Could a computer replace formulators?

I recently read an article which suggested that many jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots. Fortunately, chemists only have about a 10% chance of being replaced in the next 20 years. But then I saw this article about how P&G was using supercomputers to do their formulation work and started thinking that maybe cosmetic formulators are not so secure in their jobs.

Will computers take over formulation jobs?

Computers have already had a huge impact on formulating. When I first started I had to hand write out all my formulas in a lab notebook which took a ton of time. It really reduced the number of prototypes I could make in a day.  It also was prone to error-making in transcription and in calculating raw materials.

When I was able to use a computer for this work (using this formulation spreadsheet) life got so much easier.  Instead of only being able to make 1 or 2 prototypes in a day I could make up to 8. And the computer also made it much easier to generate reports about my work.

But this kind of computer assistance didn’t help much in coming up with the actual formulation. Plus, the computer still needed me to make the batch.  So, computers can help with formulations but I don’t think a computer will be taking over the formulation job any time soon.

P&G is using them to come up with formulations so new software and faster running computers will definitely have an impact on future formulators.  Computer modules may be able to give a better prediction about how a raw material will impact the stability of a formula.  I can envision a day when stability testing is a thing of the past.  The computer will be able to predict with a high degree of accuracy whether a formula will be stable or not.  This will be the same with safety testing and maybe even (in the far future) whether a consumer will like the formula better or not.

Computers will have an impact in the future but not the near future. Formulators do not have to worry about being replaced just yet.

What can you do

However, that does not mean you can ignore the coming change. You should be prepared to change the way you formulate. You will have to start getting comfortable with using computer models for formulation work. You’ll also have to get used to computer apps and software being used to help guide your prototype development. In the future you will not be able to “wing it” and mix things together based on your hunch that they should work.

So, go learn all you can about cosmetic raw materials (taking our cosmetic science course is a good start). And keep up with all the software and apps that will one day be heavily impacting the way you formulate. Do not ignore these things even if you don’t see an immediate application. The future is coming and the people who are most up to date and comfortable with new technologies will be in the best position to land (and keep) formulation jobs.



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