Formulators and Suppliers Build Strong Connections
Chemidex Delivers on the Promise of the Internet
(Ghost-written with Michelle Evans, Chemidex, LLC)
Tight deadlines shouldn’t make you sweat. Senior Research Scientist Donna Hwang works in Basic and Applied Research at Coty Inc. The team she works with has been on the leading edge of several product innovations including a new AP/Deo formula for the athletic market. Recently, Ms. Hwang was given an unusually tight deadline for work on a new fragrance-type product.
“Usually we have a little more leeway, but this time we had to turn-around the project in a very short time,” said Ms. Hwang. Since she already knew which suppliers would have the types of ingredients necessary for the product, she visited the Chemidex Cybrary, a leading chemical and life sciences search engine, for some quick answers.
“I was able to compare three different products from three different companies, look at sample formulations, and order ingredient samples right away,” Ms. Hwang recalled.
While she acknowledged that there is no substitute for speaking with suppliers to answer specific questions, in this case, there just wasn’t time. Being able to use the internet for this purpose was a huge productivity advantage. “It was like meeting with several suppliers at one time.”
This is the way the internet should work. As global competition and market pressures increase, companies are being forced to find creative ways to cut development time without compromising quality. Theoretically, the advent and growth of the internet should be the answer to this challenge, allowing formulators to identify potential ingredients and solutions from a greater number of sources in a shorter amount of time than conventional research. All too often, however, the reality of the internet is something quite different.
Enter criteria such as “thickener,” “low pH” and “conditioner” into a web search engine and more than 33,000 results come back. They may include everything from a trade journal article, to a student research paper, to a listing of every known thickener legally approved for use in cosmetics in the state of California. There may even be a link to a supplier that offers just the right product.
But supplier websites offer varying levels of product detail and ease of use, and while some have fantastic search capabilities and a few offer e-commerce-style sample-requesting functionality, ultimately a formulator must visit multiple sites and make multiple requests in the early stages of development. Here, the advantage of using an aggregator site like Chemidex is clear.
Finding Solutions Faster
David Story works in upstream formulation for KAO Brands. He has been integral in a number of groundbreaking personal care product developments including the introduction of the first body wash to the U.S. market. One of his current projects involves identifying an ingredient with some unique characteristics. Like Ms. Hwang, he turned to Chemidex for help.
“I was looking at a group of materials that were botanical in nature and had the ability to influence skin irritation,” explained Mr. Story. “Essentially I was able to request more than 35 samples in about 40 minutes as opposed to the two to three days it would have taken to make those requests by phone.”
He continues, “You have to factor in the downtime – time when you are waiting for a return call when you are not working toward a solution.”
With the ability to order those samples so quickly, Mr. Story was able to start working on a solution a full week earlier than expected.
“(It’s all about) efficiency. Plain and simple,” he said. “I am measured based on how quickly I can deliver an effective solution.”
Another new product formulator at a leading laundry and home care products manufacturer said he will tap internal expertise and in-house knowledge bases first before going online when he is working on enhancements to existing products or line extensions. However, for cutting-edge projects that lead him into unfamiliar areas, he conducts the bulk of his initial research online.
“If it is something completely new or at least, totally new to me or the company the web is the first place I go,” says this senior scientist. “I can do research on the technology in general, learn about competitive products, find out who the players are — I can get the whole picture pretty quickly.”
In addition to helping formulators research, identify and source ingredients samples, the internet can also be valuable for keeping current on ingredient and industry news. As suppliers continue to rollout new technologies, formulators must sort through mountains of promotional material, try to read the most current issues of trade magazines, while they wait until the next conference or trade show to learn about new developments. Chemidex offers its members weekly industry-specific e-news flashes that summarize developments from its vast network of channel partners, bringing together all the latest innovations in one succinct communication. New Technology Tuesday is published for each of the industries Chemidex serves including personal care and cosmetics, paints and coatings, food and beverage, household and institutional and industrial cleaners, adhesives and sealants, and graphic arts and inks.
“It introduces me to what’s new out there,” said Ms. Hwang. “It’s a good reminder to go back to Chemidex or the company website to look for new ingredients and find out if there is something I can use.”
Find Each Other … Faster
On the supplier side, the internet has created a host of ways to connect with customers. From the basics like company websites and banner advertisements, to more sophisticated interactions like online seminars and targeted subscription-based e-newsletters, companies have a range of both push and pull technologies from which to choose. Savvy sales and marketing professionals evaluate which of these options will deliver the most meaningful customer interactions and choose to leverage a variety of them.
Ellen Werner of Ciba Specialty Chemicals is one such marketing professional. The Ciba Specialty Chemicals site features an exceptionally robust searchable product database and includes a customer registration component where Ciba can capture valuable information about prospects. Ms. Werner first became acquainted with Chemidex via the company’s targeted direct e-mail services, and later Ciba became a channel partner in the Cybrary. Ms. Werner augments internal customer knowledge with information from Chemidex.
“Once a month I get a report from Chemidex that tells me who accessed our data and how they got there – by product name, formulation, or key word,” she explained.
The information exchange through Chemidex is reciprocal. When formulators request samples through Chemidex they are provided with contact details at the supplier and given the option of specifying whether they are at an appropriate stage in the development cycle to receive calls from sales people. Suppliers, in turn, are provided with pertinent details about requestors and the requests. This initial connection sets the tone for two-way communication. The net result is more productive, focused exchanges between formulators and suppliers.
Another benefit Ms. Werner cites is the extended reach Chemidex provides. As effective as any sales team can be, people change jobs and move, companies reorganize and grow. Tools such as Chemidex have the ability to ensure formulators and suppliers who need each other remain connected.
“Often our sales people will find new formulators that they may not have known about at a company that is an existing customer,” said Ms. Werner. “Lead generation like that is the single most important aspect of what Chemidex does.”
In an era when getting more products to market, faster, cheaper and better than ever before, is critical, time and access to information have become the hottest commodities for formulators. The web can be an agent for delivering those commodities if both formulators and suppliers make smart choices about this potentially powerful tool.
Here are some tips for conducting business on the web:
Article appeared in May 2006 issue of Happi [Household and Personal Products Industry] magazine.
copyright 2012, Carole Dicton