Micronization Services: Small Details, Big Impact on Your Bottom Line
Justin Klinger, Apr 8, 2021 9:36:45 AM
Manufacturers need to be able to trust their expert toll processor to know more than just how to micronize powders.
It's not enough to know that a micronization services supplier has the equipment to reduce particle sizes to the micron level. A toll processor’s understanding of micronization process technology and experience operating highly specialized milling and grinding equipment can affect your project’s path from concept to commercialization.
When evaluating prospective suppliers, a core driver of your decision is establishing the right balance between quality and cost. That’s always important.
Yet it’s often the smallest details that make the biggest difference. But before we jump into those, consider what you want from a relationship with a micronization services supplier.
Do you need a toll manufacturer whose micronization equipment helps you expand beyond your in-house capabilities? Will you depend on their expertise in material science, engineering, and business? Are you looking for a custom processing partner that can improve your insights into process and product improvements? Yes, yes, and yes.
EXPERTISE IS ABOUT MORE THAN KNOWING HOW TO MICRONIZE POWDERS
Not every supplier decision requires such scrutiny, but choosing a micronization service provider is something that deserves close attention.
At a minimum, your goal should include working with a problem solver and innovative thinker, not just an order taker. Even better, look for an experienced technical master of custom toll processing.
But what does that really mean? Here are 10 essentials that every company should consider before selecting a micronization service supplier:
- Micronization capabilities
- Financial stability and reliability
- Regulatory insights
- Quality management
- Process mastery and flexibility
- Professional personnel
- Ease of validation
- Partnership/goal alignment
1. CAPABILITIES: DO THEY HAVE THE MICRONIZATION EQUIPMENT YOU NEED?
One of the first and most crucial items you’ll want to review for any prospective supplier is their capabilities list: what they do and the tools they use to do it. This gives you a clear idea of what they’ll be doing in-house and what, if anything, they may outsource. Researching and asking the right questions at the outset can prevent headaches down the road.
Expect a micronization services provider to have the latest equipment, from fluidized bed jet mills to wet milling equipment. Ask about relationships with leading OEMs and micronizing technology companies. If a project requires specific machinery, is the supplier willing to invest in and install new equipment, and hire new personnel to run it? Will you be asked to share some of the cost?
While technical competence is vital, a single-minded focus can be a red flag. Custom processing is a multi-faceted business relationship that requires close coordination across many functional areas, so it’s important not to let technical expertise overshadow other critical requirements.
2. PERFORMANCE — HISTORICAL AND ONGOING
It may seem obvious, but it’s not always easy to determine supplier performance before a contract is signed. Consider an audit to review performance areas within the manufacturer-supplier relationship. Be sure to address questions about quality failures, compliance issues, and the supplier’s strengths and weaknesses.
Even after a contract is signed, it’s important to continuously monitor, assess, and track your suppliers’ strong performance as well as any negative trends. Following the data makes smart, effective use of your resources, and helps you quickly identify and address underperforming suppliers.
3. EXPERIENCE IN MORE THAN MICRONIZATION
You can quickly evaluate a micronization services supplier’s toll processing experience by checking out the industries they serve or the projects they’ve handled. Just as vital is that supplier’s experience within your industry. Their knowledge of your market, competitors, and product types can help you start off on the right foot with new projects.
Look for projects that compare to yours in terms of start-to-finish services, particle specifications, product types, and more. Ask about the supplier’s involvement in process design and how they would evaluate the experience. These “war stories” can be a good sign that their expertise adds value and can help your micronization projects run faster and smoother.
4. RELIABILITY AND FINANCIAL STABILITY
If your micronization services supplier isn’t reliable, you won’t be either — and that could damage your reputation and your bottom line. So, consider a company’s customer reviews. Do they have reports of notable disruptions? Are they consistent?
Part of reliability is communication. At the start of every project, your processing partner should lay out clear expectations. Expect regular updates and answers to your questions throughout the process.
