Baytouch Blog

Supplier Questionnaires – relevant information or do we just want compliance proof?

Mon, 7 Mar 2016

Supplier questionnaires are increasingly to the fore in EU REACH and other Supply Chain Communication discussions, and there seems to be a lot of hype about what is necessary. Yes, it would be great to get every last bit of information and detail from your suppliers but, you know what, their time is as precious as yours and by making their lives difficult you leave yourself open to a stonewall response or, at the very least, unintentionally incorrect or inaccurate information.

In reality the first goal under REACH is to ask the questions, to get some sort of response back, to demonstrate that you have acted reasonably and in good faith and that you have proof after the fact.

Companies need more than the ability to send out a simple "survey" using an online survey tool because the Supply Chain data being collected is often complex, may include attachments, and may take some time for the recipient to gather all the relevant information to complete the questionnaire.

Equally, the one-off “campaign-type” approach, surveying everyone simultaneously as evidenced in low cost consumer survey tools, is not appropriate in many cases. For instance, you may have a new supplier to survey or you are surveying a discrete set of products from a limited number of suppliers. With product portfolios constantly changing and regulation requirements updating, a more proactive, targeted and collaborative approach is necessary rather than a single function survey tool.

Baytouch’s ProductTraq Supply Chain solution is based on our 6+ years of high quality SIEF member questionnaire engagement through our ReachSuite solution set which has significant benefits over paper-based, Microsoft Office file-based and single function generic questionnaire systems:

- The online questionnaire’s processing logic and field validation ensure data consistency and accuracy
- Make life easier for your suppliers by providing a secure portal with guidance and help available
- Build up a library of adaptable questionnaires to ensure you ask the right questions
- Questionnaires can be updated and re-sent periodically, whilst retaining historic data to save suppliers having to fill in information from scratch
- Provide a consistent audit trail of information gathered
- Select the relevant information to pass on to customers in a controlled manner and without having to retype
- Search effectively for acquired information, even within attachments

But at this stage, let’s be realistic, if you can easily and seamlessly present your suppliers with relevant brief and to the point questionnaires, and most importantly, increase the odds for them filling it in by making it as easy as possible in an online tool, you may be making headway. You will have demonstrated that you have undertaken due diligence, acted reasonably and in good faith and you have the proof.

Baytouch’s ProductTraq does the simple stuff really well and the complex data collection thoroughly; by making life easier for your supplier to give you the relevant information, you are more likely to be able to collect detailed and accurate reports for deeper insights into your supply chains.

Visit www.ProductTraq.com for more information and to request an online demo.

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Substance Volume Tracking (or SVT), how are you handling it (or does the maths stack up)?

Tue, 12 Jan 2016

ProductTraq - Supply Chain Compliance

Why you need to do it

Under the EU REACH Regulation, a substance manufactured or imported in quantities of one tonne or more per year has to be registered with ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) which also includes substances within mixtures or present in articles. Therefore REACH’s scope goes far beyond chemical manufacturers, formulators and distributors and touches downstream Supply Chain actors putting products on the market such as article manufacturers and retailers.

So capturing and tracking substance volumes plays a critical role in determining when a registration for a substance is due and failure to register will be considered a serious non-compliance issue with consequent costs to a business and reputational damage.

Many chemical manufacturing companies will have carried out an inventory of their product portfolio prior to 2008 and pre-registered substances under REACH as necessary. Some are re-visiting this in the run-up to the final tonnage bands which need to be registered by 2018 and there is plenty of guidance on forums regarding that.

But for companies further down the supply chain importing mixtures and articles, this has become a whole new business challenge. Can you get meaningful formulation data from your suppliers along with the %w/w in order to do the calculations across multiple product lines to ensure you meet your REACH reporting requirements? Getting the information is enough of a challenge, but once you have that information, what do you do with it?

Article manufacturers that manage their component lists through BOMs (Bills of Material), now have to translate these into BOS (Bills of Substances) where component masses can be used to work up SVT calculations.

And with substances now regularly being added to the Candidate List, it is necessary to be able to quickly identify the percentage content and volume of component. Suppliers of articles containing an SVHC on the 'Candidate List' in a concentration above 0.1% (w/w) have a duty to provide the recipient of the article with sufficient information to allow safe use of the article, information which also needs to be provided to consumers within 45 days of a request.

Similar registration requirements, based on volumes, are also required by other countries’ regulatory regimes.

Tools and techniques we've come across

Products change, suppliers change, manufacturing schedules change, Legal Entities change; this is a dynamic situation. The “finger in the air” best-guess method of determining annual substance tonnages within mixtures, and within multi-level article BOMs may have been ok as a one-off exercise back in 2008, but isn’t robust enough going forward; there needs to be a way to do this on an ongoing basis. Overloaded Compliance officers within companies are frantically trying to backward-formulate their products using spreadsheets. Then things change – again. How can a company be expected to be able to keep comprehensive, meaningful records about intricate calculations that are required for many years after a product is taken off the market – with a spreadsheet and file system?

