Lab Management Error #3 – Throwing Away Expired Chemicals That You Found Too Late


We’ve all heard the saying – recycle reduce reuse – and if we apply this to our lives, we can save money, help the environment and thus help ourselves. At home, this means composting food, recycling plastic and reusing glass containers. In the lab, we can start by reducing.

One of the head-scratchers that we see in the lab is throwing away expired chemicals, and sometimes unopened containers! Reducing waste will save money and space in the lab. I bet you can think of a better use of the funds. This is the third post in a series about the top eight chemical management errors.

Earlier this year, Lab Manager Magazine hosted a best practices chemical inventory webinar for lab managers and EH&S professionals. Jon Webb, a chemical inventory consultant from ChemSW, talked us through the common errors in lab management and solutions to save the lab precious resources. Here is #3 – throwing away expired chemicals that you found too late.


Less Is More with Chemical Inventory

A lab using inventory best practices will have the minimum necessary amount of chemicals on site, based on what each department needs. I’m not sure I can even list all the benefits to this. It saves storage space; it lowers risk from hazardous materials; it makes fire code compliance simpler by having lower amounts of regulated materials. The materials are always at their freshest, and you have a good chance of using them before they expire.

This is practically impossible if researchers are in charge of receiving their own inventory. If researchers can’t find the chemical they need, then they reorder. Then, the new shipment is only known to the researcher. This is bad for other researchers looking for the material and the EH&S professionals who are trying to keep everyone safe and in compliance. This also costs more money than an efficient system, that’s not what anyone wants!


One Gatekeeper to Put All Inventory in the Tracking System

In order to be really efficient with inventory, there needs to be a gatekeeper who bar codes every single solitary container and material that enters the facility. Once in the system, it’s easy to track where the main containers are and who takes smaller amounts around the premises. If inventory is not captured at the container level, then the expiration date won’t be accessible in the database.


Sometimes you can search and find the manufacturer’s expiration date on the label, but that means you have to look at the bottle in front of you. By the time it’s checked, it could be too late. With a smaller, dedicated inventory solution, expiration dates can be optimized and new orders can be made in a timely manner so that there is no rush delivery necessary. Researchers can get back to research, and the whole operation can save money and get more done!

Expired chemicals get two thumbs down for being a financial burden and a liability risk. Wouldn’t it be great if you could forecast the expiration dates so you could use the chemicals before they go bad? Wish no more, this dream is a reality with best practices chemical inventory systems. If you’re looking for an upgrade from your current system, check out ChemSW’s CISPro, best in class inventory management software.

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