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Last week, the Mapistry team attended the NAEM 2020 EHS Software, Innovation, & Technology Showcase. As a first-timer at the conference, and someone relatively new to the EHS world, my goal was to attend the show and be a sponge to what is happening in the industry – how far have we come, and what is in store for the road ahead…

This blog will highlight the top things I learned from the conference and key points from Mapistry’s presentation with industry leader, Tina Lau, from Lehigh Hanson. 

First and Foremost, the Importance of EHS

… and why an EHS manager has the hardest job within an organization. 

Over the years, different business functions have been created to satisfy the demands of the ever-expanding compliance landscape, including: Responsible Workplace, Asset Protection, Security, Environment, Social, Governance, Health, Safety, and Sustainability. All of these individual titles have very important roles and responsibilities to carry out, and if they cannot do their job properly, the organization suffers.

During the event, I heard from COO’s and CEO’s, Directors of Sustainability, Environmental Land Resource Managers, Directors of Strategy and Operations, and a countless number of EHS professionals all telling a similar story of data management and how their role would be impossible without technological innovations. 

As I attended the different sessions and learned more about the roles and the problems these individuals face, I acknowledged the difficulty of their role. I discovered the challenges EHS professionals deal with on a day-to-day basis, which made me realize the margin for error is decreasing. They no longer have the luxury of simply checking compliance boxes. They need to learn how to keep pace with a constant onslaught of changing regulations, new risks, and higher stakes. The conference did confirm something I already knew – that the only real way to cover your bases is to have thorough documentation and some sort of management system in place to help master your compliance needs. 

As regulations become more complex, the role of an EHS manager is also getting more involved. Environmental, health, and safety are very broad disciplines, and each focus area deserves its own role; however, many organizations lump EHS together for efficiency purposes. In an era of dwindling budgets and more complex systems, how can you expect one person to carry out this specialized role without tools? Lean teams can no longer rely on the physical 3-ring binders on site; thus, the need for digitization and adoption of technology. 

Emerging Technology Adoption 

What exactly is “emerging technology” and what does this “adoption” look like for a large, multi-site organization? 

The age of technology is upon us, and it is a well-known fact that more automation will streamline processes, creating greater efficiency. During the NAEM conference, companies presented their unique choices for emerging technologies including mobile apps, real-time GPS tracking, smart sensors, and drone imagery, to name a few. 

The implementation of the technology is dependent upon the organization and where they fit within the industry; thus, the great diversity of unique solutions. A message that was repeated again and again: # of integrated assessments = more visibility = greater productivity = increased savings. One consistent remained throughout conversations – the more data, the better – because how do you manage what you don’t measure. 

What is always needed, regardless of where an organization exists within the digital transformation of compliance, is a light-weight solution that acts as a system of record to manage this data. Whether the data is from a sensor or a stormwater permit, a platform to view information is needed. Adoption is another challenge entirely because you are not just implementing a tool, but revolutionizing how people think about their day-to-day processes. Therefore, you need solid reasons to proliferate adoption. 

Drivers for adopting emerging technology 

… and strategies for championing the unification of data.

The goal of implementing technology is to reduce duplicative efforts and non-standardized processes. Data, resources, strategies, and teams should not be siloed, but rather, unified for a single source of truth to promote interactive functional areas. 

Some of the drivers for adopting emerging technology, as provided by NAEM research: 

  • Risk reduction and safety improvement 
  • Increased complexity of regulations/compliance 
  • Driving productivity and cost savings
  • Advance sustainability and Improve transparency 
  • Driving innovation 

The research conducted by NAEM aligns with why our software is successful for Mapistry customers. Here are a few of Mapistry’s corresponding features: 

  • Site-functioned risk profile 
  • Audit results and methods for efficiency 
  • Corrective actions and priorities
  • Task completion tracking and notification
  • Increased productivity through automation  

Lehigh Hanson and Mapistry: A Case Study in Leveraging Technology 

What we heard from Tina Lau, the Area Environmental Land Resource Manager for Lehigh Hanson and long-time advocate and user of the Mapistry platform, is this: if you aren’t correctly documenting the information, you are more likely to get dinged. The low-hanging fruit is dwindling, which means inspectors are now moving from your once dirty site (now shiny and tidy because you utilize a tool that increases site visibility and accountability) to your housekeeping and record collection.  

