REACH-ing Higher and Higher

Feature Article | October 25, 2011 by Christoph Zeidler

Although many people have not even heard of REACH, the European Community Regulation that places complex requirements on companies in the chemical industry and their IT, it directly or indirectly affects large portions of the economy. This European Community regulation is meant to protect consumers and the environment by governing the handling of all chemical substances in circulation in the European Union. It also stipulates extensive documentation duties that manufacturers – the chemical industry, in other words – have to fulfill.

Every year, at SAP’s invitation, AkzoNobel, BASF, Unilever, and other leading chemical companies meet to discuss the current issues and requirements (or, if you ask some, the trials and tribulations) related to Regulation (EG) No. 1907/2006, which began to fundamentally change chemical legislation in June of 2007.

The challenge of REACH

The acronym REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals. According to the regulation, only chemicals that have been registered in advance may be put into circulation within the European Union. This registration requires manufacturers and importers to list and define all chemical substances in terms of their composition, quantity, application, and toxicity to humans and the environment. Compiling and preparing this data, as well as ensuring its conformity with the regulation, is a mammoth task.

“We want to help you balance your risks and opportunities,” said Jürgen Schwab, former executive chairman of TechniData AG and now, following the acquisition by SAP, senior vice president at SAP. With the application SAP Environment, Health, and Safety Management (SAP EHS Management), companies can guarantee compliance along the entire value chain, minimize operational risks, and increase their efficiency. “Our customers can benefit tremendously from the application – especially in how well it dovetails with SAP ERP and SAP’s industry solutions,” added Dieter Hässlein, vice president and chief product owner for SAP EHS Management. “This enables companies to easily consolidate all of the information scattered across their various areas into a manageable compendium.”

Lisbeth Svensson from AkzoNobel (photo: Andreas Endemann)

Lisbeth Svensson from AkzoNobel (photo: Andreas Endemann)

In the evening, a festive dinner took place (photo: Andreas Endemann)

In the evening, a festive dinner took place (photo: Andreas Endemann)

“Content is king”

Optimal technical integration isn’t the only decisive factor, however. Above all, companies have to map the involved processes in an orderly fashion to fulfill their reporting duties. In their presentations at the conference, Lisbeth Svensson of AkzoNobel and Johannes Tolls of Henkel both dug into the details of generating and handling the substance safety reports and safety data sheets that companies are now required to maintain all along the supply chain. The difficulties in doing so arise mainly in regionalizing these data sheets, including everything from language and translation issues (the languages in which reports are generated and entered, for instance) to cross-national management and disclosure.

“To make sure they’re following the rules, companies also always have to know what their current documentation duties are,” said Hässlein. This is precisely what SAP’s extensive content packages contain. With SAP EHS Regulatory Content, companies can import the latest requirements into their systems at any time. “We offer new service packs every six months for customers to add to their installations,” Hässlein explained. In the future, it will also be possible to call up this content as needed through SAP EHS Regulatory Documentation OnDemand. Registered customers, meanwhile, can already use SAP Online Viewer to inspect their regulatory data.

Pillars of sustainability

For the chemical industry, regulatory compliance is the most important factor in reaching sustainability goals. This, Dieter Hässlein explained, is why SAP EHS Management forms the core of SAP’s corresponding solution portfolio. A number of SAP’s customers in chemicals are at the forefront of sustainability, having made the subject an essential component of their business strategies rather than a mere afterthought.

Meanwhile, as legal requirements continue to evolve, they will maintain a prominent place on many agendas – not only for those companies affected, but also for SAP’s industry experts.

To learn more about SAP’s acquisition of TechniData AG and how companies like Clariant and John Deere work with SAP EHS Management, click here.

You can also read about how the SAP customer Sharp is preparing for REACH and other sustainability issues here.

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