Agree it's complicated to understand what products need to be introduced, and making the calculations surrounding return of investment.

In the ROI calculation, things like market share, synergies coming from existing products, company profile, trends in society, etc are taken into account. Take a mega trend like energy efficiency, for example. It's here to stay this time around, and it would be a wise thing to capitalize on in bringing new products to the market Ė to make stuff people canít be without.
The tough part about photography, and film photography in particular, is that the market has been in decline for many years, all while being highly mature technology with little to no room for improvement. Just how can somebody come up with something new and fresh that is groundbreaking enough to alter or better how the final print is arrived at? I think that small incremental improvements have been the way it's gone for many years, if not decades now, but also, as you mention, consolidating product lines, or replacing old ones with components that become unavailable.
The only small game changer I have seen is the Ilford Art 300 - bringing back a textured paper to the market for those who mourned the loss of Foma 532 and 542. Variation on a theme, sure, but now we see Freestyle bringing out a textured paper as well, via Fotokemika, so a bit of a new trend has been set.

A new film? You're obviously a lot more qualified than I in calculating the cost. I work in the product marketing department, and get to be part of discussions surrounding bringing new products to the market, and justifying the cost via market research, and customer interviews. But a new film - I wouldn't even know where to begin to look.

It's an interesting discussion, especially if you look retrospectively. For example, why did Kodak discontinue Panatomic-X? Or Super-XX? Or Royal Pan? They thought they had something they could make more money on, and release it as something superior. Perhaps new trends could be to bring back old favorites. ADOX with their APX 100 and APX 400 replacements, for example. They wouldn't be doing that unless there was a demand for it, but Mirko has also been on this forum letting us know that the game has changed to a point where less R&D staff can be justified in bringing the product forward. This just proves your point about justifying a project based on return on investment, a composite of demand and cost of all sorts.

Perhaps ADOX is finding out why it wasn't viable for Agfa to sell the film they sold at the price they did, based on the cost of production, meaning they'll have to raise the price to a level where few will actually shell out for it, APX or not. I'll be perfectly honest and say that I shot APX mainly because I could afford it. Where I lived it was a lot less expensive than Kodak, Ilford, or Fuji, but with comparable quality. Cost matters. Unfortunately, today the cost of developing a new film is likely higher than it was 30 years ago, more restricted due to availability of materials, but then youíre punished with a market that is a fraction of what it used to be, meaning payback time will be much longer, unless price is increased significantly to raise the margin to a sustainable level. You have to make enough money on every sale to make a profit.

To me, the two most important areas of R&D should be:
  • How to make the product less expensive to produce, while maintaining or improving the performance.
  • How can you make production lines flexible enough that you can run small runs of specialist materials on the same piece of equipment that you also run bulk materials like Tri-X or HP5+?

Quote Originally Posted by andrew.roos View Post
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.