Working for a contract manufacturer

Hi everyone

I'm working as a junior chemist at a contract manufacturer as my first job after college. At first I was thrilled to get this position because I knew I wanted to formulate and the title was chemist as opposed to technician. 

However, I'm liking the job less and less as time goes on because of the fast-paced and stressful environment. It feels like our company is constantly biting off more than we can chew, like launching entire lines for big companies which means pushing 25-30 unique formulas from concept to finished product on very tight deadlines.  As chemists we're sometimes asked to create/fix a formula and send samples out the door in less than a week if it's urgent. 

My managers tell me that all contract manufacturers are like this and they exist to pump out products quickly.  Have any of you worked for a contract manufacturer and was this your experience? I've also heard that brand companies have much longer product development timelines.  I would like to work for a brand company but I've heard that it's hard to get your foot in the door and they often hire chemists only temporarily.  What is your advice on working for big brand companies?

Thanks everyone 

Comments

  • vjayvjay Member
    If you have a talent, nobody will stop you to get the big MNC company,
    If Big company product development cycle time is approx 2 years.
    In contract manufacturer - there is no product development only you have to change the active and cater to the client.
  • chemicalmattchemicalmatt Member, Professional Chemist
    Speaking from experience Ultrez there is no better "farm system" for a junior formulator than working at a contract manufacturer for a few years.  You will work with an array of formulation challenges that chemists in the "Bigs" never will. Once you've gained 2 - 4 years experience at a contract manufacturer you will be able to work for a Big and blow them away with your skill set. Expect success.
  • EVchemEVchem Member
    @CarbopolUltrez .... are you me? In a very similar situation and yes the pace is fast. There are times where I appreciate it, especially being in a smaller company- lets me see and do much more than I would as a tech in a big pond. I'm getting exposed to all kinds of ingredients/formula challenges  and constraints that come from 'real world' issues like MOQ and production capability.  I would appreciate being able to spend more time on the science, but for a starting experience I think exposure is really valuable and  I have less fear about screwing up. Message me anytime and we can rant about impossible deadlines!
  • DavidWDavidW Member, PCF student
    Don't get hung up on a title.  If a job offers you what you are looking for (gain experience) it doesn't matter what they call the position.  Going from concept to samples out the door in a week should be no problem unless it is a super unique formula or you don't have a chemical you need.  Enjoy your experience.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    I also picked up on the comment "create/fix a formula and send samples out the door in a less than a week"

    @CarbopolUltrez:  Exactly how much experience do you have? ... this will all change over time as you gain more experience and exposure.  You're not going to see anywhere near the variety of product development with a Brand company as you will with a contract manufacturer.

    Working for a Brand company, oftentimes you will be working on the minutia of the same formula for months on end ... you'll long for the days of a fast-paced environment with a variety of different products to work on.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • Thank you everyone for your comments and advice.  To clarify my point @DavidW and @MarkBroussard, one week is usually not enough time to source and receive all the raw materials we need. Customers are of course always requesting new and exotic actives to support their marketing concepts and introducing more regulatory restrictions for raw materials. I often feel there is not enough time to really evaluate stability, and when you're on a compressed timeline any stability or regulatory issue that pops up close to the production date can really derail the project.  

    For now I will appreciate getting to touch a lot of different formulas and products.
  • Thank you everyone for your comments and advice.  To clarify my point @DavidW and @MarkBroussard, one week is usually not enough time to source and receive all the raw materials we need. Customers are of course always requesting new and exotic actives to support their marketing concepts and introducing more regulatory restrictions for raw materials. I often feel there is not enough time to really evaluate stability, and when you're on a compressed timeline any stability or regulatory issue that pops up close to the production date can really derail the project.  

    For now I will appreciate getting to touch a lot of different formulas and products.
    If you ain't doing stability testing, make sure you have "as is" acceptance contracts.
  • EVchemEVchem Member
    @CarbopolUltrez, if I were you I would make documenting my best friend. Start tracking how much overnighting materials costs if you're given only a week to source, write down when you find alternatives that could have been more cost effective. If you hear about product complaints write them down too and how long it took to be noticed. Because I'm at a small company I've been given a fair amount of voice despite being new. If you can show the issues you currently face and how resolutions would save company money, maybe  that will help buy you time? I like the 'as is' contract idea, but it's hard at first to convince higher ups that you want to change processes outside of R&D
  • Yes, this is exactly what it is like being in a Cosmetic Contract manufacturer. 
    I am doing the processing work and it is very very busy and fast paced.
    My only recommendation would be to leave lol. The stress is high the pay is low and I work my ass off for barely any thanks.
    I was in Pharmaceutical before.. I much more enjoyable industry but not an industry where I live. Good Luck! This page has offered some great advice. 
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