Mergers and Acquisitions: Labeling Part 1 of 2

You’re called into a multi-departmental meeting. You’ve heard rumors that your company has acquired another company.  You’ve become numb to potential projects because you already have so many actual projects that you’ve conditioned yourself to focus on what’s in front of you. As people take their places around the conference table, it becomes apparent that you’ve picked up another actual project.

As the presentation begins, you learn that this acquired company is a division of a larger company.  No one has a solid scope of the products because “they” are discussing rationalizing similar products instead of moving forward. No one is sure how long you can share their systems and the thinking is to continue to manufacture in place, but likely bring some of the products into your Costa Rican facility.  

They don’t know about rebranding, aren’t sure if there’s an integration budget for labeling, don’t have any contacts for labeling, and aren’t sure if you can talk to the former labeling group as labeling was a shared service and no one from that group is coming over in the acquisition.  Of course, more details will be forthcoming, so stay flexible and thanks for coming.

So, with the few hints that you have, you will likely have to add 3,000 to 5,000 labels for 1,500 to 2,500 SKUs to your labeling system. You’re not sure how you’ll get the label content, but by looking at some samples, it looks like there’s a lot of preprint involved.  Your integration manager tells you there’s some money but she’s not sure how much, and she’ll be your conduit for whatever information you’ll need.

If you wait for someone else to begin this process, you’ll end up without the labels you need when you need them. Here’s what you need to do in this situation.

First, demand a scope of labels that need to be loaded into your system. Don’t accept a delay, get a scope of all SKUs, and if they’re not sure which ones may be needed, let the integration team put them into categories:  

  • Absolutely need
  • Probably will need
  • May not need

Request all label content through your conduit, including:

  • Label samples
  • Label database (if available)
  • Artwork (if, unfortunately, that’s how the acquired labels are controlled)
  • Any label validations that were conducted
  • Any label verifications that were conducted

If you can, hire a couple of contractors for twice the amount of time you think you’ll need to migrate the data and verify the labels. The information you’ll need will be surprisingly difficult to obtain.

Give one contractor to your labeling group and train them to do a couple of standard tasks and take someone from your labeling department to work with the other contractor to take care of the integration. Work with packaging to understand if a new size or different material label stocks will be necessary.

Prepare design verifications protocols as necessary. If the labels are stored as artwork, parse the data off the labels into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet should be arranged like your labeling database, so you can use that spreadsheet to upload your label data to your system’s database. 

Once the data is loaded, work with your marketing group to convert the legacy labels into your current formats. Reusing formats keeps the labeling system easy to manage and your mass changes simple and efficient.

You can bring these legacy labels into your Quality Management System, even if the device hasn’t undergone a manufacturing transfer. The printed label will still be verified in the legacy QMS.

If you control your labels as artwork, you can adopt the acquired company’s artwork into your artwork management system, you can recreate their labels in your process, or you can take advantage of the acquired company’s content management system and move your labels into it.  Always try to improve your system when you can.

Written Chris Heckert, Senior Director of Labeling Solutions at Network Partners. 

See “Mergers and Acquisitions: Labeling Part 2 of 2” for guidance on how to migrate and verify these labels using best practices.

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