Chapter 17 – Proofing Packaging and Instruction Manuals

After the factory receives the final graphics, you will receive their printed proofs of the packaging and the instruction manuals. This takes between 1-3 weeks plus courier time. Of course, you do not need to check the proofs and the instruction manuals if you think the factory is reliable. Unfortunately, my experience is that the factory staff usually has a different understanding of what is acceptable and what is not.

Shades of Trouble

I had projects with products in 5-6 different factories expecting that the colors to be identical because we provided every factory the same information. The outcome was very disappointing because of vast color deviations, which become more obvious when a group of products is placed together on a retail shelf. Retailers don’t take well to this.

How does that happen? The factory outsources the package preparation and if you have 5-6 different factories you may have also the same number of different printing companies. Of course, the printing companies try very hard to follow your requests but as I said, any deviation from the original colors can vary greatly. You end up with everything from very bad to quite close.

Your corporate identity strategy suffers when the colors are wrong.

A Better Strategy

You might be tempted to fine tune the printing at each print shop. But that is very time consuming and time is what you do not have. It is also costly because each proof has to be expedited to avoid losing even more time.

Fortunately, there is another way. Put a local company in charge of quality control. Since inspection companies are all about quality control, you can have them check the proofs and instruction manuals for you. You will save time and cost and these companies usually have the experience to guarantee you good results.

One large German retail organization came up with a different idea, which many people were skeptical about in the beginning. They appointed one large printing company in China to do the printing for all of their projects. The outcome was of course much better because there was no color deviation when everything was printed at the same print shop. The only major problem they had to overcome was managing the logistics to transport the printed gift boxes in the right quantity and on time before the production start at each of the factories involved.

There was a side  benefit when they asked for 2 quotations for their projects:

  1. With gift boxes and instruction manual
  2. Without gift boxes and instruction manuals

It was interesting to compare the cost each of the factories claimed for their packaging. The cost from factory to factory in many cases was not even close for comparable gift box sizes. It is a clear that factories have ways to quote different prices for comparable products due to better managerial skills and perhaps better connections to their raw material suppliers and printing companies.

About Paper Quality

Another thing to make sure about is checking the paper and corrugated cardboard quality which the factory submits for approval.

Instruction manuals could be printed on a very thin paper, which lets the printing bleed through to the next page. This is of course totally unacceptable and you must inform the factory immediately to change the paper quality to the requested one.  If you did not specify it before, the factory will claim that this is their standard and everything else will cost more money.

It is the same with the corrugated cardboard but the savings for the factory would be even greater if they get their way. Also, the export carton must be checked thoroughly. Since most importers and large retailers maintain warehouses to store received goods before they are distributed, the quality of the export carton must comply with normal operations in the warehouses.

Large retailers have specifications for maximum size and allowable gross weight of export cartons along with the cardboard quality to make sure that they can stack sufficient quantities of cartons on top of each other without damaging the contents. If you are in doubt about the quality, you can ask your inspection company to check on it for you.

In most European countries, export cartons must not be stapled because of recycling requirements. Metal parts and plastic parts must be separated before the paper can be recycled and the separation costs extra money.

Every factory is on a tight production schedule and they depend on the punctual delivery of their components, raw materials and their packing materials. If any one of them is delayed, it automatically delays production and can mean a late shipment. It is often claimed the factories are unreliable and do not follow given instructions but I ask you to reconsider whether you really gave them all the instructions they needed?

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