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Integrating MSDS With Chemical Inventory Management

In June 2011, Lab Manager, along with ChemSW Inc. and 3E Company, hosted a “Product Showcase” webinar on “How to Seamlessly Integrate MSDSs with Chemical Inventory Management.”

by Tanuja Koppal, PhD
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In June 2011, Lab Manager, along with ChemSW Inc. and 3E Company, hosted a “Product Showcase” webinar on “How to Seamlessly Integrate MSDSs with Chemical Inventory Management.” An expert from each company gave a brief presentation on inventory and data management challenges and best practices for implementing an integrated Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) system. The webinar attracted an international audience from various fields, with diverse backgrounds and varying levels of expertise, and provided them with a unique opportunity to interact with the experts in real time, getting their guidance and feedback.

Anne Sefried, senior inventory consultant at ChemSW Inc., discussed ways to implement MSDS best practices and maximize return on investment using CISPro, the company’s proprietary chemical inventory management system. Tamie Webber, director of product management at 3E Company, talked about the impact of regulatory changes and emphasized the need for an integrated approach using the 3E Online MSDS Management System.

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Following the brief presentations, attendees were able to ask questions and voice their concerns. Below are some questions that were posed by the attendees and the responses given by the speakers. The event was moderated by Tanuja Koppal, Ph.D., contributing editor for Lab Manager Magazine.

Q: Can you highlight some of the essential features of an integrated chemical inventory and MSDS management system that users must consider when looking to buy a new system?

Sefried: There are a number of key features to consider when purchasing a new chemical inventory management system. First and foremost, the system needs to be easy to access and provide an intuitive interface so that the user population is willing to use it. Second, the system needs to track information, important from a container-tracking perspective as well as from a safety perspective, so all required chemical information is found in one central place. Third, the system must incorporate best practice workflows to ensure that the inventory is up to date at all times, from receipt at the facility to disposal. A sustainable chemical inventory management system, such as ChemSW’s CISPro solution, will include the tools for accurately reporting real-time inventory information to satisfy inventory management, regulatory, and MSDS compliance needs.

Webber: It is also important to understand the data and services that go with the tools. Does the vendor simply provide a tool for the users to populate, or does the solution include data management services, such as gathering MSDSs from suppliers, indexing relevant data from the MSDSs and keeping the MSDSs up to date? Companies should make sure a vendor’s platform provides all the necessary tools for effective compliance management. Ideally this means that the vendor can provide not just software but also the critical data, content, and support. This includes key data elements such as document templates, data, phrases, calculations and classifications, and rules. The software must provide constantly updated support features for emerging regulatory frameworks such as REACH and GHS. Sophisticated formulation management capabilities are critical. The vendor and platform should be global in functionality and capabilities. Finally, the vendor should be able to provide related outsourced services such as MSDS distribution and emergency response.

Q: How does the bar coding of containers work when you purchase certain chemicals by the case? When this happens, would each container get a unique bar code?

Sefried: CISPro is a barcode system at its core. To be successful in chemical inventory management, it is important that each chemical container get its own unique bar code so that it can be tracked independently from the time it is received to the time it is disposed of. During a container receipt in CISPro, the data entry person is prompted for the number of containers being received so that the receipt is streamlined, and even for multiple containers the process has to be completed only one time.

Q: What is meant by remote bar code scanning? Can we use the bar codes that are already in use in our labs?

Sefried: CISProis a bar coding system. CISPro generates bar codes for new inventory as well as for locations, owners, and keywords such as “Dispose,” “Move,” and “Open.” For organizations that are currently leveraging other bar coding solutions, CISPro can definitely use barcodes that are already in use by the lab. The bar codes must be unique and specific to one container. Remote scanners can be used with CISPro to simplify the update process in terms of disposals as well as physical inventories or reconciliations. The scanners are intrinsically safe and cordless and can easily travel from lab to lab for scanning purposes. The remote scanners also have Wi-Fi capabilities that allow you to be logged directly into CISPro, updating the inventory in real time without having to be tied down to a workstation.

