The one certain thing about developing new labels for the medical device market is that you know for before you begin that you are not going to be cut loose to come up with the best, most innovative, cost effective, and unique solution. What we label guys all want is to be handed the saxophone and told to improvise and make some cool jazz. The reality will be more like haiku. We can come up with the best innovative cost effective and unique stuff just as long as it has 17 syllables, three lines, and arranged in the 5-7-5 syllable form. Another analogy would be one of my favorite movie scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Newman and Redford are looking for work in Bolivia as payroll guards and are being interviewed by Strother Martin, the boss. When Martin goes to evaluate Redford/Cassidy’s marksmanship he tells him how to stand, how to draw his gun, how he wants him to aim, and of course Redford misses the target miserably. As Strother Martin is turning away disgusted, Redford crouches down, quick draws, and shooting from the hip, hits the target four times in a row. We always hit the target, just not as quickly and accurately as we would if we were ‘turned loose’.
When we get a call to work on a new project the very first thing we do is determine the ‘buts’ in the project. We need a new label that sticks to the nose tiles of the space shuttle, will survive reentry, and be easily removable upon landing – but – it has to have the same size/footprint as our current label. This label needs to provide tamper indicate – but – has to use the same adhesive as our current label to cut down on validation/qual costs. Our label needs to have bombproof resistance to ETO, gamma, and steam – but – needs to use the same cheap, sketchy face stock that we currently use. While it can be frustrating, even us label guys want to be free to riff on new designs and concepts, pre-existing ‘buts’ are a fact of the industry. Just having a device company allocate funds to a label project, usually one of the lower cost items in the package, is gratifying. Once there are a few bucks allocated to pursue a project then the key to successfully completing the project is a thorough triage process to undercover and assess the ‘buts’.
The variables that need to be dealt with are normally the product life cycle, environmental conditions encountered, and the method of demand printing used in manufacturing. The component mix needed to whip up a solution based on these three aspects of the package are the face stock, adhesive, and liner, the inks used, and proper die configurations. Once we get our heads around the entire gamut of the project from the basic design, production, and end usage, including recyclability these days, then we can begin to move forward. With the actual label design that is. Once that is in place then it’s time to run the gauntlet, a gauntlet that seems to add more guys with clubs every year. Package Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Regulatory Affairs, Marketing, Quality, and Strategic Sourcing all have a club and will hit your label project with varying degrees of force. In future posts I will try to get more in depth on this increasingly complicated process but for now, everyone have a happy Labor Day.