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Toll processing is an important segment of the contract processing (or contract manufacturing) industry. Contract manufacturing describes a broad range of production outsourcing operations that help manufacturers efficiently and cost-effectively produce and finish products.
Manufacturing companies often look to contract processors when they need to quickly and flexibly scale up production, or when they need access to specialized equipment, expertise, industry certifications, or processes they don’t have in-house.
Working with a contract manufacturer frees up internal resources while upholding production capacity, potentially saving on costs including labor, overhead, and specialty equipment.
Within the larger world of contract manufacturing, toll processors offer value-added processing capabilities, expertise, and equipment capacity.
What toll processing is:
What toll processing typically is not:
To ensure you understand exactly what to expect when working with a toll processor, and how you can optimally support a smooth, worry-free handoff, it’s important to review the basics.
Get the Basics: Important Toll Processing InformationToll Processing 101: What You Need to Know →
All tollers are contract processors, but not all contract processors offer tolling services.
Contract manufacturers are companies that contract arrangements with customers to provide an agreed-upon product or service. Some contract processors are paid for the product they produce — i.e., they source, purchase, receive, and process materials, and are in turn paid for the resulting processed product.
On the other hand, companies look for contract toll manufacturers — also known as toll processors — to contract for the service of processing material procured by the customer.
Two contract processors may be responsible for providing a powdered mineral such as titanium dioxide, milled to specifications for paint manufacturers. One contract processor is responsible for sourcing, procuring, and purchasing the material. They then mill it to specification and provide it to their customer, and receive payment for the material.
The second contract processor receives titanium dioxide that has been purchased by the customer and shipped to the processor for milling. This processor mills the mineral to specification and ships it to the customer. They, in turn, receive payment for the milling.
In custom toll manufacturing, the customer procures and/or purchases all raw materials, and ships them (or pays to have them shipped) to the contract toll processor. The tolling partner receives the raw materials, processes them to agreed-upon specifications, and proceeds to deliver the processed product to the next step in the supply chain, which may be one of several options, including:
Potential benefits of collaborating with a carefully qualified tolling partner include:
When evaluating contract processors for outsourcing your next project, how do you know if toll processing is your best option? What capabilities should you look for in a tolling partner?
Download this quick-reference, side-by-side comparison of in-house manufacturing and working with a custom toll processor to share with colleagues:
Compare Benefits of Toll Processing Vs. In-House Manufacturing →
When you choose to work with a toll processor, you’re making a choice to maintain process control, quality management expectations, and final product specifications. At the same time, you’re trusting your toll manufacturing partner to ensure full compliance with all regulatory requirements; to meet, analyze, and validate all material specifications; and to communicate and collaborate as closely as you prefer.
Be sure to take a closer look and understand the distinctions between toll manufacturers and other contract manufacturers:
Differences Between Toll Manufacturing and Contract Manufacturing →
Milling and grinding are fundamental to contract and toll processing, for particle size reduction as well as other essential material processing applications. Equipment and methods include mechanical technologies, air jet mills, and wet media milling processes.
Both conventional and fluid bed jet mills are dry milling technologies, each with its own advantages:
While many materials are suitable for dry milling technologies to achieve specified particle sizes, sometimes wet media milling is the preferred method. Understand why:
A tolling partner may provide custom contract drying of raw material as a stand-alone service or as a processing step before or after milling. If the material will be dry milled and its moisture content is high, then a drying step may be needed before milling. If the material has been milled in a wet grinding process and the deliverable specification is for a dry finished product, then a drying step is needed after milling.
Custom contract toll drying capabilities can include flash drying and fluidized bed drying, and a trustworthy toll processor should be able to advise you on the value their drying services can provide:
Contract Drying Services — The 5 Keys You Need to Know →
As its name suggests, flash drying exposes material to a quick stream of heated gas to flash surface moisture off particles. Fluid bed drying uses a specially designed chamber to suspend particles in heated gas, where they flow freely, surrounded by warmed air.