It should go without saying, but make sure they’re in good financial shape. The last thing you need is your chosen processor going out of business. And if your project requires capital investment in cutting-edge equipment, a financially stable toll processing partner can help you achieve your goals.
5. REGULATORY INSIGHT AND EXPERTISE
Not every micronization services supplier has the same regulatory experience. Requirements for health and safety as well as environmental compliance can vary across the globe. Ask the toll processor about their ability to assure and document full compliance with required regulatory standards.
Ask prospective partners about certifications. Do your micronized products require cGMP compliance for food or pharmaceutical ingredients? Do you need food safety certifications like FSMA and/or FSSC 22000? Is organic certification important? Do your markets demand halal or kosher certification?
As your relationship deepens with your supplier, they’ll become more familiar with the demands of your manufacturing processes. Over time, as you add and adjust for new product or regulatory requirements, the process should get easier.
6. QUALITY MANAGEMENT AND ASSURANCE
Of course, product quality is a critical factor when considering a micronization services supplier. Everything else can run smoothly, but if high product quality isn’t achieved, it’s a waste. But consistently, reliably achieving top-quality products doesn’t come by accident. Suppliers with quality management systems (QMS) in place can measure, document, and prove that their work consistently meets your quality goals.
A QMS like ISO 9001 demonstrates that your tolling partner has taken rigorous steps to establish, follow, and validate a documented plan. You can trust them when they say they meet your specifications.
7. PROCESS MASTERY AND FLEXIBILITY
Process design affects more than just final specifications. Time, energy efficiency, and other factors that can impact outcomes, including cost, can all be optimized through process design, driven by scientific and engineering expertise. Evaluate suppliers’ processes and how they fit together with your operations. Consider review and sign-off, schedules and budgets, and how you get to assess their performance.
Expertise and process mastery should ensure a level of flexibility for the times when you need it. How does a supplier work with you to address changes when they arise? Not every operation is built to handle sudden directional changes. Dive into processors’ past work and ask questions to get a feel for how they operate.
8. OUTSTANDING, PROFESSIONAL PERSONNEL
Capabilities, technology, and processes are all important. But your success also depends on team excellence. Direct contacts like project managers, engineers, and manufacturing leads are vital. But so are all the other individuals who come in contact with your project, from technical operators to quality control, and from lab and analytical services to packaging and logistics.
Excellence in micronization services relies on collaboration and teamwork, and company values are demonstrated in daily interactions. Technical proficiency is the baseline, and teams that bring passion and dedication to the job can take your project from good to great. The best-of-the-best appreciate the challenge of new product development, troubleshooting, and solving tough challenges that other processors can’t.
9. EASY SUPPLIER VALIDATION
Certifying a new toll processing partner shouldn’t be painstaking or overly time-consuming. Look for a supplier with the experience and knowledge to successfully navigate even the most stringent company certification procedures. They should be ready and enthusiastic about working closely with your audit team.
Ultimately, a trustworthy toll processor understands the importance of becoming a validated, certified supplier and will take timely action to achieve that status within your operational processes.
10. PARTNERSHIP/GOAL ALIGNMENT
A successful partnership should be your shared long-term goal. When both parties are aligned and moving in the same direction, you’ll discover new opportunities for optimizing efficiencies, reducing costs, and saving time.
When you know your strategic tolling partner shares your values, you’ll trust their expert recommendations, and that can move projects forward faster, with greater transparency and optimal quality. In a strong partnership, your supplier is more likely to anticipate your needs, speak up when a problem arises, and share your commitment to success.
When entrusting services like micronizing to a toll processing partner, you need to know not only that they have the equipment and operators required to achieve the particle size you need. You also need to know you can trust them to internalize and support your company’s core values, and that they can demonstrate the experience and expertise that will help you achieve your particle size and product quality goals.
If you’re searching for a processing partner you can trust, your first step is getting a clear understanding of the differences between contract manufacturers out there. Get a clear view with our guide, What Are The Differences Between Toll Manufacturing and Contract Manufacturing? Just click the link below to download yours today.