Preparing for a Random Fire Inspection with a Digital Chemical Inventory System

Although most lab managers recognize the importance of tracking chemical inventory, many are satisfied that this tracking is done well enough with spreadsheets. They do not feel that a digital chemical inventory system would add any more value to the inventory management process. Personally, I think these individuals are missing the bigger picture regarding the true purpose of a digital chemical inventory system. To illustrate the transformative power of this software, below are a few scenarios that illustrate specifically the superiority of digital chemical inventory software over alternative methods.

Scenario 1 – The random inspection

Chemical Inventory Software makes you Prepared for the Dropby Visit
Is your Laboratory Prepared for a Random Visit from the Fire Marshal?
Courtesy of

The city where your laboratory is located has a regulation restricting the amount of flammable liquids that can be stored at a facility. To comply with this regulation, you obtained a permit from the fire department that allows your laboratory to store a specific amount of flammable liquid on site. One day, the fire marshal shows up, unannounced, with your permit in hand and asks to inspect the chemical inventory within the laboratory to ascertain compliance. How would you go about verifying this information?

If you have installed a digital chemical inventory system, demonstrating compliance is simple. You quickly access the system and print a report detailing the quantities of flammable liquids currently stored on site. The report also lists the physical location where the liquids are stored. With this report, you are able to efficiently demonstrate the laboratory’s compliance with the regulation.

If you track your chemical inventory in spreadsheets, the entire exercise becomes a big headache. According to the sheet, it appears that you are in compliance. But as the physical inspection proceeds, it becomes apparent that the sheet is outdated. More flammable liquids are stored on site than is currently permitted. The inspection ends in a fine and the loss of your permit, which may simply be the beginning of the headache. All flammable materials may need to be removed from the premises, and the laboratory may need to resubmit a permit request once all requirements are met.

A good chemical inventory system is invaluable from a compliance perspective. It can help you navigate the complexities of permits, licenses and regulations required by local, state and federal organizations.

Scenario 2 – Do we have it in stock?

A researcher needs a particular chemical for an experiment she is conducting. The chemical is an expensive reagent that is frequently used by laboratory personnel in your other laboratory, located a few miles down the road. As the purchasing manager, the researcher approaches you and asks whether the chemical is on site. How would you go about finding out this information?

bottles of chemicals
Are you able to see the on-hand inventory of other laboratories in the area?
Courtesy of Flickr user adonofrio for

If you have installed a digital chemical inventory system, you quickly open it up and inspect the current on-hand inventory at your location, as well as at the other laboratory down the road. You find the required reagent at the other laboratory, and quickly dispatch a courier to pick up and bring it back.

If you track your chemical inventory on paper, you are not really sure where the reagent is located. Since you believe that the other laboratory has some, you drive over yourself and spend the next 30 minutes searching the supply closet until you find the right one.

A digital chemical inventory system can act like a virtual stockroom, and can include the current inventory of all facilities within a particular region. This prevents laboratories from carrying unnecessary duplicate inventories.

A digital solution for maximum efficiency

A digital chemical inventory system can reduce the hassle associated with maintaining compliance. It can also reduce the amount of capital investment tied up in inventory. Accelrys offers these solutions and more – if you want to learn more about the benefits of a digital chemical inventory system,  please visit our website today.

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