What are the available alternatives? Some companies may have expensive, comprehensive ERP software for this – but it tends to only be available to companies with large budgets.  Less expensive alternatives go some way to providing supplier audits of sorts – but is that enough? The spreadsheet would seem to have reached the limits of its capabilities in this area.

The ProductTraq way...

ProductTraq has been developed from the ground up to track and support Regulatory Compliance in all types of chemical handling businesses, from SMEs to large multinationals.

It provides Substance Volume Tracking (SVT) of component substances necessary ( Bill of Substances) to ensure compliance with global regulations including EU REACH tonnage bands, and also provides a convenient way to identify which products contain substances of concern.

It can manage batch tracking, batch sizes and associated documentation and addresses the gap in systems that many organizations are now acknowledging, between Manufacturing and Sales systems which record items manufactured/bought/sold, and SDS systems which all play a vital role in their respective specialized areas. ProductTraq enhances these systems to fulfil today's compliance challenges.

Developed by UK-based Baytouch Ltd using its extensive experience of delivering cloud-based regulatory compliance solutions, ProductTraq is designed to meet the needs of chemical handling businesses and organisations of all sizes.

It’s surprisingly cost effective, quick to set up and easy to use and connects to and exchanges data with other systems e.g. main stream ERP and SDS authoring tools.

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Making Louisiana our ‘Home for Home’

Mon, 15 Sep 2014

Just six short months ago I enjoyed spending  some time Stateside in Louisiana. I was there to evaluate market opportunities, to visit some valued clients and to spread the word about Baytouch’s cloud-based portfolio of workplace safety and PSM solutions. It was real hard to be immune to the considerable leisure-time opportunities that a State like Louisiana presents, but I stuck at it!

I spent the first week at the CCPS and AIChE PSM Conference in New Orleans and it never ceases to amaze me when I visit “Norleans” what a “party town” it is, and how the local citizenry manage to go about their everyday business with Bourbon Street in their midst.

But it was Baton Rouge in particular that made a considerable impression on me. The Mississippi through Louisiana has always been a magnet for the petrochemical industry and the advent of US continental shale has turned it into a boom region for investment and jobs.

So much so that I decided to return again this year, for the Governor’s Annual Safety and Health Conference on October 6th and 7th. With 3 clients already in the area, it makes a lot of sense for Baytouch to be there and we will be exhibiting and giving demonstrations of PSMmonitor – our modular suite of browser-accessed workplace safety & PSM solutions with configurable PSPIs.

I’m very much looking forward to making this return trip. Louisiana has the greatest concentration of crude oil refineries, natural gas processing plants and petrochemical production facilities in the Western Hemisphere and I have been impressed by the cultural richness and warmth of welcome this city extended to me – where it seems that every firm has the culture and values of a happy family.

Baytouch needs an operations base in North America as we continue to grow our US market and Baton Rouge pretty well ticks all the boxes so I have decided we should put our roots down in there and make it our ‘home from home’. After all, as the State’s publicity says, “There is no place like Louisiana!”.

Will you be at the Louisiana State Governor’s Safety and Health Conference in October?  Please reach out to me on LinkedIn or by email if you’d like to meet up and have a chat about how we can help your business manage workplace safety more effectively.  I shall be there and available for meetings from October 2nd through to October 10th and looking forward to catching up with a few old friends and making a great many more.

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Chemical Regulation and SMEs - thoughts on the Chemicals Northwest "REACH: A time to plan" Symposium

Mon, 14 Jul 2014

I was fortunate to find the time to attend a Chemicals North West symposium in early June, jointly organised with the Royal Society of Chemistry – REACH: A time to plan – which is an area of interest to me and should be for all chemical handling businesses. 

I’m immersed in trying to determine the far-reaching consequences for businesses of failure to fully appreciate and suitably adjust their business model for the long-term demands of REACH and an era of regulation – in Europe and elsewhere. And having built a business and two products on the back of REACH, we at Baytouch are constantly researching ways to mitigate the organizational stresses and pain in our IT solutions.

The speaker line-up offered direct insight from regulatory affairs personnel, well-known consultancy practitioners and the regulatory bodies themselves, that are grappling with the growing burden of regulatory paperwork. But it was the first-hand and practical experience from the SME community that I found most insightful, not least because it confirmed the acute need – particularly within the SME community – for precisely the supply chain management solution that Baytouch has built in ProductTraq. It also demonstrated just how seriously SMEs take their license to operate; after all, these are the businesses least likely to be able to afford the fines or other sanctions that would go alongside failure to comply but there is no exemption because of size..

