There has been no shortage of innovations in the off-highway industry over the past few years, what with engine manufacturers redesigning systems to meet regulations and OEMs redesigning equipment to fit those systems. With all those new designs and new parts, OEMs and parts suppliers worldwide have learned the hard way what happens when a company’s material approval process workflow is not integrated with MSDS (material safety data sheet) management.
Many companies use material safety data sheet software for updating, searching, and viewing MSDSs. Most of these companies have a material approval process workflow that was created with an Excel spreadsheet, administered via snail- or e-mail, and decoupled from the MSDS management.
Not only is managing material approvals with e-mail and spreadsheets labor-intensive, manual, and difficult to track, there are other pitfalls that become onerous and expensive over time.
For instance, once a new material is approved, someone must ensure the MSDS is added to the MSDS system. This extra step can be eliminated. The material approval process captures the appropriate product and location/storage information; from that information the MSDS could automatically be assigned to the MSDS management system.
At Actio, we believe there are five optimizing reasons to integrate MSDS management with any new material approval process.
1. Automatically connecting the MSDS to the new material eliminates the time required to upload the MSDS.
2. Eliminating the operational and compliance gap of an MSDS never getting into the MSDS system. So often we see the MSDS administrator realize there are tens, if not hundreds, of MSDS missing from the system because of this gap. Automating tasks such as this reduces a company’s overall risk—especially as new materials are introduced and the data library swells.
3. If the proper information is being indexed in the MSDS management system, that information can be integrated into the material approval process. Product identification information, GHS hazard and precautionary statements, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (under NFPA) and Hazardous Materials Identification System ratings, and Personal Protective Equipment information can readily be available from the MSDS during the approval process, reducing manual "viewing" of the information on the MSDS, data entry, and both the request and the approval cycle.
4. If the CAS/substance information indexed in your MSDS management system can be leveraged by syncing the data with regulatory content in an integrated materials approval system, this lets an approver take a proactive approach to prescreening new products to identify compositional substances in the material that may cause a red flag. This avoids ordering new parts containing substances or new raw materials that should not be used on the premises or that cannot be used in conjunction with other materials already purchased.
5. Approvers can prescreen new products by leveraging CAS/substance information listed in an MSDS management system with regulatory content stored in an integrated approval system. The new chemical or material may contain elements on the EPA Toxic Substances Control Act list, a Substance of Very High Concern under REACH Regulation in Europe, a chemical mixture on the Global Automotive Declarable Substance List, or a chemical that triggers limits under California’s Proposition 65.
There are lists your staff may not have time to maintain in-house but should such as substance lists from the Department of Homeland Security Chemicals of Concern, an industry association "standard" that may be critical, or a corporate or client-specific banned substance list. A good material approval system will serve up a vast array of regulatory content so that approvers can quickly identify and alert the approvers of substances of concern in the new material.
Hazard profiling and risk assessment are components of the approval cycle, resulting in classifications or instructions that must be communicated to the workforce using the materials. Integrating material approval with an MSDS program displays these classifications or instructions on the MSDS when viewed in the MSDS management system.
Chris Nowak, Chief Operations Officer, Actio Corp., wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.