Podcast | May 6, 2014

Solving The Need For Powder Characterization

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pharma inspection and powder characterization interphex interview

At Interphex 2014, Todd and Todd interview John Garrett, Director of Global Accounts for Micromeritics Instrument Corp. talk a little bit about the issues Micromeritics helps customers address in pharmaceutical quality inspection. Micromeritics products; not to be short-tripped to our lab we also have contract lab services which is focused on the pharmaceutical space as well.  Micromeritics provides solutions to whatever customers may need in the pharmaceutical space such as, incoming quality inspection of the pharmaceutical powders or excipients or any of the materials that go into making the tablets or capsules.

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Interview Transcription: 

Todd S:            Good morning. This is Todd and Todd live in New York; Life Science Connect Radio on location from Interphex day two. We have an exciting guest up next Todd Youngblood but we are having a good day so far. What fascinating conversations!

Todd Y:            I know when you think about the technology in the pharmaceutical industry and particularly when you think about the pharmaceutical itself we are talking about connectors, seals and it is amazing how much technology, testing and quantitative analysis that is going into the packaging piece which is equally critical.

Todd S:            I don’t think that the market understands how much they are taking for granted when they are dealing with pharmaceuticals. It is amazing. Our next guest promises to be just as fascinating.

                        Say hello to John Garrett; Director of Global Accounts for Micromeritics Instrument Corp. John welcome to the show.

John:                Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Todd S:            It is our pleasure. Thank you for stopping by and joining us. John before we go deep into our conversation take a few seconds to tell us a little about you and your background.

John:                I have been with Micromeritics for 25 years next month. I started with Micromeritics to develop a customer training program. We were one of the first companies in the state to start producing regular regimented training programs for our customers so that they could be more successful with our products.

                        It has helped us and helped them in the long run. I helped them in the training department for about five years and then apparently I made someone angry and they put me into sales. I joined the sales group as the National Sales Manager for the U.S. and managed the National Sales Group for about 12 years.

                        We had some changes in our senior management with the original founder passing on and his son taking over. They asked me to take over a new approach focusing on our major customers globally.

                        We do a lot of business with companies all over the world and rather than treat them distantly we wanted to treat them with one voice when we needed to. I was asked to watch a new department within the company for global accounts.

Todd S:            Okay, Micromeritics give us a 10,000 foot view. What do you do and how do you serve your market?

John:                Micromeritics was started almost 52 years ago by two scientists who were working in material science from Georgia Institute of Technology. They developed the first commercialized instrument for measuring what called gas absorption which is a technique is used to measure surface area and porosity of solids and powders.

                        They commercialized and patented that instrument. They started producing it. It was literally a garage operation for a few years and then the company grew from there. Today 52 years later, almost 52 years later, we employ about 300 people. We have a major manufacturing facility; 140,000 square foot facility in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

                        We have five direct offices where we have sales, service and administrative people in five countries in Europe. We have three offices in China where we have sales and service people. We have an office in Japan and an office in India. In addition to that we have about five distributors throughout the rest of the world.

                        Our products span all sorts of physical properties from surface porosity into the particle size and a variety of techniques that may not be as related to the pharmaceutical business.

Todd S:            Todd aren’t all the great companies started in a garage?

Todd Y:            Yes and Georgia Tech. There are one or two from there; our backyard by the way.

John:                Oh yeah? Good. We love it there.

Todd Y:            Talk a little bit about the issue that you are helping your customers address or the problems that you are solving.

John:                Micromeritics products; not to be short-tripped to our lab we also have contract lab services which is focused on the pharmaceutical space as well. We provide solutions to our customers; whatever they may need and then the pharmaceutical space we can talk about things from incoming quality inspection of the pharmaceutical powders or excipients or any of the materials that go into making the tablets or capsules.

                        The process; the production process itself and the milling, mixing and looking at powders and looking at powder segregation. Looking at the granulation process, looking at density and particle size and powders. Again surface area and porosity are very important and then even into the finished tablet when we look at pore structure and surface area which can relate to dissolution, bio-availability, shelf stability and that sort of thing about the products.

Todd Y:            Talk about some of the processes that you go through with the customers. You walk in and you are trying to understand what their problems are. How do you work with them to come up with the right solutions?

John:                It depends on how they factor into our process. A lot of times we have customers who find us through our lab services and understand that they have a need for characterization of their powders.

                        Frequently it is a particle size approach that is very prevalent in the pharmaceutical industry and the need to measure particle size and materials brings them to our door. Frequently their knowledge of their products expands as we work with them to recognize the other physical properties like surface area are just as important.

                        Again, frequently they approach us through our lab services. When we go on site to a pharmaceutical customer we will usually sit down with formulation sizes and talk to them about some of the solutions that we can provide. We are also very active in training.

                        There are a couple of universities that put on tableting courses that we have been involved in for many years to help bring new scientists and engineers into a knowledge base of the products that we produce.

Todd S:            Talk about what you all are showcasing here at Interphex.

John:                This week we have a variety of products some of them are new. One of the things that Micromeritics did about five years ago just as a tangent to tell you about is because we have such a strong distribution and support network around the world frequently companies who do not have that kind of global footprint will approach us and ask us if we would be interested in representing them around the world.

                        They may have a complimentary technique. About five years ago we started a brand that we call Particulate Systems and into that brand we are basically seeking those companies and then carrying and supporting their products around the world.

                        We have several of those as well as Micromeritics Organic manufactured in Atlanta, Georgia products that are showcased. We have a new gas absorption instrument which is called the ASAP2460; ASAP stands for Accelerated Surface Area and Porosity so this is a gas absorption instrument and it is a new instrument.

