Talk Technical with Chemist Terry Lake
Long gone are the days when the first thing I did when I came into work in the morning was to put my lab coat on, roll my sleeves up, and get stuck into my development projects. Thanks to the wonderful world of IT a typical day here at Anglo starts by checking emails and responding to customer enquiries, something that I do continually throughout the day.
When you work for a commercially driven company, it is the ethos of every member of staff that the customer is ‘King’, so, naturally answering technical enquiries such as what adhesive(s) would be best for bonding certain substrates together is a priority.
The nice thing about my work is that no two enquiries are the same, and because of the different markets we service we stick a vast amount of substrates which produce lots of different finished products. It is my job to guide customers, whether they be new or existing, of any preparation needed to the substrates prior to bonding them together. If the customer is unfamiliar with the use of the adhesive, then I assist them by giving them information on the method of applying the adhesive, how long to allow the adhesive to dry or the time required to support the item before there is enough strength in the unit before handling it. When all the boxes are ticked and the customer is happy it’s over to the sales office to work their magic – pretty much a team effort really.
When an enquiry comes in there is often a process of elimination as to what product is best suited, sometimes this can be a lengthy process as there are many different factors to consider – for example what viscosity and solids are necessary to match their needs, working temperature, desired application method etc. Once I have the full criteria I can then decide on the type of adhesive to suggest starting from the standard range we produce e.g. neoprene, polyurethane, SBR etc., If we do not have a suitable standard product and the volumes of adhesive warrant a new product, we start the process of a new project development programme to meet the customers’ needs. A plan would be devised to produce several different samples to meet the requirements of the adhesive and carry out tests to find out which formulation would give the desired bond strengths. A sample would then be sent to the customer for them to test the adhesive in their actual application and allow them to approve the sample as suitable. Any slight variations would also need to be carried out so as to meet the exact requirements needed from the customer – which can change as things progress!
It often helps to physically see an customers application so I find a visit to site can be a great help to fully understand the needs we are being asked to meet, not to mention building on a relationship, something we happen to pride ourselves on…..and yes, we cover the whole country – Europe and many other worldwide destination so I could find myself going literally anywhere!
Product development is a major part of my role, so naturally it is important that I proportion some of my time everyday to making up samples of new products either for my own test work analysis or to go out to customers for approval. I like to think I’m a bit of a whizz with numbers so it is my responsibility to update costings on a new or modified adhesive system and to notify the Sales team for them to take whatever necessary action is required.
Part of the development work I do includes the creation of a Technical Data Sheet as well as putting together a Safety Data Sheet, the software we use for this great and without it we wouldn’t be able to keep up to date with new rules and legislation like we do – it also enables to produce state of the art CLP labels, which is vital for the nature of adhesives we manufacture.
Throughout the day, as and when required, I test production samples and compare the results to the specification. On the rare occasions when things don’t go to plan we have to adjust our formulas to bring the batch of product into specification. In these cases, my relationship and communication with the production team is vital as I instruct the on the best course of action to bring the product into specification. It may be necessary for me to speak with suppliers when evaluating and investigating changes with raw material behaviours. Once a conclusion is reached I record all the results and sign off the batch so that the production team can decant the material and store a retained sample for future reference.
A huge advantage that Anglo has over its competitors is that we can manufacture small batch sizes of adhesives, this is where the company have seen great growth over recent years. This is probably due to the variance of our churn sizes and filling equipment, along with our experienced staff. We also offer flexibility to our customers by making batch sizes that are not part of our standard Production size or are a unique product. There are many advantages to doing this, one being to prevent storing too much of a product that could be affected by a shorter than normal shelf life.
Maintaining a good working relationship with raw material suppliers is key for me, it keeps me up to date with new products, developments or alternative materials that may be cheaper or offer other benefits, I often do this by inviting suppliers to meet with me at Melton Mowbray.
Sometimes I may be let loose (they don’t keep me locked up in the lab, honest!) to attend meetings or seminars to gain knowledge on certain aspects of adhesives, environmental issues, upcoming changes to packaging issues etc., which gives me the opportunity to meet up with other colleagues within the industry to ‘network’. Our association with BASA is a great way of me doing this on a regular basis.
Thanks to the different markets we supply into and the variety of different aspects to what I do at Anglo, certainly brings diversity to my role and its not always just glue! Today I’m sticking bits of plastic together, tomorrow I’m looking into a new colour of paint – it really is that diverse here and I love minute of it!
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