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You Want to Make That How?

by Dom Ruggeri

January 2005:

Back in the late eighties I was working for a major formulating house and, like most places back then (and now), they were looking to cut costs.  We were all asked to consider cost in every formulation we developed.  Some included adding all the bulk raw materials first to minimize handling drums and save time.  Others included using reasonably priced raw materials in place of the more costly products.  Excellent ideas on the surface and for quite some time they helped control production costs.

The marketing people were pleased; the cost cutting was having a positive impact on the bottom line.  As always, what we had was not enough.  Marketing wanted more.  Someone got the idea that a metalworking fluid could be produced using a static mixer and the latent heat of reaction.  Imagine that… making a metalworking fluid using a static mixer and the heat generated by raw material reactions.  On paper this sounded like a great concept - the static mixers would be paid for with the fuel savings.

We began the laboratory simulations and initially things looked promising.  But in the lab, unless the simulation study is clearly defined and the appropriate parameters established, the results are meaningless at best. At worst, it will cost a ton of time and money in an attempt to make a bad theory work.

The first statically mixed coolant production batch was scheduled, the raw materials were added, and the static mixer was engaged.  Six hours later they turned on the heat and finished the batch.  During the investigation the marketing group came to the obvious conclusion that the lab did something wrong during the simulations.  Well at least we don’t practice tech without a license.

As a formulator you should always be aware of what the equipment limitations are in your facility.  You could formulate the greatest product imaginable.  IF your plant can’t produce it, you have nothing.  Further, if it happens too often, you may not have a job.  Here are a few steps you can follow as you work on your product development projects:

Whenever Possible Use Stock Raw Materials:

Sounds easy, but you would be amazed how many formulators do not know all the raw materials their employer stocks.  Worse, they bring in new, and sometimes more expensive, raw materials that have the same function as the current ones.  That is why ISO 9001:2000 places such emphasis on the development section.

Check Your Order of Addition:

Many plants store certain raw materials in bulk quantities.  It is easier to add these bulk raw materials first.  The question is: Will the change in the order of raw material addition affect product quality?  The only way to know is to try that order of addition and if a certain reaction must occur, thus making the order of addition critical, know what will happen if the order is changed.


Mixing something in a beaker is one thing.  Up scaling it to a tank is quite another. You may have to increase the mixing time to compensate for the slower agitator speed.  However, be careful if a raw material needs to be sheared into the fluid.  All the time in the world will not compensate.  For that you need special equipment.

Weighing or Accuracy:

Or as I like to call it slop room.  If you know that the best your plant can do is plus or minus 2 pounds, do not set raw material weights to the ounce if your plant can’t be that accurate.  Also make sure you know how the accuracy of the plant scales will affect your finished product.

Sounds like a lot to remember and, in the beginning, it can be.  But as a formulator grows in experience (the best teacher), these things will become second nature.  I guess the best way to sum up everything I said above is
Know Your Plant.

Happy New Year to all and as always should you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me in care of the magazine. Till next month,

Good Luck