Improving Your Chemical Inventory Program During a Shutdown
Chemical inventory programs need to be in full swing while a lab is in operation. This can make it difficult to evaluate the performance of the program, identify areas for improvements, and make adjustments while not interrupting the daily lab operations. Lab shutdowns and stay-at-home orders present a great opportunity to re-evaluate your program, pinpoint areas to modify, plan for rollouts, and implement any changes before lab operations resume.
Evaluate Your Chemical Inventory Program
Does the current program meet your organizational needs? This is a relatively high-level review of the program’s effectiveness. Do you have the correct platform or database? Is the chemical inventory data accurate? Do staff understand the purpose of the chemical inventory program and have the appropriate work aids and training to effectively manage it? If you feel good about your answers to all of these questions, you are in better shape than most. If not, there is opportunity to improve your chemical inventory program during the shutdown.
Compare Your Platform Against Other Options
Now is a good time to investigate your chemical inventory and run some reports you normally wouldn’t. Does your current platform have the capabilities to run certain reports on demand or create new ones easily? Currently there is a big market for these types of systems, and you may find some options for improvement that you didn’t know of before. Lean on your staff and consultants to determine the criteria you should use to judge your program and evaluate new options. Do you need easier access to safety data sheets (SDSs) for your staff? How robust and user-friendly is your search tool? Decide what is most important to you and take a fresh look at your options.
Audit the Accuracy of Your Data
With or without direct access to your lab space, you can still audit your chemical inventory with decent accuracy. Partner with the folks who oversee each space and have them QC what’s on the inventory reports versus what they know to be in their storage locations. Most lab technicians and scientists have a good idea of what materials they have in their immediate area and will be able to report back with details on chemicals that may have been added or moved without being reflected in the inventory system.
Perform a Reconciliation of Your Data
If you do have access to your lab (but are unable to continue normal work), this is a great time to schedule a complete reconciliation of your chemical inventory. Whether you use a spreadsheet or a sophisticated software program, you should have someone go through your entire space and true-up the inventory. A program that utilizes barcodes on your chemical bottles makes this process much quicker and less intrusive and less expensive. This is especially true if there is a built-in function to support reconciliation tasks (something to look for when evaluating software options and partners).
Develop Work Aids
Once you’ve gone through your inventory software program and held it up against reality, you may have found some gaps in the data. Ask questions and try to answer – at what step(s) in your process did the inventory start to break down? Maybe you didn’t have a formal process to begin with. Word-of-mouth trainings may have worked in the beginning or with very small-scale inventories, but at some point, a formal procedure and work aids are necessary to keep the process standard and hold people accountable. With extra time in the office or at home, use it to make your chemical inventory program the best it can be.
Looking for help with any of the steps of this process? Triumvirate has a team of consultants and chemical inventory software and program experts to help with any questions you have. Contact our experts to discuss your needs. For details on other projects you can tackle during a lab shutdown, read this blog post.