Investing In Ceramics: Analyze This
Simple MathAccording to business manager Greg Thiele, the July 2004 opening of Micromeritics Analytical Services just made sense. Since the company had been developing and marketing its own technologies for decades and was operating a laboratory for methods development and proof of performance prior to sales, it already had the resources necessary to run a successful analytical services unit.
"Our sales department was telling us that many potential customers needed to characterize their materials but were unable to justify the capital outlay and fixed costs required to run analyses in-house," Thiele says. "They didn't want to bear the costs associated with employing operators or paying for additional supplies and utilities. Instead, they felt it was more cost-effective to outsource analytical services. When we realized we were poised to satisfy both equipment and service needs, we decided it was time for us to take a closer look at the analytical services part of our business."
Nearly one year later, Micromeritics Analytical Services has analyzed close to 5000 customer samples. Services range from particle size analysis to surface area to pore size by either gas adsorption or mercury porosimetry. The company recently added microscopy services to its offerings by forming a strategic alliance with MVA Scientific Consultants. Microscopy services include scanning-electron microscopy (SEM), transmission-electron microscopy (TEM), surface roughness by scanning white light interference microscopy, and polarized light microscopy.
In addition to the instruments that Micromeritics Instruments Corp. manufactures, the Analytical Services unit features equipment that measures viscosity and various wet-chemistry methods, like pH and total suspended solids. Thiele believes the use of both in-house and so-called "outside" equipment is an indicator not only of the company's technical prowess, but also of its arrival as a serious contender in a business market it has occupied for only a short time.
"We've been manufacturing instruments for 40 years," Thiele says. "Anyone can take a sample, put it in an instrument and get a result. But is the result really representative of an entire sample, are the analysis parameters appropriate, and are the results repeatable? The most important thing Micromeritics Analytical Services has to offer is the expertise to run samples correctly."
"We often run multiple tests of the same sample before we release data, just to be sure of the results," he explains. "Each of the workers running the tests has a bachelor's degree in chemistry or biology, and obviously, we have access to Micromeritics Instrument Corp.'s training facilities and the experts who make the instruments."
High-Quality ServiceMicromeritics Analytical Services has been registered with both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and operates a cGMP-compliant laboratory. In addition, the company is looking to become ISO 17025-certified in the near future. While not essential, Thiele sees the pursuit of multiple accreditations as indicative of the commitment and level of service customers can expect from the analytical unit.
"Accreditation and documentation is a good thing; it helps ensure that we provide the highest quality results to all our customers," Thiele says. "We want to make sure that the product we produce-in our case, data-is of the highest quality possible. We have operated under these guidelines for years, but only recently have we documented our procedures."
The company also plans to add to its overall testing capabilities in the near future, thereby expanding its range of services to potentially include analysis on particle shape, aspect ratio, zeta sizing, dynamic light scattering and other material properties. This will require a series of purchases from outside vendors, as Micromeritics Instrument Corp. does not currently manufacture instruments with these capabilities.
"We are no longer restricted by the manufacturer of the instruments and the types of instruments the company manufactures," Thiele jokes.
While still few months shy of its first anniversary, Micromeritics Analytical Services has already positioned itself as an industry leader, albeit one with growth potential.
"We are already well known for our business and level of service. Our main goal now is to continue to expand our testing capabilities to serve our customers' needs," Thiele says. "I believe we could double the size of the lab and the number of customers we serve over a three-year period. That's the kind of growth we're looking for."
For more information, contact Micromeritics Analytical Services at One Micromeritics Dr., Norcross, GA 30093-1877; (770) 662-3630; fax (770) 662-3653; e-mail MAS@micromeritics.com; or visit http://www.particletesting.com.