Error #6 – Not Bar Coding Chemical Inventory upon Receipt



As surfers like you and me cruise the web, Internet companies can keep track of the pages we click and how long we stayed on them. This is very useful information for the companies and gives them a basis for making websites and marketing more efficient. We can take a page from this book and track our inventory as it moves about our environment.

In the chemical inventory world, there is a place where chemical inventory is always fresh, chemicals are used before they expire and you know where everything is located. The secret behind this superior system is bar code technology, and the error many labs make is not taking advantage of bar coding. This is the sixth post in a series about the top eight chemical management errors.

Earlier in the year, ChemSW’s own Jon Webb presented a best practices webinar for lab managers and EH&S professionals. In this Lab Manager Magazine article and video, we learn about common errors in lab management and solutions to save the lab much-needed resources. Here is error #6.



The Gatekeeper Is In Charge of Bar Coding Everything

What happens if a researcher orders a hazardous chemical and no one else knows it is on site? We recommend having a dedicated gatekeeper who handles all receiving in order to bar code every single solitary container of chemicals that enters the building. This puts the inventory in the database so that the rest of the team can simply scan the label as it travels around the facility.

Inventory receiving is a potential weak spot that we can keep an eye on! Setting up one central receiving area is the most effective way to get a real-time inventory list. It also speeds up the process of running an audit. That’s something to make lab managers breathe a little easier.

In the webinar, Jon Webb tells us about an R&D lab that reduced materials cost 33% when they started using bar code technology and inventory software as part of their inventory strategy. Once they created a centralized ordering system, they found that the stockroom only ever needed 2 to 3 bottles of a chemical at any given time. Staying organized was the responsibility of a few people, while researchers were freed up for their highly skilled work. Fresher materials means the experiments were better, and liability goes way down when there is minimal hazardous material and strong inventory control.



With outdated paper spreadsheets, inventory lists may not be updated often. There is no single list of everything on site. Our ChemSW consultants have seen examples of labs with spreadsheets tacked to the door and new inventory coming through every door. In this environment, how would anyone know if the fire code maximum allowable quantities are being exceeded? In an emergency, how would we tell the first responders what was in the lab? With bar codes and complementary software solutions, it will be easier to keep track of control areas and inventory storage, as well as access safety information during an emergency. Our country’s scientists deserve the best safety and most efficient workflow processes in order to keep researching and developing.

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