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Signs You Found the Right Software for Chemical Inventory Management

Posted by Matt Segal on May 4, 2020 8:45:00 AM

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When you begin the process of searching for chemical inventory management software, it can be difficult to distinguish between all the different options — many of which may seem similar on the surface. 

You might see several systems that offer similar features, such as container tracking, safety data sheets, and reporting. One thing you’ll see no matter what is vendors claiming their system is “the best”.

But how do you know that the software you're considering will be the best fit for your organization specifically? At Scishield, we want you to find the right software for your needs — whether that means working with us or not.

In this article, we'll walk you through some key indicators that you've found the right software for your organization so you can confidently recommend the best solution to your team.

Signs You Found the Right Software for Chemical Inventory Management:

  1. The software tracks key data in a report-forward database structure (Think MAQ's & CFATS Reports)
  2. It’s easy to imagine using the software in your everyday tasks
  3. The workflows available can seamlessly scale
  4. Searching and filtering tools are available to easily answer inventory questions
  5. Maintaining your inventory feels sustainable
  6. The software can connect to systems that fulfill other safety needs

1. The software tracks key data in a report-forward database structure

Chemical reporting is one of the most time-consuming and expensive aspects of chemical inventory management. So, it makes sense that reporting should be one of the first things you look for when evaluating a prospective software system.

When you need to create a report, the last thing you want is scattered or incomplete data. Reporting should be integrated with your chemical inventory and not exist in a separate sphere. Any time your team needs to produce a report, they should have the information they need at their fingertips.

Reporting capabilities can differ widely between systems, so it’s important to weigh your options carefully. When you’re looking at a new system, consider all the different reports your team needs to generate. Do you need to create reports for DHS CFATS/COI? Do you spend a lot of time compiling data for Tier II reporting, or is that one you aren’t concerned about? Having a list will help you narrow down your search to software systems that will meet your reporting needs (or quickly ID systems that won’t work), saving you time down the road.

2. It’s easy to imagine using the software in your everyday tasks

When searching for new chemical inventory management software, what matters most is selecting a system you’ll actually use. You know you’ve found the right system if you can immediately envision yourself using it to locate chemicals across your organization. Or if you can picture using it to run one-click reports. A good system should not only save you time – it should result in less uncertainty, greater confidence, and fewer headaches.

We recommend creating a list of your most common tasks, such as data entry, reporting, ordering and disposal, and so on. Then think about how long it takes to complete these tasks. Some people may even find it helpful to keep a time log over a week or two to see how much time they’re spending on various activities. 

When evaluating a potential system, consider whether the new system will save you substantial time and energy on the most critical, or tedious, tasks. Many vendors will help you calculate the potential time savings. Ask for “lookalike” customer success stories to gain insight into the potential impact of this software for your organization. 

3. The workflows available will seamlessly scale

Purchasing chemical inventory software is a big investment. It's important to choose a system that not only meets your needs today but can scale with you in the future. Will this software meet your organization’s needs five years from now?

A lot can change over a year, and a system that seems like a dream today can turn into a nightmare if your organization grows. Look at the workflows you outlined above, and imagine you’ve got to perform those tasks with double the chemical volume, or with a new class of hazard you haven’t had to track before. Does it still seem manageable? Or is it hard to imagine how you could get it all done? Ideally, you want to license a system that fits your needs now and can accommodate your requirements in the future.

A big part of this comes down to the vendor’s team. They should be willing to listen and explain how the system can scale to accommodate your future needs. Ultimately, you want a customer support team you can rely on if the road gets bumpy.

4. Searching and filtering tools are available to quickly answer inventory questions

You’ll know in a matter of minutes if the software you’re considering checks this box. A good chemical inventory management system should allow you to answer questions like, “Where are all our peroxide formers?” and “How much flammable solvent do we have in this building?” quickly and accurately. After all, there’s a reason you’re moving away from spreadsheets and disorganized filing cabinets to an advanced organizational system.

A good search tool should return information fast. You shouldn’t have time to get up for a cup of tea while you’re waiting for your results to populate. It should also return all relevant results — not leave you scratching your head at why a particular chemical isn’t showing up when you know it should be.

When it comes to filtering, there are two big things to look for. First, you should be able to filter on several dimensions at once — for example, filtering for oxidizers within a specific building. Second, you should have a diverse range of filtering options, such as location, hazard class, and regulatory implications. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you go to filter results by certain criteria, only to realize that option doesn’t exist.

5. Maintaining your inventory feels sustainable

A chemical inventory system is only as good as the data within it. So even if a software system has all the features you’re looking for, you might want to reconsider if it seems like a lot of work to maintain.

Try to keep in mind that maintaining an accurate chemical inventory is an ongoing effort with many moving parts. Activities like bulk edits, controlling spaces and groups, and ensuring consistency in chemical identification are all important aspects of maintaining your inventory. You know you've found the right software if you can perform these tasks easily. Otherwise, if it’s a lot of work to keep up with your inventory, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with outdated and unreliable results.

6. The software can connect to systems that fulfill other safety needs

Although it’s great to find a solution that meets your chemical inventory requirements, it’s important to remember that you’re not buying a software solution in a vacuum. Before you even consider buying chemical inventory management software, you should make sure that it can work with your other safety systems.

For example, is the data in your chemical inventory management system accessible to inspectors or internal auditors? If you need to share data with regulators or first responders, how will that work?

It's a good idea to explore these possibilities thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line. No matter how much you like the look of a new chemical inventory system, if it isolates your data from other groups or systems that need to share information, it’s not the right software for you.

Final Thoughts

Chemical inventory management software offers many advantages. It can help your organization save time, answer questions with confidence, and maintain a high state of audit readiness — but that’s only if you select the right system.

Finding the right software for your organization is no small challenge, and there’s a lot to think about before you commit to a purchase decision. By paying attention to the six signs we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll be able to make a smart choice and reap the full rewards of a chemical inventory management system.  

SciShield’s Chemical Inventory Management Software was built by scientists, for scientists. Built with a proprietary chemical database originally developed by Stanford University, ChemTracker empowers EHS professionals by simplifying your chemical safety management to increase accuracy, streamline internal processes, and ultimately enhance site safety. Leverage our scalable SaaS solution to meet your unique laboratory needs. Request a consultation with our team to learn more.

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