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April 6, 2022


How Kao Reduced Artwork Approval Times by 80%

by Robbie Irwin

Through its portfolio of over 20 leading brands such as Attack, Bioré, Gold-well, Jergens, John Frieda, Kanebo, Laurier, Merries, and Molton Brown, Kao is a part of the everyday lives of people in Asia, Oceania, North America, and Europe. The company’s artwork process involves several contributors, with all artwork design handled in-house by internal teams and all artwork production handled by external agencies.

Since 2011, the Creative Marketing department, which leads artwork development for the Global Consumer Care business, has used Loftware Smartflow for its packaging artwork in the Americas and EMEA. In 2016, Smartflow was also adopted for mass brands in Japan. As the go-to solution for managing all the company’s artwork and content workflows, Smartflow has helped Kao to improve its internal artwork management processes, resulting in an impressive 80% reduction in project approval time!

Replacing manual processes
As an alternative to Kao’s previous largely manual artwork review process, Smartflow has offered the company a purpose-built Artwork Management solution. This means that rather than passing around job jackets of printed artwork, stakeholders can collaborate online as they review and approve packaging artwork in real-time.

Spotlighting changes
Before implementing Smartflow, Kao didn’t have automated artwork comparison capabilities and no real audit trail for recording anything more than a record of rejection or approval. Smartflow offers detailed tracking so that users can see exactly what has been updated from version to version. Users have a view of the full audit history of annotations, comments, and changes made by others. This ensures that there is no confusion about the newest elements of a project, which is especially useful when input is coming from several teams of stakeholders.

Discipline and responsibility
Kao selected Smartflow as their Artwork Management solution in part because they were seeking to implement a system that could instill a clearer sense of discipline and responsibility for those involved in artwork approvals. Because Smartflow provides a transparent view into individuals’ tasks and role within a project, the company has been able to now hold collaborators responsible for timings, deadlines, and specific tasks. This has been key for Kao in their push to reduce project times.

As Kao's Laura Helton, Associate Director, Creative Marketing, said: “It seems like a very small thing, guiding people in that way and holding them accountable for things they’re supposed to be doing – but it’s absolutely colossal.”

Interested in learning more?

The results have been clear for Kao. With greater insight into their processes, the company was able to identify bottlenecks that were previously hard to notice. Smartflow has reduced both the cycle time and the amount of revisions needed when approving artwork. The process is all-around more efficient and has helped reduce Kao’s average number of review rounds from 10 to just one or two. In terms of real-time, this translates to a difference in turnaround time of around 80%.

Read our full customer case study on Kao to learn more about how they leveraged Smartflow to save on time, reprinting costs, and employee headaches. See if our Artwork Management solution could be right for you as well.