The greater the number of integrated assessments, the more visibility you have on your sites. Thus, there is greater accountability to improve the outcome of the assessments over time. This leads to increased savings – how? Because in using tools to streamline processes, teams inevitably develop standards of compliance and set the bar high for their teams in the organization. Having a system of record to house corrective actions and best management practices provides visibility to a broader audience within the org and enables access to information that would have been siloed otherwise. More automation results in streamlined processes.

Standardization of Siloed Business Functions 

The importance of lightweight visualization tools to promote business intelligence. 

A large topic while at NAEM was how teams are managing issues surrounding the focus areas of Environment, Social, Governance, Health, and Safety – how much overlap is there within processes, and how often is information shared? How can the EHS manager easily communicate GHG consumption data of various operational processes with the sustainability team? On the safety side, how can you compare incidents with corrective actions and track those through the cycle? How do the different systems that you adopt interact and provide visibility? 

A direct result of adopting software that acts as a digital system of record is an increase in visibility. With more visibility, teams begin to develop standards, which will, in turn, set the bar high to standardize other processes. The positive benefits of standardization have a ripple effect on the entire organization. 

Tools that display organizational data are proven to enable teams by recording and initiating action, accelerate follow-up, and enhancing business productivity. There was a big push to adopt affordable, lightweight tools such as PowerBI to bring all the data together under one house. The once disparate business functions of sustainability are now communicating with governance to promote accountability, and EHS managers are able to communicate with Directors of Operations to show time to corrective actions.  

The Role of Data in the Journey to Responsible Industries 

Why is visibility more important now than ever before? As companies grow/acquire more companies, how can they manage data more efficiently? What are the risks associated with remaining paper-based? How can we manage what we don’t measure, and hold each other accountable? 

There are a lot of external pressures on how industry behaves because industry is what fuels our economy. Customers care about sustainability data and the impact businesses have on the environment. Investors care about reputation and stakeholder collaboration. Executives care about regulatory changes and organizational transparency into what boots-on-the-ground teams are doing to remain in compliance. For ESH managers, having visibility into corrective actions allows them to understand what individuals are doing. Are teams taking the steps necessary for improvement, or are they doing what they have always done? 

Early adopters of technology develop streamlined processes for business functions, and as a result, support a competitive advantage. While technology itself can’t help you find talented teams, tools within the software can help train your teams to be talented through eLearning methods, visibility, and standardization. In an increasingly complex market with companies evolving, acquisitions taking place, and products and technology improving, there is a need for people willing to champion for processes that will enable us to best manage industry.

There are a lot of different solutions out there, so how does an organization choose? 

Technology is the catalyst for greater efficiency and productivity. It is not the tool itself that escalates this change, but rather, the users who engage with the tool. Each software solution has been built for a different purpose and is dependent on an organization’s goal. Mapistry’s customer is one who is committed to the best solution for solving environmental problems for water and air quality. The customer desires a system of record for compliance needs and hopes to use the data to find solutions for their environmental challenges. Mapistry’s platform resonates with those who understand the strength of decentralized systems that promote specialization and provide resiliency. 

Mapistry is a combination of software and services that enables teams to easily digest the compliance landscape. Our team of in-house experts review your documents and design correlating inspections, maps, and dashboards to reflect your organizational needs and goals. We provide you with the tools required to educate, implement, and maintain best management practices that help you stay in compliance. We believe environmental problems can be solved with technology, but human hands are needed in the process of understanding compliance; it is something software cannot solve alone. The reason: environmental problems are human-caused. We will always need humans to help solve our problems, but we can use software tools to catalyze improvement.