7 Insider Tips to Get the Best From Your Toll Processor's Experts
KT Brickman, Feb 4, 2021 6:30:00 AM
When customers inquire or start a project order with a toll processing partner, they’re often focused on the final product and their specifications.
That’s vital information, but just as important is a detailed material evaluation of your raw feed. So at outset, expect to provide:
- Correct and complete material identity
- Initial raw feed state (solid/liquid) and packaging
- Starting particle size range
- Particle shape
- Hardness on Mohs scale
- Moisture content
- Fat, oil, or waxy constituents
- Previous processing steps, if any
- And much more.
At first, you might think our requests go deeper than they need to. But rest assured, every detail is relevant to our work.
For an optimal outcome, the single most important thing you can do when working with a toll processor is trust us. Our teams are dedicated to delivering to your target specifications as efficiently as possible, taking into account as much of your process — from supply chain to final packaging and logistics — as you’re open to sharing.
And experienced toll processing partners earn that trust by safeguarding your proprietary information, supporting your regulatory compliance, and delivering final materials that meet even the most exacting specifications … every time.
So beyond the basics, here are 7 tips to keep in mind when kicking off a project with your toll processor.
1. Share as much material knowledge and history as you can.
We say this all the time, but only because it’s true, and it’s important: The more information about your project you can share with our team, the better.
Because, like every scientific process, the information we don’t have needs to be filled in … with evidence. That can mean we have to experiment or run trials in order to make process determinations. Material knowledge and experiential data points us to the mill or combination of milling processes that are the most efficient path to your specification.
But if you already have the data we need — from your own in-house investigations, for example — and you share it, your project has a head start, and that can save your company time, efficiency, and costs over the long run.
2. No detail is too obvious, trivial, or weird.
Consider colors and odors for example. These might seem like odd details to share, but they can make a difference in how your toll processor moves forward with your project.
If your material has a particular aroma — good or bad, but especially if it stinks — the sooner you tell us, the better. Air filtration may be an equipment modification we need to consider, along with the location of the particular milling or blending equipment we select for your project, to minimize the effects of odors on our team or other projects.
Colors can lead to adjustments, too. If your raw feed includes a pigment that stains, bring it up. You’ll allow us to plan the extra time and material needed for equipment purges and other specialized cleanup. In fact, you may already know what type of detergent works best to clean after we process your material — and even better, you can send it along with your raw feed.
Your descriptions of color and odor can also provide another sensory means for our operators to observe and verify that things are going right.
3. Sometimes a small sample can make a big difference.
If you’re working with a material that’s new to you, we might already know some things about it. As toll processors, we handle a wide variety of materials across a diverse spectrum of industries, so there’s a very strong likelihood we have already handled the same material or something similar.
On the other hand, if your raw feed is new to both of us, see if you can spare a sample — say, 500 grams or so. You might be surprised at how much we can learn by simply making a few in-person observations. We’ll evaluate how it behaves under a variety of forces and conditions, and that knowledge can guide our initial trials so we’re not starting from zero.
Of course, we’ll look to all available sources to build a foundation of knowledge before we touch it, based on what you tell us the material is. That’s a good start. But a sample can really be useful.
4. If you’re using a new source, even if material specifications have not changed, tell us.
Maybe you have a raw material that’s hard to source, or presents supply chain challenges, or is expensive … so you’ve found a new source that solves the issue. Make sure your toll processing team is aware of the change.
But if the specification hasn’t changed, what’s the difference where it comes from?
Most of the time, the material will be very close, if not identical, to your previous raw feed. But physical and mechanical properties at the particle level are many, and they can be complex and interdependent. So a source change can generate subtle changes to material properties that your toll processor can easily adjust for — as long as we know about it.
5. We may add a processing step …
It can come as a surprise when your toll processing partner recommends what looks like an “extra” processing service. For example, your team might outline a processing plan that involves pre-crushing on a mechanical mill before jet milling, or a drying step that you hadn’t planned for.
While at first glance, this may look like an extra or unnecessary service, toll processors don’t make these recommendations without scientific, data-driven reasons. We’re committed to optimizing efficiency and delivering your material at your target specification in the most efficient and cost-effective way. It may be that a higher moisture content drastically slows a milling process, or that a raw feed is just not quite the ideal particle size range for jet milling. In cases like these, our “extra” service steps can save you time and money.
6. … Or we may surprise you by eliminating a step.
At the same time, we’re very aware of the effects of particle size reduction processes. (Of course we are — it’s our bread and butter!) So, for example, if you know your raw feed will arrive for jet milling out of specification for moisture, you may assume a drying step is in order.
But your toll processor’s team of material scientists, engineers, and expert equipment operators might tell you otherwise, given their knowledge of effects on particle surfaces and moisture content during the jet milling process. Screening is another step that may be eliminated in certain cases when jet milling and air classifying can be performed on a single piece of equipment.
And you can definitely trust your team to be making processing decisions based on scientific knowledge. Their goal, after all, is to optimize process steps as a partner in your manufacturing operations.
7. When our scientists and engineers connect directly with yours, good things happen.
Often, the contact responsible for sourcing and contracting with a toll manufacturing partner is working within areas like sourcing or purchasing — and when you get a call from a material scientist who wants to talk troubleshooting on a processing project, you may not have all the answers at your fingertips.
That’s not a problem. In fact, it might be great news, because you’ve just identified an opportunity to connect your internal teams with your toll processor’s experts, tapping into a whole new source of material science expertise — and access to equipment and experienced operators that can expand possibilities far beyond your current limitations of equipment and experience.
Collaborating with your scientists and engineers is what our expert teams do best. You can review some of the advantages of partnering with a toll processor versus keeping all your processes in-house with our guide, Comparing the Benefits of Toll Processing and In-House Manufacturing. Get your copy as an instant download by clicking the link below. And if you want to get started or have a question for our teams, just drop us a line using our contact form. We’ll be glad to respond.