It’s also important to note that a toll processor with expertise in advanced particle science can also apply particle surface treatments using drying technologies. These specialty particle surface treatments can shape or coat particles, to achieve specific characteristics and particle behaviors for advanced applications:
How Particle Surface Treatments Can Expand Your Product Possibilities →
4 Insights Into Prilling, Shaping, and Particle Coating →
But how do you know you’ve selected the right process for your material, and how can you trust that your toll processor knows what it takes to meet your final product specifications?
Explore how difference between custom processors can affect your drying projects:Are All Toll Drying Processors the Same? →
For many products, the blending process is the transformative step that turns ingredients into formulations. This is true for liquids, emulsions, and dry blended powders.3 In-Demand Industrial & cGMP Blending Capabilities →
Powder blending is crucial across industries including paints and coatings, chemicals, foods, metals and minerals, pharmaceuticals, and even plastics. But just because a process is ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s always simple. Achieving uniformity, avoiding agglomeration, and ensuring each constituent ingredient maintains its required particle size and morphology are just a few of the challenges that your toll processor may need to overcome.
In some situations, particle surface treatments can be needed to achieve the ideal material characteristics and behavior in a blend:How Particle Surface Treatments Can Expand Your Product Possibilities →
4 Secrets to Evaluating Powder Blending Companies →
Equipment used for blending can range from ribbon blenders to wet media mills to various jet mills. That’s why it’s important to ensure you trust an expert tolling partner for any blending challenge — and that starts with knowing what to look for:
3 Critical Things to Know About the Blending Process in the Pharmaceutical Industry →
Blending is one of the most in-demand processes for pharmaceuticals — an industry with its own demanding regulatory requirements as well as a broad range of materials and mixing and blending needs. Both the food and pharmaceutical industries have special demands that require an extra level of expertise, quality management, and customer trust:
Many products and specialty formulations require advanced scientific knowledge, technical mastery, and multiple processes to achieve. One great example of an industry where particle reduction, solvent extraction, specialty blending, and even particle surface treatments can all come together in a single formulation is paints and coatings:Milling and Blending Paints and Coatings: 3 Tops Challenges and Solutions →
Extraction services deliver benefits to industries including food, pharmaceutical, nutraceuticals, and the fast-growing hemp industry. Ingredients as wide-ranging as natural flavorings and phytochemicals find their way into a surprising number of product types, including veterinary, industrial, and agricultural chemicals.
Extraction services range from simple solvent extraction to more advanced techniques, including supercritical CO2, as well as special steps like decarboxylation of hemp biomass, molecular isolation of phytochemicals, and more:Key Processes & Know-How for Botanical Extractions →
Extrusion is a critical technology for specialty and hard-to-blend ingredients in food, pharmaceutical, and nutraceutical manufacturers. But that’s not all. Extrusion blending has important uses that deliver tremendous value to pigments, polymers, and industrial chemical manufacturers, too.
Get a closer look at how extrusion works and how various industries use the technology to create stronger materials, carefully delivers active ingredients, cost-effective polymers, and more:Extrusion: Blending for Complex Material Challenges →
So much discipline, commitment, and expertise goes into researching, developing, and formulating products that meet consumer and industry demands. So it makes sense to make sure when collaborating with a custom contract manufacturer that your tolling partner brings the same level of expertise, attention to detail, and care to your projects.
What should you look for when evaluating a potential contract toll processor?
Knowing they have the equipment and capacity you need is just the first step. It’s absolutely critical that your toller’s team has a deep bench of material science and engineering experts, with experience working with a range of materials and processes. Their expertise and guidance can help you optimize processes, save costs, and work more efficiently:
Milling, drying, and blending are quintessential skills to look for, but they’re just a start.
Toll processing partners with specialty service offerings — screening and classification, testing and analysis, packaging and logistics — add upstream and downstream value, eliminate bottlenecks, and improve your supply chain efficiency:
The trust you place in your toll processing partner is about a lot more than innovation, cost control, and efficiency in your production and supply chain. That’s because you need to know you can rely on your toll manufacturer to support quality with the same dedication, discipline, and accountability that you do.
Just as essential as capabilities and expertise are quality management, analysis, and reporting.