6 Tips for Evaluating Milling Process Services Companies
Justin Klinger, Sep 11, 2020 6:45:00 AM
Many manufacturers have discovered the benefits of partnering with a toll processor for services like milling — especially for highly technical and regulated products including:
- Food ingredients
- Pharmaceutical active ingredients
- Paints, pigments, and coatings
- And more
Wet milling is in especially high demand for micronization, nanonization, blending, and dispersion. That’s because it achieves not only very fine particle sizes, but also tight size distributions, using less energy than dry milling methods.
Precision milling technologies can achieve exacting outcomes in terms of dissolution, uniformity, and absorption. These improvements can increase the efficacy of ingredients, reducing the amount needed in a formulation. At scale, this can lead to substantial cost savings.
But just because a company offers wet grinding or other specialty milling services doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for your needs. So how can you effectively assess and differentiate between toll processors?
1. The process starts at home.
Before you begin digging into toll processors, it’s crucial to understand your own side of the equation. Including individuals from across your company enables you to build a complete picture of the gaps you need to fill, including:
- Equipment and facilities
- Scientific and technical expertise
- Regulatory compliance
Gather input from key stakeholders and document their questions, so you can make the most of the opportunity to achieve a complete, 360-degree view of potential toll processing partners.
2. Look for a close match between capabilities and your needs.
Equipment is just the beginning — but it is a critical starting point. Mill types, products processed, and capacities make a difference in a toll processor’s ability to meet your needs for turnaround time, pilot testing, multi-step processes, and more.
Beyond wet or dry milling equipment, you’ll also need to consider a facility’s receiving, storage and handling, packaging, and shipping capabilities. What are the largest and smallest quantities they can receive? What’s the maximum particle size? What bulk formats can they handle?
3. Review quality assurance, certifications, and regulatory compliance documentation.
The complexities of regulatory standards, specialty certifications, quality control, traceability, and other process control procedures are often among the reasons companies look to toll processors. Trust is a key part of the toll processing relationship. Ask every potential partner about certifications and accreditations, product safety and quality assurance protocols, and protection of your proprietary information.
4. Look for clarity and transparency in pricing.
Cost savings are a major reason for partnering with a toll processor for services like wet media milling. Outsourcing eliminates the capital investment of equipment — and the real estate, permitting, labor, logistics, and other associated costs needed to house and run those milling machines — but if you’re not 100% clear on pricing and fees, how do you even know you’re saving money?
Investigate whether costs such as labor and packaging are flat fees vs. time and materials. Be sure to get details on logistics, warehousing, and storage fees. A trustworthy toll processor will be upfront with you on all the costs associated with partnering.
5. Demand added value on the personnel side.
The company you select for milling process services is an integral partner in your manufacturing process, so you need to feel confident that they’re fielding a team of experts. You should be able to tap their expertise in research and development, material science, and technical processes to help you troubleshoot, optimize, and improve processes and products along the way.
An experienced processing services provider should be able to demonstrate how they’ve helped customers like you solve challenges and achieve their goals. They should be able to speak to typical challenges with a particular milling technology, such as wet media milling, and address your individual concerns.
6. Verify all claims of capabilities.
While there’s no direct substitute for an in-person evaluation, it’s not always possible to make that happen. Once you’ve evaluated a few toll processors and you’re close to making a decision, if a plant visit isn’t an option, an in-depth Q-&-A session can go a long way to build your confidence. Call and request a virtual meeting.
Demand evidence that verifies your potential new partner’s claims. After all, you intend to entrust your product and all it entails — vision, outcome, brand, etc. — to their services. They should welcome the opportunity for open, forthright conversations. And should the opportunity for a plant visit become a reality, remember: it’s hard to overstate the value.
There is a lot to gain by accessing not only the physical capabilities but also the scientific and technical know-how of an experienced toll processing services provider. It’s also critical that you establish a sense of mutual trust as you make your selection.
The more information you have on your end, the better equipped you’ll be when it’s time to choose. Familiarize yourself with the different milling methods in our Milling Methods Comparison Guide. Just click the button below to download.