R&D decisions are based on return on investment - how much additional profit you can make by selling the new product, against the cost to introduce it. As an engineer in an R&D division (although not in the chemical industry) I can contribute some observations on the cost side.
In order to introduce a new product, you would need to do the following:
1. Identify the requirement - where can improvements be made that will result in greater profits (either through greater unit sales or through greater profit per unit).
2. Do the actual product design. Theoretical analysis and probably computer simulation. Prototype many different candidate emulsion formultions to determine which precise formulation best achieves the objective.
3. Document the precise product composition - raw ingrediants, analytical measurements of trace ingrediants found in the raw ingrediants since these may affect film performance, precise temperatures and humidities for all manufacturing operations, etc. so that you can reliably reproduce the film.
Now if one were doing this as a home project, it would be more or less done. But as a potential product for manufacturing, you still need to:
4. Qualify the product, which means extensive testing to ensure that it will perform as required under all usage conditions. This is a much more complex and expensive process than one might think initially. at a rough guess, I would expect that qualification of a new film would entail:
4.1 Exposure and development regimes: different degrees of over- and under-exposure, with all likely developers and fixers, over the allowed temperature range for development, and with different process types (small tank, rotary, tray etc). Possibly 5 stops of exposure x 10 developers x 2 fixers x 3 temperatures x 3 process types = 900 rolls/sheets of film to shoot test targets and evaluate. Some of this will have been done during product development, but will almost certainly need to be redone under more controlled conditions during qualification.
4.2 Storage conditions: extended storage tests of uneposed film, exposed film, and negatives at ambient, high and low temperature, with various degrees of humidity. You probably need an accelerated aging process to qualify a film in a realistic time frame, but the time frame will still be 6 months or more - after all, it could potentially kill the company if say the negatives start to fade after 5 years.
4.3 resistance to atmospheric polutants of various type.
4.4 resistance to ultraviolet light.
4.5 fungus resistance
4.6 mechanical strength and abrasion resistance including effects of dust etc.
4.7 test of operational characteristics at temperature extremes - does the film perform the same at +40 C as at -10 C?
4.8 if you have any critical qualfication failures, then reformulate and repeat qualification.
5. Field testing - shoot lots of film under various real-world conditions to ensure the results are as expected.
Are we done yet? Nope, we now have a qualified film, but not yet a qualified production process!
6. Re-tooling - making any changes to nozzles, dies etc required to produce the film. This may be substantial if e.g. the new film design has more layers than previous films or new manufacturing processes are involved.
7. Capture product requirements and process stages in MRP system.
8. Update test equipment, software and procedures to enable automated QA testing of the new film.
9. Update production flow diagrams and work instructions and train production staff.
10. Run low volume pre-production. Perform extensive QA testing on resulting film to catch any process errors. Fix errors and iterate.
OK so we're done now? not quite. Now we have to handle the distribution and logistics.
11. Update stores inventory control system, assign stores areas,
12. Packaging design, documentation and qualification.
13. Data sheets for the new film, and update data sheets for related products (developers etc) to include figures for the new film.
14. Train internal sales support staff and technical support in new film.
15. Marketing material, launch events, website.
I'm guessing that this process will cost in the order of US$ 10 million. So essentially the question facing the company is whether the new film will increase profits (over and above existing products) sufficiently to pay back say US$10 M in a reasonable period - say US$ 2M additional profit per year for the next 5 years in order to break even on the R&D costs. Of course $2M profits probably requires at least $4M in sales, so about 1 million rolls of film a year over and above existing sales.
One fact that can drive this process is component obselescence - if a chemical that is used in a propular current film becomes unavailable, then the potential future profit for that film line falls to zero unless you can replace it, making the introduction of a new or reformulated film to fulfill the same market niche much more attractive than if it would cannabalise profits from an existing product in the same market niche.
Last edited by andrew.roos; 05-31-2012 at 12:52 PM. Click to view previous post history.