For Engineer, R&D Process Brings Trial, Error, Creativity, Problem Solving – and Fun
For IPEX Polymer Research and Development (R&D) Engineer Tamzid Mahmood, getting the chance to combine imaginative ideas with scientific processes to ultimately help improve the client experience not only sets the stage for a rewarding career — but also makes for an exciting day-to-day work environment.
“I really enjoy the amount of creativity I can apply to my work — exploring new products, new materials, testing – its problem solving and creativity mixed together,” says Tamzid, who works in IPEX’s North American R&D centre in Mississauga, Ont.
Tamzid has been with IPEX since 2010, when he joined the Co-Op program as a student with the University of Waterloo. He stayed for three terms before joining the company as an employee after graduating. As a full-time member of the team, he’s now also supervising the next generation of IPEX Co-Op students.
His ability to innovate and develop ideal solutions for clients is built on IPEX’s flexible and collaborative approach to research. Engineers bring their ideas to the table for a discussion with management before taking them to the lab to apply, test and try out iterations of products aimed at meeting customer needs.
“One of the philosophies from our overarching R&D team is to ‘fail fast,’ so we try a lot of things. If it fails, it fails fast. Then we learn from that, and we can improve. That’s a really good way to do research, and it lets you explore a lot of options,” says Tamzid.
In addition to tweaking, testing and improving formulations at IPEX’s plants, Tamzid’s work is focused on creating new formulations for product lines, including one that will allow IPEX’s Novaform PVC liner to expand to larger diameter sizes.
“That was a fun process to work on. We’re still in the large-scale testing phases, but the initial tests were promising, and some of the contractors who have tried it out like the usability and handling, so I was happy to hear that the customer enjoys the product.”
Detailed client requests and feedback via our sales and customer service departments have also led Tamzid and his R&D colleagues to develop outside-the-box solutions.
“A customer might have a very specific need for a part for their project — like a condominium building where they needed a custom-shaped part — and we are able to work with our Product Design department and use our 3-D printers to print out a prototype, show them visually, check it out in the proper setting, put it in the actual job site to see if it fits properly, and then commission a mold and make the parts for that job,” says Tamzid. “That’s one way we can practically do things in-house really quickly that satisfies the customer.”
For Tamzid, career satisfaction comes from seeing progress in his projects – although by its very nature, research and development is also about finding lessons in the processes that don’t work out exactly as planned.
“Sometimes, there can be a period of time where you’re really failing. You’ve got to be a bit resilient, and you’ve got to have the will to keep going. But then, once the breakthroughs come in, that’s always very satisfying. I get a big rush of dopamine when the numbers line up.”