The SME community presenters were represented by Trevor Rhodes, Michael Goodwin and Graham Bayliss, from real-life SME businesses with real-life experiences.

Trevor, from Harman Technology Limited, spoke openly and eloquently about the unanticipated and considerable impact REACH has had on their business processes and resources – and their expectations that it will continue to do so.  It’s not something they would have chosen to do as they have many decades of responsible chemical management under their belts, supplying photographic materials to the professional sector and schools and colleges. It has brought next to no benefit to their bottom line but they accept it as a necessity to trade.

Michael, from John Hogg Technical Solutions, handles Regulatory Affairs for the company on a full-time basis. He told us about the commercial considerations and manufacturing decisions that have stemmed from REACH. The long-term impact on the way the business operates has clearly been wide-ranging.

Finally, Graham from ReAgent Chemical Services Limited stressed that, although ReAgent is classed as a downstream user and not a manufacturer, they are not removed from duties under REACH. Being able to transfer accurate information up and down the supply chain and keep safety data sheets up–to-date is crucial to effectively controlling and mitigating risk in their business. It has affected how they source materials as well as how they handle data, labelling and communications. 

On the whole, Graham has found information sources about products and components to be rife with inconsistencies, inaccuracies and occasionally there is no data at all. This is a huge headache for any business trying to exemplify best practice and provide full and accurate information to their customers. He estimates that it will take up to 10 years to achieve consistent information transfer standards across the industry, something we are trying to leverage in ProductTraq’s design.

 My own vision is that ProductTraq can play a market-leading role in delivering this consistency much sooner than that.

What is your experience of REACH? What issues or benefits do you foresee for chemicals handling businesses over the coming years? Let’s have a conversation. Tweet me @MalcolmPollard or connect on LinkedIn.


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Football, business and politics

Fri, 11 Jul 2014

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil reaches its climax this weekend, although I’m not a big fan of football – at the highest level, it’s more like “entertainment” on a par with a TV soap or high opera, or both. But I have marvelled at the entertainment quotient and high–end skills whenever I have turned the TV on, England not withstanding :-(

That Friday night when the Netherlands trounced France, Brazil’s annihilation by the German team, and many more surprises like some of the “lesser” teams, Costa Rica, Chile, Belgium’s progress, the Suarez bite and all the denials from him and his teammates – you couldn't make that stuff up.

So with England long gone, who to support? I actually found myself cheering on Germany the other night – how brusque, how efficient, how clinical, the same as when they wiped the floor with England back in South Africa 2010.

But hold on, isn’t this the European representative now in the Final and as over 60% of Baytouch’s revenues derive from within Europe (excl. the UK), shouldn't I want my business associates’ teams to do well, certainly if England doesn’t? And they even may buy more from Baytouch….

And I have been amused by the number of “cod” psychology and motivation articles appearing on LinkedIn – why the USA goalkeeper, Tim Howard, did so well, in management speak; why the Brazilians failed, why the Germans succeeded; how taking penalties relates to business – get real. Its just a game, or gamer–tainment if you like, don’t get too deep.

About the only lessons I would take are that individual brilliance doesn’t convert to success if you are carrying people; recognize and seize your opportunities when you can; that planning, hardwork and teamwork are the crucial difference  – aka Germany and probably Argentina to a certain extent - and a lot like business

Luis Suarez Footnote

And on the day he has transferred from Liverpool to Barcelona for some sort of mega fee - entertainment again! - I wouldn’t be too concerned that he is short of things to do during his 4 month ban from the game.

From the IBM Smartcloud Events Agenda:

July Community Webcast: Top 5 Social Business Adaptation Tips
Date: Jul 16, 2014
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Eastern Time)
Hosted by: Oliver Heinz (IBM)
Presented by: Oliver Heinz (IBM), Luis Suarez, Tony Holder
Please join us for the June ICS Community Webcast with special guests Luis Suarez and Tony Holder

Many of you know Luis from his 14 years of working experience as a lead social business enabler at IBM. He is now Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide. This month Luis will be sharing what his Top 5 Social Business Adoption Tips would be, so you can help accelerate the pace of how your organizations becomes a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise right from the start!

Can it be the same person, talking about successful Socially Integrated Enterprises? Er, no, probably not...

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Latest News...


Baytouch's Louise King will be presenting REACH Substance Volume Tracking: Case Studies from Real Life

Chemicals Northwest, Innovation Centre, Sci-Tech Daresbury - 8th March 2017 (1pm - 4pm)

- read more

Does your ERP system do Substance Volume Tracking?

If not, 5 simple steps to managing your SVT now…

- read more