More predictive test kits to come from Kemin's Customer Laboratory Services
Globally, the CLS service is in fact part of the strategic approach undertaken by the Nelson family who owns Kemin, to serve as a strong market differentiator, by positioning Kemin as a company which "does not just sell products".
With support from the Economic Development Board of Singapore, Kemin Industries started a Manufacturing plant and Laboratory in Singapore in 1988. The motivation for starting the Customer Laboratory Services then was relatively straightforward - to support the products which Kemin manufactured, and to reach out to potential customers who were keen to compare different products.
David Tey joined Kemin a few years later in 1993 and is now the Senior Manager of Quality Control & CLS at Kemin Asia Pacific. He recalls some of the early tests which the CLS team conducted then were comparison tests between different antioxidant products using the Active Oxygen Method (AOM), which follow the international AOCS method. "Over the years, the CLS team has improved the accuracy of, and automated testing, relying less on manpower. We also present the test data in an easy-to-read format for our sales team and customers. Today, the CLS team has moved on from the lab to the field, accompanying our country, product and sales managers on customer visits, supporting them by providing detailed explanations of test results," says Tey.
Dr. Alfred Chua, Marketing Director at Kemin Asia Pacific, adds, "The CLS service has morphed over the past 29 years, continually expanding its reach to customers by moving from the back end to the front end. The customer-facing role of the CLS team is becoming more important as we have realised that it makes customers more assured and gets their buy-in. Moreover, most of our customers are very scientifically and detail-oriented, are thirsty for knowledge, and they ask very detailed questions, which our CLS team is in the best position to answer. In fact, at least once a month, some of our big customers come down to the Singapore office for a full-day workshop."
"On such visits, customers also look forward to our insights into new test methodologies, and sometimes even see our CLS lab as a reference lab," Tey quips.
Besides widely adopting the AOAC standards in its test methodologies, which are also followed closely by its customers themselves, Kemin has also helped her customers to established their methods in their labs as well.
Citing an example, Tey says that customers are often unaware that autoxidation should not be over-relying on peroxide value (PV value) as a test indicator when there are many other important indicators to take note of, such as iodine value, 2-thiobarbituric acid (TBA) and p-anisidine value (AnV). Such in-depth insight into the science of testing has "blown the minds" of some customers, as Tey describes.
Beyond the lab, Dr. Chua notes a trend in the feed and livestock industry. Customers increasingly want to respond to issues they face on the field, real-time. In simple terms, for Kemin, this means bringing the lab to the field.
For this purpose, as part of the CLS service, the first rapid test kit which Kemin launched three years ago, was for quantifying the bacterial count of Clostridium perfringens, used together with the company's probiotic CLOSTATTM. Based on the bacterial count in faecal matter which correlates with the onset of necrotic enteritis, Kemin would then recommend actions to the customer to take. In this way, it forestalls potentially irreversible problems that the customer may face later.
Following the success of Kemin's first rapid test kit, the company has introduced others, such as one which can quantify six different mycotoxins within just a few hours. "The range of toxin binder currently recommended in the industry can be extensive, and our rapid test kit provides a precise predictive test for the effective level of toxin binder to use. For aflatoxins, we adopt the strict standards of the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US," highlights Dr. Chua.
And for Kemin's butyric acid product ButiPEARLTM, the company has developed a test kit which can visually compare and mimic the transit of different butyric acid products through the gut. According to Dr. Chua, it is well recognised that butyric acid needs to reach the distal end of the gut where it is most needed, and the test kit provides a clear, visual validation of the product benefits.
Besides Kemin's products, the CLS service also supports the company's customer programmes such as MillSMARTTM. The CLS team tests about 3,000 analysis a year for the MillSMART programme, for a variety of parameters relating to water activity, propionic acid, starch gelatinisation and mould count. "With the strong support from the CLS team for data generation, the Feed Technology Unit of the MillSMART programme is then enabled to interpret the data for each customer," Dr. Chua explains.
Within the next five years, Kemin customers can look forward to more predictive test kits as part of the CLS service, concludes Tey and Dr. Chua.