Friday, April 24, 2015

The Zen of Formulation

The process to develop a new formula or recipe is a unique as the research chemist.  However there are some key elements that could make the process more productive and more efficient.  I will share some of my insights in this article.

Define the R&D Process - A standard process for the R&D department should be identified, communicated and tracked.  Following a standard process or workflow will reduce miscommunication and missed steps.

  • Create a tracking system for the project.  This should include a unique project identifier, description, customer/contact, due dates and key milestones.
  • Document requirements from marketing or the customer.  This can be as simple as an email request or as formal as a structured form completed by the customer
  • Store notes on the R&D process including formulas and versions considered and responses from the customer
  • Track samples sent to the customer this is a great use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Communicate resolution of the project to interested parties.  This includes sales, marketing, production and procurement.

Utilize a centralized database to track activitiesMicrosoft Dynamics CRM is a terrific tool to organize the workflow of the R&D process.  An opportunity can be created and linked to a customer or contact.  It can manage the steps of the process ensuring key steps are not overlooked and shares key data with relevant contacts.  One of the most important parts is to store the data in a sharable, searchable and reportable platform.  While this could be done in Excel for the prices of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at $45/month it seems silly not to utilize this tool.

Leverage the formula database to support queries – Most formula manufacturers today have access to formulas in their production system. Batch tickets are often created from these production formulas for commercialized formulas.  A far fewer number of R&D departments use their formula database for R&D.

This is a shame and should be changed.  Many of the same tools used to make product are needed for R&D.  This includes item lists, current costs, available inventory and usage data.

If your company does not have a comprehensive production formula database or if it is not flexible enough to support experimental formulas and ingredients you should really reevaluate your current system.  Vicinity software supports production and R&D formulas in the same databases.  This allows R&D to search and select from the entire list of formulas to meet a specific project requirement and to create new formulas from existing formulas for versions of formulas.

Obtain feedback from procurement, quality and production as a routine process – When a new formula is introduced into production a review process including members from procurement, R&D, quality and production should be present. You should be discussing unique elements of the new formula, special processing requirement and specific quality concerns that may exist.  This review should also be performed after the first few batches are produced and then again after 10-20 batches are produced.

This information could be critical to each department and getting ideas on how to address processing challenges is likely to occur.  Multiple heads is often better than just a few.

My hunch is that most R&D departments do some of these items but very few do all of them.  The key is structure and to leverage tools available to your organization. If the tools do not exist in your organization then look around.  They exist and are less expensive and more powerful than you may imagine.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...