Business Scientist’s Mission
R&D with Market Insight, Ability to Fulfil Consumers’ Needs
Dr. Pongsuda (Phumaton) Pongthanya
Today, the challenges of R&D are no longer limited to laboratories. Dr. Pongsuda Pongthanya, Director of Product and Technology Development Center of Packaging Business, SCG, reveals that one big challenge for her team now is about keeping pace with trends in a bid to ensure that the firm’s products and services can comprehensively respond to market needs.
After working in the government services for years, Dr. Pongsuda joined SCG in 2007 and was assigned to manage R&D, innovations, and new business opportunities. Then in 2013, she was promoted to the helm of Product and Technology Development Center. The timing was crucial as at that time SCG Paper was rebranding itself as Packaging Solutions Provider. Through the rebranding, it is now known as Packaging Business, SCG.
Paper to Packaging
Ahead of rebranding, R&D had mainly focused on paper. Dr. Pongsuda-led team had gone deep in researching species of plants that provided paper pulp, gathering Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology knowledge in support of paper business. Following the rebranding, the R&D team has expanded its focus to plastics too.
“During the firm’s transformation from a paper business into a packaging business, it was extremely necessary that we conducted R&D on packaging so as to make sure our team understand packaging. The next step then is to apply the knowledge to create innovations with commercial potential. As researchers, we do not stick to things like ‘I am specialized in this or that’. We keep learning. And thanks to that, our firm has created many innovations following the rebranding. We thus can reach out to many more groups of customers,” Dr. Pongsuda says.
At the Packaging Business, SCG, the R&D team has placed an emphasis on the Voice of the Customer as well as “global trends” to identify what each industry will need in the future. The identification paves way for the development of solutions.
“In the past one or two years, we have been training our researchers as Business Scientists. In this new role, researchers learn more about new business formats and go out to meet customers alongside the sales team. Business scientists are expected to identify customers’ pain points and latent needs, and then think about how best to address those things with products. It’s not that researchers start doing marketing. It’s about efficient collaboration. Leading companies across the world have worked towards this direction. When researchers meet with customers, they can listen directly to the Voice of the Customers. Analysis then will pave way for the development of solutions that answer well to customers’ needs,” she continues.
According to her, the new way of working is good in that researchers do not have to work just inside labs. On the contrary, they have time to meet customers, learn about competitors, explore new trends/business context, and engage in Big Idea Generation. Such work approach enables researchers to look ahead and prepare solutions that customers will want in the future. It, on the overall, generates good impacts.
“To date, SCG has already introduced many sustainable solutions in line with green trends and Circular Economy concept. Among clear examples are Fest and FybroZeal. Through extensive researches, we have delivered eco-friendly and recyclable packaging that answer well to product users in terms of functionality, efficiency and prices,” she points out.
Innovation X Collaboration
At present, the Packaging Business, SCG, has presented an impressive range of innovative products that answer to almost every need in the industrial sector from Primary Packaging, to Secondary Packaging and to Tertiary Packaging levels. Dr. Pongsuda says her team will continue R&D for innovation development. She points out that for the Packaging Business, SCG, to deliver One Stop Service, it has to respond to customers’ needs in a comprehensive manner in regards to designs, materials, functionality, print quality and environmental friendliness. Most important of all, customers should get such solutions before their competitors.
“Behind the development of innovations or new product & service is not just the R&D team but also everyone in the firm. It takes collaboration from all to perpetuate super impacts on the firm and the society. Sharing ideas, discussing problems, and exploring new approach together will lead to innovations. Success will happen when all these activities go in line with the firm’s direction and when the firm implements the policies that support such culture,” Dr. Pongsuda concludes.