                        It is very nice in that it is a modular instrument. The customer can start off with two analysis stations and upgrade to four and then upgrade to six. They can build into as their needs increase the instrument.

                        We have an instrument that measure skeletal density of powders and solids and a new version of that is one that uses the thermo-electric controller so that we can collect density at specific temperature for the customer’s needs.

                        If they have to measure density at 25 degrees or at 35 or 22 degrees we can set the instrument to do that at that precise temperature. We also have an instrument that is used in the roller compactor business where they are looking at the porosity of the ribbon that comes out of the controller compactor so that they can improve that process.

                        That instrument is called the Geo-Pick. It is an envelope density device. We look at the ribbon that comes out of it and measure the total volume and thus the density and can determine the porosity of the ribbon from that.

                        Under the Particulate Systems Group we have an instrument that we call the Thin Tester which is used to look at the sheer force or unconfined yield space of powders or how cohesive they are and how well they hold together. At what force do they break apart or start to flow?

                        We have an instrument that is used for measuring nano-particle size so particles from a half a nanometer up to 10-12 micrometers by a technique called dynamic light scattering. That instrument is called the nano-plus.

                        In addition to being able to do nano-particle size it can also measure the electric charge of a flurry of materials or that is called Zeta Potential which is very important as to how particles aggregate or might flocculate or come together in a solution.

                        Last but not least we have an instrument called the particle insight which is used to measure particle shape. Shape factors, aspect ratios, how circular a particle is or the variety of materials that can be measured.

                        Again not to give short trip to our lab but we also are representing our lab here that do quite a bit of work for Micromeritics Pharmaceutical Services.

Todd S:            I am leaning back in my chair thinking about the breadth of particle products that you talked about and the instrumentation and the lab services, the global footprint and the myriad of partners that you are working with and I am thinking how on Earth do you gather up the right skill set inside of Micromeritics to be able to deal with all of that and integrate all of those different things, services and people?

John:                I guess it is just something that has come together over a number of years. We have invested a lot in people. One of the things that I think makes us very different from many of the companies that we compete with is that we have realized for many years that investing in people is very important.

                        We have software engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers; we have engineers that represent our manufacturing process and a lot of people who have been there for many years.

                        In our machine shop we probably have one of the best machine shops in the whole Southeast at Micromeritics. We do all of our own electronic assembly there. Everything is done in house and we have a lot of people who have quite a bit of tenure.

                        That means that they know what they are doing and we can solve problems when those problems occur. In terms of customer side of the business there is an interesting story very quickly.

                        We had a sales and marketing meeting about three years ago. We had people in from all over the world and about 65 people in the room. At the beginning of the meeting we asked everyone to get up and introduce themselves and say how long they have been working with Micromeritics and where they were from.

                        A couple of us tried to keep a running total of that as people went around the room. After we finished, again there were about 65 people in the room, we were over 1, 200 years of service of our sales and distributor people who were working with our company.

Todd Y:            I have to make you pause for a minute. I don’t want you calling me old anymore.

Todd S:            Todd I am still spinning from the amazing products on display at the booth. I think we should put the show on hiatus and I have to tell you I am excited to ask this next question. What is next? What else are you guys developing and putting out there?

John:                Of course I am in sales so they won’t tell me all of the cool things going on at the lab. We have a lot of things in the pipeline. One of the things that we have tried to do in the last few years is accelerate the rate of new product introduction to leverage our engineering expertise.

                        We have introduced several new instruments over the last year. Probably the latest and greatest state of the art instrument for gas absorption which we call the 3-Flex. It is a very high-end research instrument that can measure three samples at one time and being very well received in the marketplace and all of the industry that we serve in addition to the pharmaceutical space.

                        We have introduced a new preparation device that gives more flexibility to customers making samples ready for the analyses. We have introduced some new software also. I talked a lot about the gas absorption where we measure the surface porosity.

                        We have probably 12 different instruments that cover those types of tests from the manual instruments to the very high through-put high research grade instrument that I mentioned and everything in between.

                        Frequently people want to be able to take the data and massage it offline so we have developed a very nice interactive application that the customers are just falling in love with because it is just so easy to work with.

                        They can get so much information out of it. It is called Micro-Active. We actually had a contest within the company and someone in production I think came up with that name and customers just love that.

Todd S:            Todd I am making notes. I think we will have to budget an hour for next year’s conversation.

Todd Y:            I was going to ask John why he came to Interphex but I look at the amount of knowledge that you are sharing and obviously that is a big piece to share all of the capabilities that you have but why else? Is there more than that?

John:                Micromeritics has tried to provide solutions to our customers for years and I think for many years Micromeritics is very technology driven. It is important to get out to places like this and meet customers to find out what they need and show what we are presenting.

                        It really is a two-way street. We need to listen to people. This is a great way to meet with folks and understand what the needs are to find out if there are places that we have gaps or needs that we need to address.

Todd S:            I am going to guess there are probably no gaps. I am guessing with everything that I have heard to this moment.

John:                There are always one or two.

Todd S:            I understand. That is what keeps you on your toes. John I hate to say it but we are out of time unfortunately. Before I let you go where can people get in touch with you to learn more about Micromeritics?

John:                Micromeritics website; you can find us at www.micromeritics.com which is m-i-c-r-o-m-e-r-i-t-i-c-s dot com. We are located in the Atlanta, Georgia area as I have said. We are here at the show in booth #1224.

Todd S:            All right. John Garrett the Director of Global Accounts with Micromeritics Instrument Corp. John thanks for stopping by and joining us.

John:                thank you for having me.

Todd S:            It was our pleasure. That wraps this segment. On behalf of my co-host Todd Youngblood I am Todd Schnick Life Science Connect Radio live coverage from Interphex. We will be right back. 

Micromeritics Instrument Corporation