Formula-Based Manufacturing Software: Get the Right Tools for the Job

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If yours is a formula-based manufacturing business, you have unique challenges in the marketplace. Vicinity Software has designed a system, VicinityChem, to provide the tools to address the complex needs of formula-based manufacturers.

What’s on your wish-list for must-have research and development tools? What would make your formula-based manufacturing business run more efficiently, stimulate growth, and increase profitability? There’s a good chance those tools already exist and are ready to help.

Here are 5 tools you might be wishing for:

1. A sophisticated lab notebook

Most research and development (R&D) departments have some form of lab notebook. We’re talking about something a lot more sophisticated than a yellow legal pad. You may have worked through Excel or have a custom Access database. Perhaps there is a database compiled by an employee who is no longer around and has taken his recollections with him.  What you need is a lab notebook containing all your company’s project work -- searchable and archived for easy access. You’ll want the option to add user fields without programming.  And you’ll want to make all the information available to the members of your team. You’ll save time and stress when your employees can collaborate quickly and easily.

Picture a process where marketing sends an electronic requirements request to R&D. R&D evaluates similar project results, compiles a list of potential formulations, and narrows it down to the most likely examples. They generate a sample batch ticket, submit samples for evaluation. Everything is tracked and measured as a routine KPI. Is that a tool you could use? That tool exists today, and you can have it for your formula-based manufacturing business.

2. A view of past, present, and future materials prices

It’s not too difficult to come up with current materials costs. And you can just reference your ERP for what you have paid in the past. Those figures are valuable, but perhaps more important is a way to look forward and predict accurately what future costs will be. That is not so easy, but it is necessary if you are to incorporate anticipated material cost changes into the R&D formulation.

If you spend your day looking up current costs, you are about ten years behind the times. When you can compare ongoing formulation costs to three months, six months, and twelve months ago, that’s better. However, a truly valuable tool will help you to predict future material costs and identify the current production formulations most affected by these changes. That tool is also available.

3. Historical formulations search

It might surprise you how often companies formulate for duplicate requirements. Or maybe you’ve done it yourself.  Once you have centralized your formulations out of Excel and into a searchable database, you need a tool to query the database without calling in employees with programming skills.  Some search parameters are the existence of specific raw materials, quality specifications, material and labor costs, suppliers of raw materials, and physical properties of materials such as allergens or hazards. Your search engine should also categorize the formulas by whether your company currently produces those products and the yields you have achieved during production.  Imagine having a tool that provides all of that data. There are affordable and integrated tools that can help deliver this vision to your organization today.

4. Production to R&D feedback loop

A feedback loop is a simple tool, but it is rarely implemented routinely.  Commercialization processes should include reviews of new formulations immediately after the first batch. Data should be collected again once the formulas have been running for a while. Regular, focused meetings between production, quality control, and R&D can change your company’s trajectory.

Your team should discuss yields, what’s working and what’s not, and ways they can improve the process. Then, consider quality additions. Should you change the process or the formula to eliminate or reduce the need for a second passes through quality? Every time a run passes through quality control a second time, it costs your company money. Are there alternate ingredients or processes that could make the operation more efficient? Every bit of savings in time and materials will affect your bottom line. Use the tools available to gather valuable feedback.

5. Track samples and quantify conversion rates

How much time and effort does your company spend from sales through marketing into R&D and shipping to process just one new formulation sample? It’s costly! Do you have systems in place to track the conversion of each sample into a sale? How many of your samples turn into sales? Which buyers have the highest (and lowest) conversion rates? What does it cost your company to create a new formula, and how long will that formula be sold? These are valid questions, and there are tools available today to provide answers. You can track your samples in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It can be stand-alone and hosted; the setup takes minutes and can provide valuable knowledge.

Complex formulas? We have solutions

Would you like to learn more about these and other R&D tools for your formula-based manufacturing business? VicinityChem integrated with Microsoft Dynamics provides formula-based manufacturers with the comprehensive ERP system they need.  Contact our team at Vicinity Software today.

By Vicinity Software,



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