Bringing a product to market is a lot like having a baby with someone you’ve been married to for years. By the time your precious bundle enters the world, you and your significant other have gotten to know each other really well — and you believe you have a good idea of what your progeny will be like, based on your knowledge of yourself and your partner.
But life is never that neat and predictable. As your child grows, unexpected physical characteristics emerge. Personality traits develop and change when your child goes to school and is increasingly exposed to a big, diverse world.
One day it hits you — you can’t know everything about your children, nor predict what they will be like, because you can’t possibly know all the factors that go into making them who they are. Your children may develop in such a way that prompts you to seek help understanding them. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. You just have limitations.
Parenting a product
Most manufacturers put as much care into bringing their products to market as you do taking care of your children. But like you, sometimes they just don’t know everything they would like to about their babies — or, more specifically, the materials that went into making their products. They often need outside help to understand just what they’re dealing with.
Polymer Solutions Incorporated routinely does work for clients with the goal of helping them better understand their own products. We never wonder why they don’t already know the answers to the questions they want us to help with. Just as parents can’t possibly know everything about their kids, and sometimes need help, manufacturers face factors that they often can’t resolve on their own.
One of their biggest challenges is knowing exactly what is in the materials they use to create their products. Few companies still employ vertically integrated supply chains; most rely on outside vendors to provide the materials they need for a particular application. Those suppliers are, understandably, guarded with the proprietary information they share about the materials that generate their income. The information they’re comfortable sharing is often a basic spec sheet.
Manufacturers, however, need to know more if they’re going to reasonably predict the performance of the material and the product made from it. If a problem arises with a product, knowing exactly what’s in the material they used to make it could help them better understand how to solve issues.
Getting professional help
Few manufacturing companies have the internal capabilities to fully analyze materials. Processes like High-temperature Gel Permeation Chromatography (HT-GPC) or X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF) can answer a number of questions about the properties of polymers and other materials. But the instrumentation needed for such analysis processes is highly specialized, expensive and requires extensive expertise to be used properly. Few manufacturers have those resources in-house, so they outsource the analysis to professionals, like PSI, who are better equipped to figure out what exactly is in their products.
Parents sometimes need help understanding their children because parenting is not an exact science. While product making and materials testing are scientific in nature, even the most involved manufacturers can sometimes need outside help to understand their babies.