Q: How does a software as a service, or SaaS, solution meet OSHA’s requirement for 24/7 employee access to MSDSs (e.g., during a power outage)?

Sefried: One of the benefits of using a SaaS application is that is it fully web-based and can be accessed from any Internet connection. During a power outage, the chemical inventory program and MSDS files are still readily available from any Internet-capable devices such as cell phones, iPads, or notebooks. An internally hosted application would not be available during a power outage, but the SaaS solution would still be fully accessible, ensuring that MSDSs and other safety information are always available to your employees.

Webber: All web-based applications should have backup methods in place in the event of an emergency. 3E MSDS Management for CISPro includes the 3E 24/365 hotline to support users in gaining access to MSDSs if access to CISPro is ever unavailable. Technical experts are ready to provide MSDSs, and poison control and chemical spill assistance, in over 100 languages.

Q: How will OSHA GHS impact my MSDSs and labels?

Webber: We can anticipate many new compliance challenges when OSHA promulgates its revised HazCom Standard, including the need to re-evaluate how substances and mixtures are classified, and the need to re-issue MSDSs and labels, and train staff appropriately. 3E can provide this information at a pure substance level for integration with CISPro. In addition, 3E’s MSDS management program is prepared for the implementation of GHS in the U.S. As manufacturers update their MSDSs, 3E will automatically update the MSDSs within the CISPro system.

Q: What are the key qualities/considerations when a company is selecting a regulatory and product data services vendor?

Webber: Unique and compelling factors when selecting a data service provider and vendor include the vendor’s knowledge base, which should be broad, large, and dynamic and provide maximum coverage for critical information such as product material safety data sheets and regulations on substances. Constant support is critical, including round-the-clock (24/7/365) customer service, highly accessible on-call experts, and global coverage. Data provided by the vendor should be of the highest possible accuracy and quality and continually updated. Solution breadth should cover the full product life cycle and supply chain, support both upstream product stewardship and downstream workplace safety, and support relevant technical environments. Experience and expertise are critical, including domain experts with relevant degrees and certifications in areas such as environmental health, environmental sciences, environmental engineering, chemistry, law, hazardous materials management, and toxicology.

Q: How can the user ensure that their MSDS system is secure, is being used effectively, and is updated automatically?

Webber: Users should speak with their providers or potential providers to understand their security protocols. It is also always a good idea to ask about the providers’ MSDS update practices. It is important to have proactive revision maintenance, meaning a program that continually reaches out to suppliers to verify that an MSDS is still current. Many times suppliers will update an MSDS and, for a variety of reasons, it will not reach the proper customer contact. Proactive revision maintenance can fill those gaps and ensure a properly updated system.

Q: Can you elaborate on the types of training you provide for prospective and current users?

Sefried: ChemSW is the developer of CISPro. We maintain and provide all updates to the software, as well as provide all support and training for the software. We offer on-site training, off-site training, and web-based training. During the initial implementation of CISPro, we recommend on-site training to provide administrator and end-user training sessions as well as completing hands-on training for receiving, maintenance, and disposal processes. Web-based training sessions are available for initial set up or for ongoing training for new features and new users. We can provide training for users in our Northern California corporate office, if that works best for the customer. Because CISPro is so comprehensive, we customize each training session to the specific needs of the audience.

Q: How long does it take to implement a fullscale chemical inventory management system and electronic MSDS system in a lab that has no inventory management and paper MSDSs?

Sefried: This really depends on a number of factors, such as the number of sites, the number of materials at each site, and the number of containers at each facility. Also, whether or not a company has existing inventory available for migration or if it needs to complete an initial inventory can play a big role. Specifics of what it would take to implement a full-scale system can be discussed and analyzed so that we can provide a specific implementation based on the user’s needs.