We sat down with one of our CalTex Product Engineers, Tom, to get some insight into what it’s like to be a scientist at CalTex. As part of our team of world-class research, development and manufacturing experts, Tom sees our products through from concept to production.
What are the core responsibilities and main objectives for your role? Can you tell us what it means to be a Product Engineer?
My core responsibilities include the development of new products along with improving and testing existing products and processes. This means administrating a comprehensive and demanding set of product testing protocols conducted on original equipment manufacturer (OEM) automotive materials for the most accurate analysis of real-life application.
I also conduct research into the latest technology trends in order to develop and formulate innovative blends for new product development and continual enhancement of our expansive product line. My responsibilities also involve investigating the safety of our products—which could include exposure incidents and reviewing safety handling requirements. I also keep an eye out for regulatory changes that might include label requirements, VOC limits and reporting requirements. I manage all of our safety data sheets (SDS)…all 151 of them.
What do you do during a typical day?
Actually, every day for me is different but a typical day could involve anything from carrying out lab work to research and development of new products, testing products for quality and performance review and reporting. My day could include competitive testing and analysis to ensure our products are top performing, anything from corrosion protection to staining and cleanability.
You test OEM materials for accurate application. What does this mean? Are you testing various stains and how well your product holds up to those?
Yes, we use a wet abrasion scrub tester to conduct soiling and cleanability tests to determine the soil release performance of OEM fabric, vinyl and leather treated with CalTex protective products. Testing consists of applying a grid to OEM seat fabric and floor carpet samples and staining them with a series of real-world materials (such as ketchup, mustard, coffee, grease, oil and blue dye) then applying our interior cleaner. Stains are rated on a 1 to 5 scale to determine how well they were removed.
How do you ensure a product is ready to take to market?
It honestly depends on the product. Sealants are tested dozens of times as various formulations are compared using different components at different concentrations and orders of addition. For example, development of the spray-on paint sealant went through 42 revisions before we arrived at the final version.
Tell us more about product development. What does that look like?
There are a few factors that could initiate a product change, including feedback from clients, new developments in chemical technology or changes in regulatory compliance. We work closely with our chemical suppliers to identify the newest chemical technology to provide the most effective components available. We are continually testing alternative components to find ones that provide improved protection or better application efficiency. We also track regulatory and compliance changes that can potentially determine our formulation requirements and any potential modifications or reformulations. For instance, lowering of VOC limits required CalTex to move from solvent-based fabric sealants to water-based sealants.
With some projects, such as the spray-on paint sealant and the anti-microbial component, information could be brought to us by our sales and marketing team indicating a need in the market which refocused our R&D efforts there for a time.
What makes you most excited about this job?
That’s a hard one, but I would have to say finding new, cutting-edge components that have the potential to improve our existing products. I also think the variation in the day-to-day work involved in this role makes it interesting and rewarding to touch so many different aspects of product development and compliance.
For more information about the innovation behind our products and programs, visit our Innovation page.