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Specification Management: What You Need to Know

2020/09/24

Specification Management software can manage everything from product, packaging through to ingredient or raw material specifications in one easy-to-use system

Specification Management software can manage everything from product, packaging through to ingredient or raw material specifications in one easy-to-use system. 

In the first of two articles on specification management, we discuss how businesses are currently managing specifications and why good specification management is essential for businesses that want to ensure quality without compromising speed.

Where would we be if it wasn’t for specifications? 

When you think about it, the car you drive, the phone, the apps you use, the food and consumer products you buy are all created with reference to one or more specifications. Even the humble apple you buy in the supermarket will have some sort of quality specification associated with it.

So, what is a specification? 

In its simplest terms, a specification is the detailed description of the design and/or materials used to make a product or define a service. Specifications of one sort or another have been with us ever since the Babylonians started to write down their recipes on clay tablets more than 4000 years ago! 

In Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG); whether you are in Food & Beverage, Household Goods, Tobacco or Cosmetics you’ll be familiar with having to manage specifications or technical datasheets internally and with suppliers in order to guarantee the quality standards of the products you sell. 

The kinds of specification we are dealing with here range from ingredients and raw material specifications through to product / recipe specifications, packaging specifications, pack copy and printer specifications. Individual specifications link to other specifications to form an inimitable ‘spider’s web’ of data that describes the goods or services that are to be created or manufactured.

How are businesses currently managing their Specifications?

Well, in our experience, there is a complete spectrum of software applications currently in use from Microsoft 365/Excel through to Product Information and Specification Management (PIM) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems such as SAP & Oracle. For some, Suppliers still manage some or all the specification data on the customer’s behalf and for a few, those specifications may still be on paper!

Good Specification Management drives quality and performance

This quote from Phil Crosby makes a very clear and salient point:

‘We must define quality as conformance to specifications if we are to manage it’

Phil Crosby, Quality Guru and Zero Defects thinker

If we can describe accurately and agree the requirements up front in a specification, then product quality can be ensured by managing the adherence of the supplier and/or manufacturing site to this specification.

The purpose here, is to prevent issues happening at source rather than detection and cure. A right-first-time approach holds huge benefits to CPG manufacturers and retailers in terms of both achieving high quality and also agility and speed to market.

This should be a major consideration when we take into account all the activities, specifications and otherwise that form part of a product launch.

A ‘quality embedded’ approach pays dividends for all types of specification.

If a specification is comprehensive, up to date and accurate for a supplied ingredient, raw or packaging material then it is much more straightforward for the supply chain teams to put controls in place to ensure that the goods from the supplier are fit for purpose.

Specifications are the secret to reducing costs and de-risking processes

Considering packaging artwork: If the packaging text, legal information and translations can be curated and agreed up front in a formal pack copy specification, then there is a much higher likelihood that the artwork will be correct and can be approved in one or maximum two cycles.

This is a win-win scenario… 

Firstly, the quality of the artwork is assured as the chances of incorporating human error are largely reduced. Secondly, there are major gains to be had by having a tighter control of artwork budget and reducing internal review times within the organisation. An agreed pack copy specification which lays out content in a structured way can also lend itself to dynamic artwork with even further benefits, but that’s another story!

When products fail and a business is challenged by a potential withdrawal or recall, then having accurate specifications is of paramount importance. 

The speed of response to these unfortunate situations can be catastrophic if specification information is not centrally available. Knowing the impact of a potential supplier issue, ingredient allergen or similar is straightforward if specifications are well maintained.

This is one of the reasons why good Specification Management is a base line requirement for quality audits such as ISO or BRC, hand in hand with a solid Quality Management System (QMS).

In conclusion 

Specifications and technical datasheets are central to delivering quality products and services in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industries.

Businesses recognise the importance of specifications and the product information that they contain. The potential that specifications have to drive and maintain quality means that good specification management is considered a key business objective.

There is no single agreed way to manage specifications and a variety of offline and online approaches are in active use across the sector.

In our next blog we’ll focus on the benefits of centralising and digitising specifications in an online specification management or product information management (PIM) system.

About 4Pack

4Pack is a cloud based software solution that offers Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers and brand owners the potential to centralise all information, files and processes fundamental to their new product development, renovation and update processes.

Collaborating in a single platform, whether it be for the administration of new suppliers, qualification of new ingredients or the creation of new products, recipes or packaging materials and artworks, offers significant benefits in terms of time and cost saving and improves the overall quality and compliance of the process.

4Pack combines the technologies of Product Information and Specification Management (PIM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Label Artwork Management (LAM) and Digital Asset Management (DAM) in one single Software as a Solution (SaaS) package.

4Pack’s expert team have over 20 years of working with food, beverage and consumer packaged goods manufacturers and brand owners.

Speak to 4Pack today about how we can help you solve your specification challenges.

  

Email: helen.poole@4-pack.co.uk

Call: +44 (0)7773 698 950

Visit: www.4-pack.co.uk 

 

4Pack exists to help Food & Beverage manufacturers and brands of all sizes to push innovative, safer products to market across channels quickly. If you want to turbo charge your product launch process, book a demo with one of our experts.

 

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