Building a new lab

Hello fellow formulators,
Recently I've started with a new-er company that wishes to upgrade their formulations facility under my direction and we're having an internal disagreement about what a lab should look like. They have stars in their eyes at the moment wanting blinking lights, separatory funnels, machines everywhere, crisp white everything and complex devices that makes it look more 'professional and state of the art.' They're pushing for equipment that we have absolutely no use for whatsoever while pushing to remove 'unattractive' items from the lab, such as sample retention and the 'non uniform random bottles' [vendor samples]. Recently the issue is that they spoke with a sales representative from a lab supply company that assured them they needed about $40k in equipment or anything that comes out of our lab would automatically be inferior. 

I tell them that formulation laboratories in our industry [perfume and flavor] don't need those kinds of things, and we have to have the retention. In all the labs I've ever worked with, none of them remotely looked like a sterile space ship. 

Is there any words or pictures my peers, here, can offer me that I can use in my next lab planning meeting to assure the higher ups? If not, any suggestions on what we can do to make a formulations lab look less like a formulations lab? Any equipment beyond viscometers, scales, pipettes and the like?

Comments

  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    edited May 8
    speaking as a chemist with 10 years' experience at the bench, I will say that industrial labs are nothing like academic labs, or labs on TV: if they are to serve a useful purpose they should be kept simple, have the equipment required to fulfil their function with maximum efficiency, and ideally a little bit of room for expansions and upgrades
    needless to say, you do not need $40,000 worth of equipment to get good results - they ultimately come from staff training, on-the-job education and personal development
    who are these people doing the pushing? do they have any relevant technical background, or any practical experience whatsoever?
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • ozgirlozgirl Member, PCF student
    I can tell you my lab looks nothing like a "spaceship". :)

    If they are concerned with the appearance perhaps you could store samples in cupboards with doors so that they are not on "display".

    If they are keen to spend money just get better versions of things you actually will use. Maybe get a set of scales with 4 decimal places rather than 3 decimal places or with a high weight limit if you make large samples.

  • GuntherGunther Member
    Does management know about this?

    Why are they so interested in improving the way the lab looks, instead of the way it works? This may be a red flag as they might be considering selling the company, or ask for a loan or money from other investors.

    Close cabinets and wall tiles or stainless steel sheets may make it look better.
  • DASDAS Member
    That budget would make sense if you were to make in-house chromatography, but I doubt that's the approach they have. It sounds nice, I'd love to have a space ship if I had tons of money to throw away, but non uniform bottles?? Come on!. As far as I know the best investment in your niche are formulas and raw materials that are hard to source or price is volatile.

    Perhaps you should ask yourself if it's worth your time or your services will be best used elsewhere.
  • mikethairmikethair Member
    We have two simple functional lab spaces. One is microbiol, the other physical chem.  Simple, do the necessary, and for anything else we send it out to a cerified lab, its far more cost effective.
    Dr. Mike Thair
    Cofounder & Chief Formulator
    Indochine Natural
  • DuncanDuncan Member, Professional Chemist
    edited May 13
    Basic lab requirements
    Hotplates
    Beakers
    Overhead paddle stirrer
    Homogeniser
    pH meter
    Some method of measuring viscosity
    Weighing scales / balance
    DI water
    lots of storage space and easy clean surfaces
    Ovens / fridges if you want to do stability in there as well
    Various spatula's and pallette knives

    that's about it

    Basically a glorified kitchen with some measuring equipment

    You don't need the machine that goes "Ping"
    UK based, Over 20 years in Toiletries, After a 5 year sabbatical doing cleaning products, back in the land of Personal Care
  • Bill_Toge said:
    speaking as a chemist with 10 years' experience at the bench, I will say that industrial labs are nothing like academic labs, or labs on TV: if they are to serve a useful purpose they should be kept simple, have the equipment required to fulfil their function with maximum efficiency, and ideally a little bit of room for expansions and upgrades
    needless to say, you do not need $40,000 worth of equipment to get good results - they ultimately come from staff training, on-the-job education and personal development
    who are these people doing the pushing? do they have any relevant technical background, or any practical experience whatsoever?
    No experience. They're People with three letter titles that make six figures more than I do. I have seven years of experience but they are the sort of older men that need another man to repeat me so they believe it. 
  • RoseAlchemistRoseAlchemist Member
    edited May 13
    Thanks everyone for their answers! I was able to use the answers received here to convince my higher ups to reconsider. They had some slicked up salesman trying to convince him we needed things we didn't and in presenting this they've decided to just reface our cabinets and buy us a few shiny new scales. 
  • GuntherGunther Member
    Do you do microbiological or stability testing?
    If you do, then you'd need some incubators and autoclaves (some of them look pretty sleek), but you'd better keep the microbiology lab in a separate room.

    Some bottletop dispensers look neat and speed up measuring liquids.
  • HerbnerdHerbnerd Member
    That's the problem with marketers and management - they want a lab to look like something out of the movies that they can show off to prospective clients and not something that looks, as @Duncan says, a glorified kitchen with some measuring equipment.
    I've done a lot more with a lot less than people would think.  
  • DuncanDuncan Member, Professional Chemist
    edited May 22
    I did initial formulation of one product actually IN my kitchen including a video on how to make it for the subcontractor - Worst part was having to do the washing up before I started formulating
    UK based, Over 20 years in Toiletries, After a 5 year sabbatical doing cleaning products, back in the land of Personal Care
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