Project maps give Shawcor Ltd.'s research and development team a way to view data in layers. The team also created symbols for unique properties, which appear in the upper right corner of this project map.
Toronto—As an R&D manager for Shawcor Ltd., David Potter develops new types of coatings capable of withstanding the stresses and temperature fluctuations en-countered on modern pipelines. Finding new coating formulations typically involves brainstorming sessions where five or six initial approaches using more than a hundred possible components are discussed. But with the introduction of project mapping from Mindjet LLC (Larkspur, CA), Potter and his team found a way to streamline the process of brainstorming.
"The first problem is that it was hard to make order out of the chaos of dozens of possibilities," says Potter. "And second, once we created the formulation matrix, the team couldn't see all the compositional approaches at once." He and his team would have to jump back and forth between different pages of formulations trying to compare them.
Potter's team now puts together project maps that serve as formulation guides. "We add a main branch and label it methacrylic polymers," says Potter. "That branch would be a starting point for one line of possible formulation approaches. On that branch, we might have sub-branches for the different types of methacrylic polymers that we believe have potential."
At this point, he often assigns individual formulation branches to team members. Each person does preliminary research on that coating type, and adds what he has learned to the project map.
"These maps have proven to be extremely useful for formulation trees," Potter says. He adds that one of the big issues debated for years by scientists at his company is how to represent a great deal of complex data so it is visible all at once. "Chemists tend to want to put numbers on everything, like naming formulation A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, and so on," he explains. "The problem is that these names tell you nothing about what's in a formulation. Before we started using project mapping, we'd construct spreadsheets or tables filled with these kinds of notations, and we would have to continually flip back and forth to see what 'Formulation A-1' meant.
"Mapping saves time in terms of figuring out which material is affecting which proprieties, and in which way," he says.
For more information about project mapping software from Mindjet, www.mindjet.com: Enter 540