Epoxy manufacturing - how to get the most from your raw materials
In a previous post I talked about the key role formulation philosophy can play in your business, but even with that covered the challenge is really only half over.
To build a strong manufacturing business, you now need to take that philosophy and piece together a range of products that fill the needs of your customers. With the endless list of raw materials available, the danger is falling into the trap of stocking a million different drums from a thousand different suppliers and needing a factory the size of city block to even get started.
How can you go about putting together a range of epoxies in a less daunting, more controlled manner? The answer is: do more with less!
What doing more with less looks like
To do this well, you can’t madly throw together a group of products together and hope they magically work. Your approach has to be more measured and strategic. There are many ways you can go about it, but I’ll tell you the one that’s worked for me.
Basically it involves creating a versatile base product as your starting point, e.g. a clear, general-purpose epoxy binder, and building a range on top of that with the same small group of raw materials. Simple as that, huh? Of course it sounds a lot easier than it is, but it’s something I believe you should aim for right at the start otherwise you can create a painful rod for your own back.
The raw material checklist
I know what you’re thinking: “How do I even begin assembling such a group of raw materials?” To make your task a bit easier, I’ve put together a checklist of 10 questions to ask when starting out –
- Is the raw material approved for use in your country? Is stock readily available now and in the future? Getting a small sample quickly doesn’t guarantee drum supply will be the same, and, while sourcing equivalent materials is sometimes possible, it can take extra time, effort and storage space.
- Can you use it in more than one product, e.g. will a hardener or additive work in multiple products?
- Can it handle all the conditions you’re looking to service or will it be limited to a certain application?
- Do you have a clear idea of how to quickly and easily test the material so you can see if it performs as expected?
- Does it tick all the other boxes as far as formulation goals, e.g. environmental concerns?
- Does it suit your manufacturing equipment and processes, e.g. do certain temperatures need to be reached or is a vacuum required?
- Can you set up quality control measures around the use of the raw material?
- Can you even handle this material? Do you need to invest in special equipment or storage measures?
- Is this material safe to handle? Do you want to be exposed long-term or have staff exposed?
- What is the shelf life? Will you be able to use the minimum order quantity before it expires?
The benefits of doing more with less
Using a checklist like this is a good way to assemble the type of range I’m talking about and, over time, it will deliver a number of benefits in addition to better inventory management.
First of all, it helps you get to know a small group of raw materials intimately rather than spreading yourself thin across a huge pile. The sort of knowledge is invaluable when it comes to areas like troubleshooting and product development. In my own experience, we ended up educating some raw material suppliers about their own products rather than the other way around!
Secondly, it can lead to a simpler, more logical product hierarchy that helps customers with product selection.
Finally, it helps form a range of products that actually stand for something. Such a checklist forces you to stay consistent in your raw material choices, which means staying true to your formulation philosophies and strengthening your brand in the process.
More help for business owners
For business owners seeking more guidance on this and other important topics, Real World Epoxies has created a private group on LinkedIn that might be of interest.
Epoxy Leaders was formed to give those at the front end of the epoxy industry – formulators, manufacturers, re-sellers and distributors – greater clarity, direction and confidence in their business.
You can read all about it here – www.realworldepoxies.com/epoxy-leaders
Take care and keep smiling,