The product reformulation is necessary and a standard part of the fast-changing paints & coatings industry production.
Furthermore, If you’re working in the paint and coatings industry, you know that most projects in R&D consist of formulators seeking for the right material alternative that fits the formulation they have to modify.
In this article, we’ll go through:
-The most common reasons when reformulation of a product is needed
-A real-life case from the industry
-Main challenges formulators (R&D experts) face during the reformulation processes
-Main steps where you can save non-added value time with the digital approach
Reformulation is mostly needed when:
- The used raw material is no longer available (discontinued raw material).
- Product hazards are no longer suitable for the market(s) in which we are present (regulatory requirements).
- We want to reduce the product price (and other marketing reasons).
- We want to upgrade the product application or increase the end-product quality and its performance.
- We need alternative formulation (in case the supply of any isn’t available in the future).
- Company acquisition happens.
How does the process look like now? A real-life case
We are one of the few companies in the industry to produce reactive technology paint. The raw materials are coming to Europe from abroad. From 1st of June 2018 due to REACH legislation changes, our key raw material was discontinued.
Two years ago we asked our supplier (a billion-dollar company) if all products are REACH compliant. We got an affirmative answer, even in writing.
However, in April 2018, we got very unpleasant news. Two of our key raw materials from this supplier were no longer available. One was discontinued from production; the other couldn’t be REACH registered anymore.
What to do now? Where and how to find the alternative raw material?
We were in a troublesome situation because this material is not widely produced. I’m talking about very rare material in the chemical industry that is produced only by a handful of companies in the world.
We contacted four different companies that are dealing with similar materials, mainly because not a single company had a helpful search online. We were only able to send them several e-mails and to call them.
We could only get in touch with their sales agent. In all cases, no one had even the basic knowledge about the material in question. Moreover, it seemed to me they didn’t even know to whom within the company should they address our questions.
It took us from 3 to 17 days to get in touch with technical support. In all four companies, this was only one person.
That wasn’t the end; only one Ph.D. in one out of four companies had some knowledge about the material we were using and was able to make some comparison. The technical experts from the other three companies knew only about their material.
They all promised the liquid samples of their possible resin alternative.
It took between 14 days and one month to get the samples in our laboratory.
With samples, we got their TDS and (M)SDS. At this point, we still didn’t have prices.
We initiated the testing process, which is exceptionally lengthy, as these systems require 15+ years exposure in the highly corrosive environment.
Our estimated time to complete the product reformulation development is up to one year.
Now we can only hope we got the right samples.
Main challenge formulators face in the process
When we want to find an alternative to an existing material due to one of the reasons described above, we must firstly contact as many suppliers or distributors with the inquiry.
Alternatively, we try our luck on one of the material search engines or marketplaces.
Both ways are usually demanding and time-consuming.
While there can be many suppliers of the material we are looking for, there can also be only a few, that depends on how “specific” the material is.
Sometimes it is challenging to just get in touch with the right person, someone who can tell us the most about the material.
Usually, we all have contacts with sales agents or product managers, but they are responsible for hundreds or thousands of materials, so they do not know every product “soul and spirit”, so to speak.
Therefore, the real knowledge is hard to get because there can be only one person in a multi-billion organization that can give you a complete insight of the product and comparison with the currently used one.
When it comes to the search engines and marketplaces, the challenge is a little bit different but not any less complicated or lengthy.
Even though you initially don’t have to call anybody, but search for the material alternative yourself, you end up with unanswered questions and a bunch of datasheets just to manually compare all of the materials. In the end, you still have to call the supplier, or they call you.
Another thing, when formulating, you often have a general idea about the desired physical and/or chemical properties of raw material that would fit perfectly in your formulation.
That’s why the frustration when looking for the most suitable raw material is definitely there with search engines and marketplaces. Because you can’t just type in parameters for each material function and compare different materials side by side, but first have to manually process huge amount of papers (SDSs, TDSs, brochures, catalogs) only to get some idea of possible alternatives.
Let’s summarize the process:
- Find all possible suppliers with the right raw materials or go through a lot of paperwork (Demanding and time-consuming).
- Get in touch with the technical expertise that has in-depth knowledge of their materials. (This can take many months, a lot of emails and calls back and forth).
- Get the right documentation, like (M)SDS and TDS.Process all the data (See if parameters and properties fit in the existing formulation).
- Get samples.
- Test the samples in the reformulated formulation.
- Test the end product in the lab, real-world environment, or with fast simulating tests.
In the end, if the final product isn’t in sync with the health, safety and environmental requirements, price, quality, desired performance, or long-term availability of materials, we have to start the whole process all over again. How frustrating!
How can this process look with the digital platform?
Before I go into describing the main benefits of digitized raw material data, I’d like to summarize the “broken” customer journey in the paint & coatings industry.
It’s fair to say that:
–The communication between manufacturers and suppliers is not good, sometimes completely insufficient (of course, it depends on the company size, relationship time and so on).
–Not a single raw material selector is truly tailored to the needs of the formulators. I can’t search by parameters, even though I have a strong idea of what kind of materials I need in my project. I end up with papers, a lot of time spend and manual work.
Now think how easier the product reformulation process could be with the help of a digital platform where raw material data would be completely digitized (NOT ON PAPERS OR PDF FILES)?
Allchemist keeps a database (public one or your own private database) of raw materials in the digitized form, which makes its use beneficial for both parties involved – formulators and raw material suppliers/distributors.
What does this mean?
This means you can do a big portion of the work before you go to the actual lab. In Allchemist:
- Searching is fast and efficient. For the first time, you now have the ability not only to search for materials by more than 1000 properties and 120 parameters but actually “play” with endless possibilities. Check out how you can search for the material by exact parameters and compare them immediately on one screen HERE.
- By putting different materials in your new or existing formulation, you will immediately see a change of hazards, parameters like density, solids, VOC, PVC, pigment/binder ratio, and price. All of that on one screen. See how Formulation Mixer works HERE.
- The HSE of the formulation can be revised instantly to see if the end product complies with the customer need.
- You can create (M)SDS in 30 + languages. (M)SDS is already created according to the data you entered in your formulation. All you have to do is revise it and order labels in Allchemist. More on (M)SDS creation HERE.
- To get prices is easy, as in Allchemist every product has assigned person that gets instantly an e-mail for each material. More on Company Address Bar HERE.
For more about the ways, suppliers/distributors and formulators can use Allchemist, check out this article.
Then the real testing starts in the lab but with more critical information and more in-depth understanding of the products use, the chances of success after a year of testing are much higher.
If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply send the inquiry via this form.