Insider Guide to Chemical Inventory Management Partnering: 7 Key Capabilities

Partnering for successful chemical inventory management is a terrific way to save time and effort—provided you select only the most appropriate vendor.

Organizations have multiple options for inventory management: They can leverage internal employees; hire interns or temporary staff; or turn to third-party vendors, the approach which we favor. An outstanding partner offers a breadth of services and knowledge the client can leverage—with accountability and reliability.

However, we’ve frequently noticed that managers looking to collaborate don’t necessarily contract with the most thoroughly vetted and qualified partners. Instead, they go with the cheapest or most convenient candidates. This approach introduces risk and fails to get the highest return on investment from this crucial category of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) operations.

Chemical Inventory Partner Basics

A chemical inventory program includes safety and regulatory compliance, accurate data entry, operational execution, and more. Even small errors in these areas can cause dangerous events, fines, injury to employees and the public, and much more.

So, when vetting partners, be sure at the least you've obtained the basics—that all candidates can reduce chemical drift, improve your operations, and cut waste and costs. And you’ll want only those candidates fully equipped with the right tools (such as smart inventory solutions) to manage your program, down to the last bottle and label.

Extra Diligent Chemical Partnering

Given how important this sort of operation is, we have some special tips for you when reviewing your would-be partner's qualifications. If you want the best collaborator, you must ask the right questions. From experience, we advise you, depending on your circumstances, to determine if your candidate offers:

  1. An outstanding chemical safety culture: This can be a tall order when a vendor is managing a chemical inventory program for a research organization (or organizations) that have thousands (or even tens of thousands) of different chemicals. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazardous Communication and lab standard require those who touch or handle chemicals be trained in the potential hazards they face. They must also know how to protect themselves. Additionally, chemical inventory managers must have the proper training and experience in the safe handling of hazardous materials. This ensures they can protect themselves and your staff, and will comply with federal safety regulations.
  2. Specialists with hazardous material training: Your candidates should field teams whose members are trained in hazardous materials handling. These teams will be in the best position to address potentially dangerous events, such as when bottles with highly dangerous chemicals leak or break. The team members, for instance, should have hazardous waste, federal Department of Transportation (DOT), and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training. Additionally, such trained professionals can also share valuable insights about your chemical inventory’s regulatory and safety risks in advance, and enable you to proactively avoid dangerous events.
  3. Professionals familiar with inventory solutions: A chemical inventory database, in the right hands, is a powerful platform for enabling the management of safety and environmental risks. It can also drive operational efficiencies. On the other hand, it’s a great negative if a candidate’s team doesn't know how to deploy these applications through all parts of your organization that interact with chemicals. Ditto if the team members don’t understand the nuances of chemical classification data—and are prone to incorrect system entries. Such shortcomings will cause inaccurate or misleading reporting and risk your compliance and safety.
  4. A strong record in your sector: Your potential chemical inventory management partner should have a solid history in your field—the longer the time spent in your market sector, the better. Life sciences, for instance, is a complex, highly regulated field—and the proper management of chemicals in this industry is crucial. Decades of proven success (happy clients, no OSHA or other regulatory violations) mean the vendor has deep knowledge gathered from multiple clients and challenges. Ideally, a candidate should have an inventory management history with organizations such as yours—e.g., small-to-medium life sciences companies, process manufacturers, academic labs, and so on.
  5. Outstanding testimonials/case studies: When evaluating vendors’ capabilities, nothing is more convincing than their customers' own words. The potential partner will save you review time by offering public (or even confidential) testimonials and case studies from happy clients. You’ll want to closely read (or watch descriptions of) how well a partner has managed a customer’s chemical inventory challenges. See if the partner demonstrated it can handle basic key services, like efficient and accurate chemical reconciliations. The more concrete details these assets offer (such as the problems faced and solved), the easier it will be for you to evaluate the potential partner accurately and fairly.
  6. Thoroughly qualified/vetted team members: Your partner should deploy only the most demonstrably appropriate professionals to oversee your chemical inventory needs. This especially applies when the team is on-site. Before you sign any contract, review the bios and credentials of the candidate’s chemical management professionals. All such personnel must have undergone all necessary background checks—and secured the proper environmental and chemical education and training. Look for the specialized academic degrees, certifications, and career achievements that are the most pertinent to chemical inventory management.
  7. Proof of being a well-run, solid EHS company: Your evaluation should look beyond your potential partner's operational capabilities and include how it does business. You want a customer-friendly and stable partner that is committed to sustainability. This means the candidate has every indication of longevity—and will support your needs for the foreseeable future. Also, study the contractual language and the resources you’ll receive and be sure the vendor can deliver the support and savvy it promises. You’ll want any potential collaborator to demonstrate it can support your organization’s sustainability and environmental responsibility efforts overall. While you vet candidates, ask them if they can propose specific ways (such as a chemical hygiene plan) to leverage an inventory program that will meet your EHS goals. Also, look at the potential partner’s charter or statement of goals and see if it’s committed to overall environmental safety.

We admit, typically, it’s difficult to find individuals or organizations that can check all these boxes. But your program will only be as good as the people running it. Are you happy with your chemical inventory program candidates? We offer proven, flexible customized support services. Let’s talk today.

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