With sales of $6 billion and more than 26,000 associates, Ecolab is a global leader in cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection products and services. Ecolab delivers comprehensive programs and services to foodservice, food and beverage processing, healthcare and hospitality markets in more than 160 countries. Ecolab operates in nearly 70 countries and has more than 50 state-of-the-art manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide.1 The breadth of its operations presents distinct challenges in terms of environmental, health and safety compliance and sustainability. As a result, Ecolab needed a powerful yet flexible safety data sheet2 (SDS) authoring tool to generate chemical management documentation required under a host of national and international mandates.
“We are a global company with global clients,” says Patrick Verhelle, Ecolab Product Safety and Compliance Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, in Belgium. “If you want to sell products to multinational organizations, you’re selling globally as well as locally and that’s how you need to think and operate. We are not only selling products locally in Belgium but Ecolab is selling them all over the world.”
A global team set out to find an easy, reliable way to create and store chemical data in a single enterprise-wide system in order to support compliance with multiple safety mandates – especially the European Union’s (EU) Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) and Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations.
Although Ecolab is generally not considered a manufacturer of substances under the REACH definition, it is required to provide compliance information for each of its roles – as a formulator of products, a downstream user, and an importer of chemicals – to the European Chemicals Agency.
Together with REACH, CLP regulations support classification of chemicals for the Globally Harmonised System (GHS), the United Nations’ standard system of labeling that identifies and informs users about potentially hazardous substances. GHS identifies hazardous chemicals with standard pictograms and phrases on packaging labels and through SDSs.
CLP and REACH are just two of the many product stewardship and compliance regulations that apply to Ecolab. Ecolab’s goal was to simplify and strengthen its work processes worldwide by eliminating manual authoring of safety documents, thereby reducing risk of errors and accelerating compliance work processes. The company’s SDS formats had previously varied from source to source and country to country depending on national requirements. Ecolab established a crossfunctional, global Team to evaluate existing processes and determine requirements for streamlining fulfillment of compliance obligations.
“Using Intelligent Authoring and DataLink software from IHS, we create all of the safety data sheets for all of Ecolab,” Verhelle says. “We create group data sheets as well as the required data sheets for the entire company – including each division in every country and all languages.”
IHS Intelligent Authoring software automates the creation of globally compliant and multi-lingual SDSs, labels and hazard summary sheets as well as documents related to transportation, inventory reports and more.
Verhelle and his team at Ecolab have used this system to standardize the generation of product compliance documents in order to unify work processes, ensure consistency of product safety hazard communications and efficiently manage frequent changes in requirements.
Today, Ecolab has an enterprise-wide system with an easy-to-use interface that provides global coverage with centralized data storage. The customizable IHS software lets Ecolab managers tailor the system to their needs, formatting documents based on any specific country’s requirements and language.
Ecolab also uses Managed Regulatory Content from IHS to stay up to date on ever-changing requirements.
“Our main concern is to be in line with the European legislations and with IHS we get quarterly updates and upgrades to do just that,” Verhelle says. “We get the newest information on the legislations and we use that information as a background for creating our data sheets. For example, our North America team creates data sheets for 2 countries in 3 languages (English, French, and Spanish). Because of the legal complexities in Europe with the different countries, languages and cultures, our team members must create data sheets for 30 countries in 25 languages. IHS solutions easily handle our complicated needs.”
In 2010, the EU mandated changes to formats, layouts and content of SDSs based on an annex to the REACH regulations. The changes called for Ecolab to recreate data sheets for 6,000 different products, requiring well over 100,000 new MSDSs to be generated.
“We manage all of our SDSs from one location within one system,” Verhelle says. “Before the IHS implementation, we created our own safety data sheets in each country using the local language. It took roughly one hour for a data sheet to be created per country per language. That could add up to a couple days. The big advantage for us today is we can create a safety data sheet for all countries in all languages within an hour. That’s 10 to 15 times increased productivity and time savings! Now we can focus more on developing customer relationships.”
The ability to spend less time on compliance and more time on serving customers is highly valued by both Ecolab and its distributors and customers.
“The most important thing is consistency,” Verhelle says. “We now have consistency throughout Europe. A data sheet is translated for each country with the same classification and the same regulation. On top of that, we add the local modalities based on specific rules in each country. Customers see the SDS that we generate and they recognize that we are experts in managing product compliance issues and that we can help them fulfill their compliance requirements as well.”