Avoid the digital disconnect in complex business operations – how to keep the supply chain flowing


A recent survey of manufacturing leaders found up to 90% of manufacturers struggle with integration challenges, so when disruption happens, they are unable to cope quickly or effectively – causing a ripple effect right through the supply chain. As businesses of all sizes continue to ramp up their digital transformation efforts, end-to-end digital integration must be at the heart of these projects – and that, argues Arjun Khanna, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at Kallik, means right down to the artwork and label processes that are essential to the smooth flow of the supply chain. He discusses the extensive operational challenges faced by businesses using disparate systems and siloed data, and how many of these issues can be overcome with careful integration of core solutions.

Siloed operations keep businesses vulnerable to disruption. Acquired a small competitor in a different region? New regulation enacted that requires changes to existing product labelling? Rolling out a new factory process at the very end of the value chain? Any of these could require a significant response to avoid major disruption. Disparate, disconnected systems leave businesses poorly placed to respond to deal with any disruption or shake-up in typical day-to-day operations.

Legacy systems – very little control, disparate data

Despite such threats to business continuity, many firms continue to operate a patchwork of core systems with either little to no integration with each other. They are often developed piecemeal with in-house fixes or manual workarounds. While this may help maintain the status quo of day-to-day operations, it is highly vulnerable to disruption and far from agile compared to more digitally mature competitors.

Thankfully, the latest wave of digital transformation has placed an increased focus on cloud-based solutions and customisable implementations for core platforms such as ERP systems. However, other, more legacy systems or manual processes are equally critical to operational success – yet often neglected in the grand scheme of ‘digital transformation’ projects. This lack of integration is especially noticeable among businesses operating in highly-regulated industries such as pharma, medical devices or chemicals, despite these being prime candidates for short-notice impactful disruption.

Artwork, labelling and packaging must not be an integration ‘blind spot’

The disconnect is particularly noticeable in siloed product assets, such as labels, artwork and symbols. This essential part of the business process often is subject to minimal version control or global insight, and where integration with print requests and data flows from the ERP system, for example, are yet to be embraced on a significant scale.

But these label and artwork management systems play an increasingly critical role in ensuring product consistency, consumer safety and regulatory compliance. As a result, having these operations and assets siloed is becoming non-negotiable. Integration with other platforms such as regulatory systems is a must.

The knock-on effects could be catastrophic

Take a label for a simple medical device intended for the EU market. This must pass through extensive review and approval processes to ensure medical, marketing and regulatory information – including various symbols and markings – are all present, correct and consistent. To be sold broadly throughout the EU, this device label would in theory need be translated into 24 different languages.

This upstream process is therefore very delicate and susceptible to disruption or human error. If an incorrect version of a regulatory symbol is used, or some medical information is changed in one language then not updated across all other language versions, this could introduce a major error – potentially even threatening the health of the end-user and triggering a costly product recall.

If the systems involved in this workflow are not fully integrated into other critical businesses systems, processes and databases, the risk of recalls can rise significantly.

Find a complementary digital artwork and labelling system

Consolidation and integration is key when it comes to rationalising and standardising systems and processes as part of a company’s digital maturity project. That means finding proven, feature-rich solutions that can be deployed across all necessary department and locations worldwide, with full integration capability to ensure seamless operation with other core systems.

Label and artwork management platforms are no exception. Indeed, these must be able to integrate with other critical software as standard – from Regulatory Information Management (RIM) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions.

Integration in the cloud

Business leaders would also be well-advised to opt for a cloud-based solution that can be readily deployed and accessed in any location by any department, adding a new level of scalability.

As businesses connect and integrate critical IT infrastructure, the benefits of truly unified operations and visibility become apparent.

For example, if a specific product asset or symbol must be replaced or updated at short notice, users can tap into the ‘Where Used’ functionality within a fully integrated management solution to identify every instance of the existing asset actively being used worldwide – and effortlessly make a bulk update in turn. No manual searching of data siloes, no piecemeal updates across multiple teams – this is all easily accessible and actionable in a ‘single source of truth’.

The benefits of end-to-end integration are all in one

This unlocks powerful end-to-end audit and version control capabilities – allowing any users with relevant permissions to make changes and flag comments in a clear, actionable format. By integrating a solution with further powerful features, such as automated artwork generation, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of human error in asset creation, updating and positioning.

For artwork and label management solutions, a cloud-based end-to-end platform such as Veraciti™ from Kallik is an ideal candidate focus for any integration-minded business – providing a standard set of APIs out the box as a tried-and-tested ‘blueprint’ to follow during implementation.

From a security perspective, shifting to a single artwork and label management platform also brings fresh benefits – with a single sign-on and corporate login enhancing system security, user management and data protection.

Keep pace with more agile, digitally-mature competitors

As the digital transformation race continues to heat up, now is an ideal time to take stock of your legacy IT stack and ensure software can either be heavily integrated or replace with a modern, fit-for-purpose alternative.

Embracing this integration approach can help reduce artwork and labelling errors, ensure end-user safety and compliance in highly-regulated industries, and provide the agility needed for businesses to quickly go-to-market – whether in a new geography or with a new product.