Actio Corporation

Belgium – Lowering REACH compliance pains at Stanley case study

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Courtesy of Actio Corporation

When it comes to managing chemicals and hazardous substances, the European market faces the world’s most stringent regulations.

The added pressures began with restrictions on a relatively narrow set of substances used in the electronics market. But with the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, more products and vertical markets are aff ected.

REACH aims to protect the environment by requiring manufacturers to register, assess and manage chemicals in their products (the fi rst registration deadline was June 1, 2007, with other deadlines in 2010 and 2013). The directive also seeks to track “substances of very high concern,” or SVHCs, and fi nd possible substitutes. In short, REACH poses some signifi cant content management and collaboration challenges for manufacturers.

REACH’s impact isn’t limited to suppliers of chemicals, cleansers, or other products one would normally associate with chemicals. REACH touches a broad range of manufacturers, even a company like Stanley, a worldwide manufacturer known for its tools. To comply with REACH, Stanley needed to track chemical substances across a range of products, including the paint on its tools, and the glues or lubricants that are accessories for some of its tools.

I recently got the chance to speak with Yves Collette, Environmental Compliance Administrator for Stanley Europe, about the compliance challenges involved with REACH. Collette says that REACH compliance takes a signifi cant amount of collaboration with suppliers— and it helps to have a central software foundation for this task.

For Stanley Europe, Collette says, there are about 1,200 suppliers who had to be contacted for REACH compliance. Before Stanley began using REACHtracker -- the on-demand REACH solution from Actio Corporation -- in November, 2008, collaboration had to be done with emails and multiple spreadsheets, says Collette. Trouble was, this required manual updating of spreadsheets, and no central way to track workfl ow and generate reports.

“With REACHtracker,” says Collette, “there is one tool that has all the information. Before, I was working with diff erent spreadsheets from diff erent sites and countries, with diff erent formats and layouts.”

Besides acting as a single, Web-based repository for REACH, the system also handles email collaboration and workfl ow with trading partners involved in compliance. When a supplier logs on and enters information for a substance, it’s automatically linked to the underlying data so that no one on Stanley’s end has to manually upload or rekey the data. While data from suppliers typically needs to be reviewed, it doesn’t need to be duplicated, which is a time saver.

Stanley also uses the system to communicate with customers who want to know if the tools they buy are REACH compliant, and especially, says Collette, whether they contain SVHCs. “We can just use the system whenever there is a question,” he says, “or launch email campaigns to customers to update them, even if they don’t have a specifi c question.”

Collette says the system will be rolled out to others within Stanley outside his more specifi c compliance function—including local environmental health & safety (EH&S) managers, product managers, product developers, and possibly even customer service agents.

Stanley already uses other Actio solutions for chemicals management, including MSDS Vault and Regulator products. This helped set a foundation for chemicals data that simplifi ed the deployment of REACHtracker, Collette says.

But will such an automated system make employees like Collette redundant?

Not quite.
Even with a centralized web-based system for REACH collaboration, Collette says, compliance is on ongoing process that requires data whenever products, materials, or suppliers are changed or added, which tends to be frequently in a large company with thousands of products and hundreds of new products each year. “Day after day, things are changing,” Collette says. “You have to help feed the system—the system is not entirely feeding itself.”

System improvements have included expanding supplier activity alerts, collaboration, workfl ow, and visual BOM simulators. Stanley worked directly with Actio to improve areas like expanding status alerts for the system, to more specifi cally fl ag levels of changes made when a supplier logs in and updates their materials information. A simple change, says Collette, was to place REACHtracker log-on information right at the top of emails to suppliers, since some missed seeing it when the information link was further down in the email. Also, enhanced functionality for visually viewing the breakdown of Bill-of-Material (BOM) substances was created. These changes and many more were bundled into the March 2010 release of REACHtracker 2.0.

Chris Nowak, Director of Business Development at Actio, says that while enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems or product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions may contain materials or chemicals data, there is still a large market for more specialized REACH compliance solutions.

 “Many companies have multiple locations and multiple enterprise systems with no single process or system to handle compliance centrally,” says Nowak, “so they end up having to throw a lot of staff at the problem. What the REACHtracker tool does is allow companies to automate all compliance-related communications throughout a company and a supply chain, and bring that data into a central repository where it can be looked at and worked with.”

Tough rules like REACH make it necessary to track product components down to the substance level, as well as to shift away from certain materials. Such regulations protect consumers and the environment, but there is no question they place a big compliance burden on everyone selling into the EU market.

Lowering the cost of compliance by automating communication with suppliers is a primary concern with REACH, but it’s important to remember that the same IT foundation can help with the customer communication aspects of REACH.

It can be hard to put a number on a softer-sounding benefi t like “easing customer concerns,” but it’s an important aspect of having good systems for compliance and sustainability.

Customer comments

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