Atrion International

Intelligent Authoring for MSDS and other Compliance Documents: A Global Strategic Solution to a Global Strategic Issue

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Courtesy of Atrion International

In the coatings industry, as in all consumer-oriented businesses, the demand is driven by a mosaic of cultures, traditions, taste, disposable income, environmental concerns, climate, etc. Customers have to choose among hundreds of products and they want to know everything about this blue decorating, construction or industrial paint they are about to buy.

Nowadays, people do not only buy a product. They buy knowledge: specific knowledge about the color, the brilliance, the texture or the durability of this coating and, more and more, broader knowledge pertaining to potential impacts on their quality of life.

Take parents: They want to know if their 12 month-old child can bite their toys or scratch the furniture without poisoning themselves. And workers: they want to know how to protect themselves from hazardous fumes. And industries: how will they dispose of waste in a safe manner? And salmon fishermen: will it cause any harm to their preferred game? And governments; how to cut VOC emissions?

In todays world, the decision to buy or not to buy is widely based on short and long-term health, safety and environmental considerations. And not only do people want to know, more importantly, they feel they have the right-to-know. In the age of knowledge, decision making is not the exclusive privilege of managers, scientists or politicians anymore. They must share this privilege with the consumer-and-citizen, who owns the
ultimate power of deciding to walk out of the retail outlet with a jar of «X-Paint», based on the quantity and quality of information gathered from the supplier.

From a business point of view, the question then becomes: How do we accomplish that? How does a company, whose core business consists in manufacturing and selling color and material protection, collect, massage and distribute this information? How do we make sure that the right information goes to the right people? Who, in the company, can ascertain that we comply with all the consumer, workplace, environmental and transport requirements and regulations in a given country?

This is not a simple task: UN has its own regulations, so does the European Union along with each country within, and the USA including a majority of their 50 States.

At a glance, we can assume that individual countries adopt a wide range of different legislations on a yearly basis, ranging from chemical registration to Safety Data Sheets, shipping documents, workplace, trucking and consumer labels, hazardous waste management, air-water pollution, effluent standards, etc. Countries that yesterday were not regulated are joining today or will tomorrow. In addition, toxicity levels, hazard symbols, threshold values, exposure limits or confidentiality provisions may differ from country to country. Finally all documents must be provided in the right language or languages. What is the purpose of information if you can’t read it in the bedroom you are repainting or the body shop you work in?

Given all this, evidence is that regulatory compliance, in knowledge-based economies, is a global strategic issue, to a point where non-compliant products can’t find a market or even an airline, a ship or a truck to carry them from point to point. Paints with poor viscosity and bland colors will not sell. Paints that do not comply with specific hazard communication standards and legislations will not either. Compliance then must be
regarded as part of the product, not more, but not less than pigments, resins, solvents, additives or biocides and be dealt with at the early stages of product design. It must be included in R&D, formulation, testing, manufacturing and marketing down to the retail counter. SDS and label authoring, registration forms, toxicity test results, trade secret applications, new chemical notifications as any other regulatory document should be
managed strategically and integrated automatically into the corporate strategic document flow.

In the computerized, IT world we work and live in, technology makes it possible. If a manufacturing plant processes thousands of tons of paint with final output resting in thousands of four-litre cans with the right brand name, the right formulation and the right spec sheets going to the right container and to the right warehouse in the right city, there is no reason why the proper SDS and regulatory documents can’t be created and processed altogether with the right regulation(s) and language(s).

In fact, these solutions have been available in the global marketplace for several years. Atrion International has implemented dozens of such corporate Intelligent Authoring (IA) systems in the five continents, with a keen focus on the paint and coatings industry. In these corporations, regulatory documents are generated automatically in real time within the supply chain in the requested language(s) and in compliance with the specific regulations of the destination country. Each of these documents has been ordered by the same mouse-click that ordered the production of each can, pail, drum, tank or batch.

Wherever it has been implemented, this type of solution has instantly cured the headaches of entire regulatory affair departments who previously had to manage dozens of consultants and translators dealing with dozens of document formats and languages. Without questioning their qualifications, the quality of the services provided by an army of external resources quickly and inevitably reaches beyond control. You must rely on them for the rules of issuance/re-issuance, maintenance, filing, updating, and regulatory monitoring, etc. and in the end; you are still liable for the product information you disseminate! Until a container, sold conditional to on-time delivery, is held for days – we have seen weeks – just because the Customs Officer has the wrong document. What will happen with this container? Late delivery! Return to sender! Consequences: Huge losses in revenue and credibility.

In the age of knowledge, such scenarios should not be played anymore. Unfortunately they are, and still too often as most probably experienced some readers of this Journal. Fortunately, there is an “Intelligent Authoring” A solution.

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