On-Site Chemical Inventory Management Programs Done Right

Successful chemical inventory management and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) solution implementation can be a major challenge for any organization. Luckily, there are proven methodologies and technologies that can streamline a program rollout—and boost the chances for its success.

That was one of the key messages at the recent webinar “Launching an On-Site Enterprise Chemical Inventory Management Program.” Triumvirate Environmental National Director of On-Site Support Services Ian Lanza and Chemical Safety Software Director of Business Systems Charles Hisey both presented during the event.

They covered two major subjects:

  • The benefits of integrating a modern chemical inventory software platform into existing chemical inventory and related systems—such as procurement, accounting, or SDS applications
  • How to be prepared to rapidly and fully go live with the solution—while remaining capable of continually adapting and improving it in the long term

Chemical Inventory Management Challenges

Chemicals are crucial for so many organizations in so many fields—life sciences, health care, heavy industry, and so on. But mismanaged, they can be dangerous, and their proper handling is a complex job. So, to improve operations and cut risk, it’s important for organizations of all types and sizes to have a formal, modern, web-based chemical inventory management system and related protocols.

But unfortunately, there are too many organizations that rely on outdated paper or Excel-based solutions. During a live poll, the presenters asked just how attendees were currently managing their inventories—and the response was as follows:

  1. Third-party software (44%)
  2. Microsoft Excel or Access (29%)
  3. Not sure (8%)
  4. Homegrown system (6%)

Hisey noted: “These poll results are pretty representative of a lot of the folks we that work with.” He explained that many organizations have already deployed off-the-shelf solutions and want to improve them. Yet, there are still some managers just “taking their first steps into migrating away from paper or spreadsheets or older homegrown systems.”

Integration with SDS and Business Systems

A complete chemical inventory management system should integrate into an SDS digital library, capable of rapid search, Hisey said. Such a solution offers instant and centralized search capabilities to SDSs. This way, if there is a chemical spill or a surprise Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection, workers aren’t flipping through paper binders to access SDS information on the fly.

Ultimately, an integrated chemical inventory management-SDS digital library platform will offer many benefits, operational and otherwise. It is, as Hisey said, “critical for workplace safety and regulatory compliance.”

Where applicable, a chemical inventory management system should also integrate into the organization’s existing applications infrastructure. The inventory application should seamlessly share data with existing business systems—such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or operational software.

With so many variables needed for success, implementation planners should consider, among other things:

  • Integration planning with relevant information technology specialists
  • Conducting comprehensive testing to ensure the solutions are adequate
  • Thorough advanced planning to train users and be prepared for future system modifications

Go Live with Chemical Inventory Programs

Lanza covered the next phase of an inventory rollout—the steps just before and during go-live. Preparations must be extensive—and they must prevent scope creep. That’s because the more complex the inventory program, the more chance for “chemical drift”—or the variance between the inventory records versus what’s actually in the facility.

The organization’s physical infrastructure will affect the rollout, as well. So, proper execution also requires facility review—locating fire control zones, storage areas, and so on. A large corporation may have to track chemicals across multiple sites—so the stakeholders may identify and monitor chemical inventories up at the facility level.

On the other hand, smaller organizations, confined to one lab, won’t need to map out multiple facilities. However, their researchers may need chemical traceability down to the bin level, which is also a complex task to support.

Dangers of Chemical Data Glut

Organizations must craft the most appropriate data processes and policies for their particular needs. This is extremely important for both operations and compliance success. The specific types of information in the chemical inventory management solution will drive execution, as well as future improvement reports and outcomes. To craft reports, managers should focus on just what types of information they actually need to meet mission goals, Lanza explained.

Potentially, a chemical inventory list with hundreds of different substances can overwhelm the staff. There can be multiple data views (operational, environmental, etc.), with tabs that can contain dozens of individual information points. Not every record in every system is going to be relevant to every user.

“Have a clear vision for what data is important to you and what you want to be able to report on on the back end,” he said. “Put in the exact data you’re going to need. The more data you put in there, the harder it is to maintain.”

Advantage of Chemical Data Integrations

Lanza emphasized that a chemical inventory solution rollout must be thoroughly planned and thought through, across groups and roles. “These programs can impact many people across many departments,” he said.

Also, integrating the various chemical data flows through the various corporate systems can yield operational efficiency and greater control over the inventory. Not that connecting systems and departments and facilities is always easy.

As he said: “Before embarking on something like that, have a really strong vision. Do some homework on the other systems, the other users, and how you could potentially do that. It helps build the business case, and, honestly, to get the most out of an initiative like that.”

To watch the full webinar, we invite you to register on our website. Or, you can speak with us today about your chemical inventory management needs. 

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