Think Small: Affordable Customization

June 13, 2016 04:27 PM
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Product differentiation is one route to higher profits, but it's hard to be different from competitors if you all use the same raw materials. The answer is to use customized latex emulsions, but finding suppliers can be difficult. Many, especially those with large scale manufacturing processes, want to see the potential for substantial volume down the road, and that's often hard to promise.

That puts many formulators in a bind. How do you tailor your products to specific needs and markets, whether it is for for paints, coatings or other applications, when you're constrained by the limited choice of water-based emulsions in the catalog?

The answer is to find and work with a specialist manufacturer of synthetic polymer emulsions. Consider evaluating potential suppliers under these five headings:

  1. Ability to deliver results quickly
  2. Minimum project volume
  3. Impact on your products
  4. Impact on your costs
  5. Willingness to listen

Speed

When you've spotted a gap in the market you want to get a new product in there quickly. A large-scale manufacturer will slot your project in among the rest of their development efforts. Those seen as having higher volume potential will probably take priority so it could take years to go through the inevitable product development iterations. In contrast, a smaller manufacturer will give your work higher priority, and with their greater flexibility and hunger for success, you'll get to market faster.

No Volume Is Too Small

Large emulsion manufacturers think big. That means it's hard to get their attention with the small quantities needed for a new product. Small manufacturers are ready and willing to work with you on your development project, with a “mighty oaks from little acorns grow” attitude.

Product Impact

The specialist manufacturer is happy to tailor emulsion performance to the intended application. Getting precisely the right degree of tack or film-forming properties may mean moving to a resin-supported type of product, addressing carboxylation, adjusting styrene to butadiene ratio, or fine-tuning any of the myriad other variables.

Cost impact

A styrene butadiene polymer emulsion can accept a higher level of filler than competing emulsion formulations can, and that can lower end-product costs. That's one example of how customization is about more than product performance. Waste reduction is another possible benefit: for example, a resin-supported emulsion can reduce downtime and associated costs in printing operations through superior ink and coating performance.

Only by understanding the intended application, and applying ideas from other applications, can your emulsion supplier find the optimal formulation to lower total costs.

Listening

Is the supplier willing to invest the time in understanding what you're looking for? Will they ask questions that delve under the surface, perhaps challenging your assumptions? If you seek a standard product, all suppliers can provide what you ask for.  To develop a customized solution, asking the right question can be as important as having all the answers. A standard product makes for a traditional customer-supplier relationship whereas what you might need is a partnership with someone who listens.

Think Small

One of the challenges in formulating differentiated coating, ink or paint products is persuading a large latex polymer emulsion manufacturer to work with you on a development project. That's why it makes sense to partner with a specialty company like Mallard Creek Polymers. They can provide the kind of affordable customization that big players struggle to match.

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