Formula Development Zen

Formula DevelopmentThe process of new formula development (or new recipe development) is as unique as the research chemist. However, there are some key elements that could make the formula development 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 Activities

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a terrific tool to organize the workflow of the R&D process. You can create an opportunity and then link it to a customer or contact. It can also manage the steps of the process, ensuring key steps are not overlooked and share key data with relevant contacts. One of the most important parts is to store the data in a shareable, searchable and reportable platform. While you are able to do this 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

Today, most formula manufacturers 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 it should really change. Many of the same tools used to make the 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 formula development and ingredients, then 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 also to create new formulas from existing formulas for different versions of formulas.

Formula Development

Obtain Feedback from Procurement, Quality, and Production as a Routine Process

When a new formula is introduced into production, a review process should occur, and members from procurement, R&D, quality, and production should be present. You should discuss unique elements of the new formula, special processing requirements, and specific quality concerns that may exist. Perform this review after producing the first few batches, and then again after producing 10-20 batches.

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

My hunch is that most R&D departments already 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.

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