The paint and coatings industry functions in a manner that has been in place for decades. If it’s going well enough, and the industry is certainly thriving, is there a good reason to seek for ways to optimize? Going on the principle that optimization is, by definition, a step forward, recent studies were undertaken that demonstrate that there is a new way to keep the industry just as effective, if not more so, while streamlining the R&D process, while saving both money and materials and better using one’s staff. The key is digitizing research and development. This begins with using an independent, cloud-based technical enabler platform that combines a raw materials database with a “virtual lab” in which researchers can experiment virtually, before stepping into the actual lab. This dramatic new modus operandi is already available and is being used by leading firms.
This article examines these new study results. The key shift is away from an old-fashioned approach, which is weighed down by repetitive manual labor and administrative work. Instead, the better way forward is the more modern solution of outsourcing data input and formulation experimentation to a cloud-based ICT (information-communication technology), which we will call a “technical enabler:” third-party software kept up-to-date with complete, usable data and safety information on thousands of raw materials. This database needs to be integrated into an application that allows for “virtual experimentation,” which helps to narrow the number of actual, full-scale laboratory experiments needed to bring the right new product from concept to market, dramatically reducing non-value-added work. The study in question used such a technical enabler, called Allchemist, to test both its efficacy and the result that switching to such an option would have on paint and coatings R&D departments.