The perfect formulator
A formulator, in addition to having intuition and developed theoretical knowledge, must above all be a good laboratory technician, able to easily handle substances, glassware and equipment. Furthermore, he must be equipped with organization and mental flexibility, since he will often find himself in situations where he will have to work simultaneously on multiple projects or on multiple versions of the same prototype. He will have to know the raw materials and their characteristics well and be able to combine them in a sensible and compatible way, studying their relationships and stability. The organized availability of a wide range of raw materials in the laboratory is essential to cope with the development of new products, it will not be feasible to approach a project without having sufficient materials.
An expert formulator in his sector is potentially able to create every customization request or to replace formula ingredients if there is a need (scarce availability, price increases, changes in safety classification).
A great virtue of the formulator is that of never stopping at the creation of a new product, but of continuing to try to improve its performance and possibly also reduce its cost.
The price of raw materials is one of the cornerstones to keep in mind when formulating. The researcher needs to have the costs of raw materials and production processes, even before starting to start a formulation. This could be taken for granted but it does not always happen within a sectoralized corporate context, where it can happen that the laboratory is isolated from the purchasing department. Knowing the formula cost in retrospect could make all the work done useless. Ideally, the researcher will have to establish a direct channel with suppliers himself, who will be able to direct him towards the correct raw materials to be tested or propose testing of new alternatives, also providing information on prices, availability, timing. Direct communication with suppliers literally halves the time and people involved in projects. The purchasing office will therefore only intervene at the moment of confirmation by the Research manager.
The anguish that often grips the researcher concerns the timing for developing a new product or improving another one. In general, it is not possible to know the time necessary to create a new formulation, above all if one intends to use a different technology. The analysis of a new product must be accurate before it is distributed on the market and times, sometimes too stringent, risk having a product subjected to an insufficient number of tests approved. The result could cause enormous damage to the customer as well as the manufacturer.
The formulator doesn't create only products, but also processes. When, for example, a product has reached its application limits, it will be necessary to act on different methods and applications which could affect the entire industrial process. This could be problematic if historical and tested products are modified; the customer will hardly be inclined to invest to change the operating methods. Conversely, an important change can be positively contextualised, in the case of innovations for which the customer has been prepared and therefore makes himself available for this approach. Also in the latter case, the research department will have to establish continuous collaboration with the commercial sector, in order to better understand and satisfy the demands of the market and customers.
Finally, it's essential to have pilot instruments with which the formulator will be able to carry out tests suitable for simulating the industrial process. In the absence of such instruments, it is often reduced to setting up small systems by hand using materials found in the laboratory; this translates into rough and approximate analyzes that can lead to results that completely deviate from reality. Unfortunately, it is a scenario often encountered in laboratories where, due to lack of resources or investment laziness, the necessary equipment is not purchased, leaving the laboratory and its technicians at the mercy of old and not at all innovative environments.
It may happen that the Research and Development department has a certain independence from other company sectors, as it often follows projects that are not bound by production and logistics times (except for urgent process corrections or production errors). In any case, he will still have to submit to a roadmap defined with the Management, with weekly or at least monthly reports on the development of tests and new products.