The Waters difference: Embedding quality in everything we do – from A to Z

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between work and play, his work and his leisure,” said James Michener, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. While I still master the art of living, I was lucky enough to absolutely love my work. My name is Ed Grover and I am the Director of Engineering and Product Development at our chemical manufacturing facility in Taunton, Massachusetts, where I have worked for the past 36 years.

As Director of Engineering and Product Development at our chemical manufacturing facility in Taunton, Massachusetts, I ensure quality is built into every step of the process.

Build quality into every step of the process
In Taunton, MA, we synthesize the sorbents in our core chromatography and sample preparation products, and everything we do is focused on ensuring our customers receive high quality products, on time. It’s my job to make sure quality is built into every step of the process. Most of our sorbents start with basic raw materials and we take them through several processing steps to final particles, before they are packaged in our columns and sample preparation equipment. At every step, we perform rigorous quality control testing to ensure batch-to-batch repeatability.

Everything we do is focused on ensuring that our customers receive high quality products, on time.

Higher Manufacturing Frequency = Better Quality Control
To ensure that we collect sufficient statistical data and maintain the manufacturing skills of our chemists and engineers, we typically manufacture a given sorbent between four and eight times per year. This frequency means that we are very familiar with the process. We monitor in-process chemical and physical parameters that impact final chromatographic response factors and monitor our control charts very carefully.

How does this benefit our customers? This gives us greater control over our manufacturing processes and allows us to minimize the risk of off-spec intermediates through to final products. Simply put, our batch-to-batch repeatability ensures that our columns consistently deliver the expected performance throughout their life cycle – today, tomorrow and into the future.

A higher manufacturing frequency gives us greater control over our production processes, allowing us to minimize the risk of out-of-specification intermediates or finished products reaching our customers’ labs.

Many times our customers have asked us why we don’t simplify our lives and increase production to produce very large batches of absorbent every few months or even years. They asked us if this wouldn’t be a better way to guarantee the quality of the product – by supplying the same batch for a longer period. We understand that some chromatography vendors operate this way, but we believe this strategy does not provide long-term sustainable statistical control and consistent product quality. Imagine if we don’t create a batch for a few years, then something is wrong?

Our manufacturing team is fully trained in chemical and analytical processes, statistical analysis and problem solving techniques.

Continuous improvement is essential to ensure quality
Our manufacturing operations are supported by a highly trained chemistry technical support group comprised of chemistry graduates and PhDs. This team is fully trained in chemical and analytical processes, statistical analysis and problem solving techniques. They play a key role in the introduction of new products, as well as in the continued improvement of the manufacturing process of our existing products, which includes the identification of risks in our supply chain. Any changes to our processes are governed by our “change management system”, an internal quality system that defines our current state, the desired future state and summarizes the potential benefits and risk impact.

Thanks to the optimization and evolution of our organization, our quality system, our technologies – and hard work – we consistently achieve 97% first pass quality from our bulk materials. Over the past five years, we have reduced scrap by a factor of six and special cause batch failures by a factor of three. Our absorbents are shipped to our packing plant in Wexford, Ireland.

Even though the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic created global logistical challenges, we managed to deliver 99.8% of our absorbents on time.

As we look to the future, we are currently in the final stages of building a new $215 million manufacturing facility to increase capacity and automate routine tasks. We do this to ensure that we can continue to meet our customers’ demands, delivering high quality products, on time.

Integrating quality into everything we do – from A to Z

Finally, I wanted to share that my favorite part of my job is interacting with colleagues and clients from all over the world. I love showing how much we care about building quality into everything we do, and I’ve benefited immensely from those interactions. Read some of my favorite stories in a future blog. I look forward to the time when we can all see each other again in person.

Additional Resources

Infographic: How Product Quality Leads to Better Results

Blog: Advancing science together for a better future