In November, Tosca acquired Polymer Logistics and with it gained access to their R&D department and the creative way Polymer has created custom solutions for their customers for years. The R&D department at Polymer has generated hundreds of solutions for customers all around the world in many supply chains. This team is one of the reasons that Polymer has been so well regarded for its commitment to customer service and truly seeking out the best way to serve customers.
The R&D Process
The R&D department is responsible for innovating new solutions or enhancing products within our portfolio of containers, pallets, shippers, bins, and more. They are always looking for new innovations that will drive supply chain efficiencies. The team is based in Israel, and works on over 50 projects a year, each one improving efficiency for customers. While the team is made up of designers and engineers, the process is approached holistically and each person brings specific insights to each stage of the process. Sometimes the team discovers a small innovation that makes a huge difference, such as altering the size here, or adding a stabilizing groove there. Sometimes they create an entirely new product, developed carefully over the course of many months and many redesigns. They operate with the goal of improving a product and aiding the overall efficiency, durability, and sustainability of a brand.
In order to break it down, it helps to envision this process in four parts:
The Introduction Phase
This R&D process begins with an idea from a Tosca’s team member who has managed to identify the needs of the market, or with the recognition of potential by a customer. This leads to a thorough process of design conversations with the customer. In a pre-COVID-19 world, pinning down the problem often meant an international flight to the facilities the products will be used most and in-depth conversations with the hands-on workers who would be using the products every day. Often, these workers offer the best advice.
The Ideation Phase
For most members of the R&D team, the ideation phase is their favorite. Here the team digs into the problem and works on solving it. Sketches, meetings, and head-scratching are all a necessary part of this process as the team works together to solve the customer’s problem. They finish out this process with a fleshed out idea, an incredibly detailed sketch, and the satisfaction that comes with knowing that they have solved a problem that’s never been solved before.
The Approval Phase
After the team has created a concept, they present it to the customer for approval. Often, changes are suggested, or new problems have come up and the team has to go back to the drawing board and revise their discovery. This back and forth may take several turns, but when everyone is satisfied, a design is approved and the team can go ahead and create a prototype.
The Production Phase
When the R&D team has a prototype, we build the tooling required for production. When the prototype has been properly tested in the market and the customer has signed off, then a mold and the tooling is built for production.
When it is ready, the production team, also based at the same facility in Israel, gets to work creating the new products. They begin running the machines day and night so Tosca can get the new production into the market as soon as possible.
A Real Example of Teamwork and Innovation
Recently, the R&D team completed a major development project with a retailer that used wooden pallets in their warehouses. The company was using forklifts to lift the heavy wooden pallets, and this was slowing down their operations significantly. Since Polymer had already developed a plastic pallet product called CleanPal, the R&D department sent pallets to the company for a pilot. Because the plastic pallets weighed half what the wooden ones weighed, workers could lift them on their own, cutting forklifts out of the process, proving plastic pallets to be an easy choice for the operations team. The pallets also unexpectedly reduced the amount of pallet breakages on the floor, eliminating the number of tires that went flat from exposed nails and €80 thousand a year that went into those tire repairs.
This pilot uncovered a new problem, however: the plastic pallets had no handles and despite minimized weight, they were cumbersome to lift. Immediately, the R&D team was included and they went to work creating a new design with handles. They consulted with the management team, visited the site, and talked to the staff who had grown used to using the pallets. They created several designs until they finally settled on a pallet that was easy to hold, could be stacked seamlessly by a rushed team, and improved operations efficiency as a whole.
Creating new products is not all the R&D team does. They also consistently work to improve company wide sustainability efforts. It is thanks to them that we can repurpose the material from our containers to create new ones. Every new container that comes from our Israel plant is made of 30% recycled materials, a practice that is as good for our bottom line as it is for the environment.
Many Tosca customers are used to limited solution choices and expect to sign on with relatively little room to customize and change the containers that will be used in their supply chain. Thanks to the Polymer acquisition and the innovative R&D department that comes with it, customization and brand specific improvements are now an option and we can now work with customers to find a solution to their specific need. Obviously this is a monumental development in our business and gains us and our customers a huge competitive advantage.
To learn more about our R&D department and how they can help bring customized solutions to your supply chain, contact our sales team today.