands from your suppliers. You have adopted a document Minimum Technical Conditions to be met by the printing house that produces printed packaging for Alkaloid. Has this made it easier for you to choose and control your supplier's quality?

The goal of each production process is to achieve a consistent print quality through multiple circulations. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to ensure the stability of production processes which will be standardized or implemented according to pre-set procedures and within the set tolerances. This is achieved through the implementation of internationally recognized business standards, but also by respecting the internal standards that must be defined beforehand with the customer. The aforementioned document The Minimum Technical Conditions to be met by the print house include detailed instructions and guidelines for all printers and all printing techniques that are printed on Alkaloid packaging, which includes offset printing and flexographic printing. The purpose of this document is to provide a defined level of finished product quality, protect Alkaloid from suppliers that do not meet the necessary requirements for continuous packaging production at a predefined level of quality. On the other hand, this document will be used as a manual and a reminder for all those who have the conditions and means of work described herein. I believe that we have set clear guidelines for what we expect from our suppliers, and give them clear guidelines and standards which must be followed.

Why did you choose Grafik.net as a partner on this project? What knowledge and competencies should they have in order to ensure the success of the project? In what direction are you planning to continue the cooperation?

The selection of Grafik.net as partner on this project was not a coincidence. We have conducted an evaluation of all the companies which can deliver the necessary professional consultant in the field of graphic arts as well as the necessary training for and selection of modern measuring equipment. It turned out that Mr Tolp and his team have comprehensive knowledge and experience, as well as the desire to share them regarding the fields we need most help with. Our will and their enthusiasm made an excellent fit so we could take a big step forward with the joint forces in setting new standards and solving problems that we have encountered in the past. In addition to this successfully completed project we have several other projects that are currently in the process of preparation and evaluation and with which we plan to continue the cooperation.

How did the success of this project affect your brands and communication with consumers? Does the introduction of standards in graphic production reduce the possibility of counterfeiting products? What does the improvement of packaging quality mean for your reputation in the global marketplace?

As I have mentioned at the very beginning, pharmacy is indeed a strictly controlled industry so that the issue of counterfeiting has always been a serious issue for all manufacturers. At the beginning of February 2019, the EU directive on serialization came into force according to which each product has its own unique serial number, which is the biggest step in preventing drug forgery (falsification of medical products). The directive has contributed to the introduction of better quality packaging materials, thereby increasing the consistency of the quality of our products. Definitely, the standard has been raised to a higher level, and we can say that improving the quality of printed packaging has a positive impact on the reputation of our company as a whole.

Does this project also relate to packaging for other segments of your business ie cosmetics and nutritional products?

Initially, the project was implemented only for the profit center of Pharmacy that has the largest share in Alkaloid business, but there is the desire to pass on the positive experience to the products in the other profit center which relates to chemical, cosmetics and herbal products.

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