Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Going Green – Replacing materials

Identify and replace current components with eco-friendly alternatives
I am not putting myself up as a research laboratory chemist. Instead I want to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities of identifying alternative eco-friendly alternatives.
There are a number of challenges to replacing any raw material with any other raw material. I get that. The key is to reduce those challenges so the cost of change is not as significant.
When you identify that an alternative material exists which is more "Green" than a current material you must first identify all the formulas in which this material is used - a multi-level where used report is key at this stage.
Not only are you altering the formula receiving this new material but potentially every other formula that uses that formula as an intermediate. In other words if you have a multi-level formula structure you must also look at all the other formulas impacted by this change.
vicinity software

Fortunately formula manufacturing software applications handle this analysis fairly well. Specifically Vicinity from Vicinity Manufacturing addresses the challenge with remarkable ease.
Typically you will need to review the impact on the formulas from a physical properties perspective. Does this change impact the Viscosity or pH or Refractive Index?
Performing this analysis can be time consuming if the right tool is not utilized. Fortunately some of the more current formula manufacturing applications in the market – such as Vicinity - can assist with this review turning the task into a reasonably clerical matter.
Finally – once the impact is known for each of the formulas you will need to substitute the new material for the old material and potentially other supporting materials in the formula.
This task is tricky but is done by some of the better applications on the market. Take a look at the material substitution capability within Vicinity to see how this is addressed.
So what is the payoff?
Besides replacing a potentially harmful raw material with one that is more eco-friendly you are potentially reducing the overall cost of your formula. If nothing else you have built a model to replace raw materials based on price – not only because they are good for the environment.
So go ahead – take a look at a raw material that has a known substitute. How does your existing system assist you or hold you back? Know that today there are systems that can make this process much less painful than you may be experiencing. Hopefully this is one less barrier to "Going Green".
So this is the end of my "Green" message. I challenge us all to be more environmentally conscience in our manufacturing, reduce our carbon footprint and use materials that are easier on our planet.
And if you don't do it for our children's children then do it because often times you will become more profitable. In either case we all win.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Going Green – Increase batch yields

Increase yields to consume fewer raw materials per finished goods produced
vicinity software

This is the second installment of how formula manufacturers can embrace the "Green Initiative".
Well this seems to be too obvious. Don't all manufacturers attempt to squeeze every drop of raw material from their process to increase production yields? And why is this Green?
You would be amazed at how few companies actually look at their yield analysis by formula over time. It is more common than not that a company looking back at production over the past 6 months will find certain formulas or processes that are resulting in less than ideal yields. This can go on for years without being detected. The financial impact is tremendous.
The problem is that the yield differences from batch to batch may be minor and subtle shifts may not be detected on a single batch. Each subsequent batch is often compared to the previous batch. If there is no significant one-time shift the change is often undetected.
Comparing batch yields over time – 6 months or greater – can show alarming results. A formula yield may shift 1-2% over time and not be noticed. This has the result of passing profits right through the finished good and not realized by your company.
So why is fixing this issue being Green?
The less you consume to make the same finished good helps do your part in reducing the consumption of valuable resources. It takes energy to make most products we consume. We have to dispose of the raw material packaging and we consume energy to transport the materials from the supplier to your facility.
By increasing your yields by 1-2% for your highest volume items can result in a significant reduction in the consumption of raw materials. The reduction helps our environment AND saves you money.
So how do you do this?
Target a formula that has a significant volume. Look at the yields by batch for this formula over the pasts 6 months. Do you see a trend? Do you see variation? If either is true you have found a potential target. Once you have identified a formula spend a little time with production and R&D and see if you can identify the source of the variation or change. Watch the batch carefully the next time it is produced. What is causing the change or variation? The answer is probably staring you right in the face.
Vicinity by Vicinity Manufacturing (www.vicinitymanufacturing.com) has added a standard query that allows a user to view yields by formula/batch for any period of time. This data can be viewed in Vicinity or easily exported to Excel or statistical packages. Additionally Vicinity has added capability to notify key personnel when a batch is out of a tolerable yield range. Corrective action can be taken immediately.
So get started. This one is easy. Increase your yields and do your part in helping the Green Initiative. Along the way you will be saving your company a lot of money. Both are good things.
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