Digital solutions can improve process industries’ operating profitability by 2-4 percentage points. Yet, chemical manufacturers still face specific challenges in inventory management because of the potentially volatile nature of the materials they are storing, handling or shipping. Chemical companies must be able to:
- Identify the correct inputs for any compound or mixture and verify that those materials are used in the proper quantities and with the proper handling methods
- Store chemicals under specific conditions, including exact temperature and humidity ranges or certain distances from other materials
- Manage recalls by quickly identifying the materials in question and alerting all entities involved.
In addition, international and national regulations, such as the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012), require companies to:
- Accurately classify and label the types of hazards their chemicals pose
- Openly communicate with personnel about the hazardous materials they are handling and ensure proper training, safety protocols and emergency instructions are in place
- Regularly perform inspections to verify the safety of the operations.
With all of these considerations, chemical manufacturers require a safe solution that can not only manage the handling of physical inventory but also:
- Track activities and dates
- Maintain accurate compliance records
- Assist personnel communication and training
- Enable visibility into supply chains and customer data, and
- Help plan for and manage emergencies.
Intrinsically safe mobile devices that are certified to operate in the presence of hazardous materials and connect hazardous area personnel to cloud-based communications and data management are an ideal solution to help optimize chemical inventory management.
Chemical industry personnel can utilize intrinsically safe tablets and IoT sensors, even in the most potentially explosive zones of hazardous locations, for the following purposes:
1. Scanning to identify correct materials for storage, mixing or disposing
Digital technologies such as RFID and barcode readers include purpose-built handheld scanners or tools integrated into intrinsically safe tablets in order to scan barcodes in hazardous areas of chemical operations. Using the aegex10 Intrinsically Safe Tablet with AegexScan software, for example, allows personnel to use the tablet’s cameras to safely scan each chemical’s barcode and verify it with a database stored on the tablet or in the cloud. This verification ensures the correct materials are in the correct places and are being used for the correct mixtures. Scanning items with tablets and barcode or RFID software to verify their expiration dates also simplifies the FEFO (first expired first out) method of inventorying. This type of mobile solution helps ensure accuracy and safety, plus saves time in chemical inventorying and processing.
2. Maintaining database of all materials, activities and customers
Information about chemical inventories may be stored in databases and back-end systems, plus be used to integrate with shop floor equipment and processes. Intrinsically safe tablets allow personnel to connect to cloud-based systems to verify and update all data related to chemical stores, including their origins, characteristics, movement and alerts. Chemical inventory applications and ERP or CRM systems, which can be safely used on intrinsically safe tablets in hazardous areas, enable all personnel dealing with the chemicals to be informed about the materials, workflow, finished products and other machinery involved.
3. Verifying storage conditions
Chemicals must often be stored under strict conditions. IoT sensors like the intrinsically safe Aegex NexVu IoT Solution can safely monitor environmental factors surrounding chemical storage, including temperature, humidity, pressure and more, to ensure safe handling. These types of IoT systems can send alerts to personnel via intrinsically safe tablets or other approved equipment in the event of an anomaly.
4. Completing inspections
Inspections of chemical inventory can be simplified and sped up with certified equipment such as intrinsically safe tablets and applications. Not only can these specialized tablets scan barcodes and other tags to quickly identify the asset in question, but they can also display automated checklists or instructions for performing the inspection. Inspectors can easily understand what steps they should take and then check off each item on the tablet screen. This data can either be stored on the tablet or uploaded (automatically or manually, depending on the need) to a server of choice for cloud storage or sharing. The aegex10 Intrinsically Safe Tablet has includes all Windows 10 applications, plus it can run specific inspection apps as needed.
5. Communicating effectively for maintenance, emergencies and recalls
With volatile materials being handled, mixed and stored, real-time communication among personnel and between personnel and offsite managers, supply chains and customers is crucial for hazardous area operations in the chemical industry. Technicians can use Windows-based intrinsically safe tablets such as the aegex10 to place Microsoft Skype for Business or Teams calls with both voice and video to consult experts when offsite advice is needed to handle an issue on the shop floor. Photos, videos or other data, plus regular communication such as email, can be captured and shared easily from tablets. Especially in emergencies, certified tablets can be used in hazardous areas to alert all personnel and provide instructions. In the case of a recall, operators can use tablets to pull up batch and raw material information, determine exactly where all distributed products are located at the time of the recall, plus access ERP or CRM systems to contact all relevant suppliers and customers.
Purpose-built, certified mobile technologies such as intrinsically safe tablets and IoT sensors can help maintain the safety and accuracy of managing inventory in the chemical industry.
Discuss your chemical inventory needs with the industry leader in intrinsically safe solutions. Contact Aegex Technologies today.