Environmental leadership has always been a top priority for CalPortland, but when the number and complexity of environmental compliance requirements started to outweigh the staff time and resources they had available, tracking mandatory inspections and tasks across all of their plant locations quickly became too overwhelming for internal staff to handle alone. For example, at their Arizona cement plant, CalPortland has 35 pieces of equipment of which to complete daily checks, 365 days a year. When combined with SPCC, stormwater, waste, and opacity observations of property boundaries and roads, that adds up to more than 15,000 inspections annually at this facility. Across three cement plants, CalPortland spends significant time ensuring compliance and mitigating risks.
Some of the compliance inspections and actions that CalPortland’s teams track across sites include: air quality, stormwater, SPCC, groundwater, drinking water, wastewater, and waste management among internal, local, state, and federal requirements. The magnitude of these checks frequently required contractor help. This resulted in compliance inspection, logs and data reports not always being readily available to the environmental manager since physical papers had to be mailed to the site.
Further, reports were tracked primarily in the field on paper and turned in to the manager, where they were filed in cabinets to be passed to the corporate team later. The disconnectedness in inspections and recordkeeping between sites, and siloed data meant there was very little visibility for areas of improvement in CalPortland’s compliance processes.
Another area of concern for the EHS team was ensuring that compliance checks did not experience delays or interruptions due to staff turnover . With such a quickly growing and thriving team, not having a central way to manage their environmental compliance data posed a serious issue.
Previously, CalPortland’s managers at each site used independent systems for tracking compliance initiatives. This often consisted of setting individual reminders in Outlook and then manually tracking the completion in Excel spreadsheets.
With any industry, there is a natural progression of turnover as employees retire or move on to different positions. As a new manager entered into their role with CalPortland, the task to recreate a system and manually set each of the task reminders — all 15,000+ — was first on their to-do list. CalPortland’s Director of Environmental Affairs, Desirea Haggard, found herself in this exact position when she was handed over 40 years of spreadsheets and outdated Word documents.
Like many other professionals in the industry, her predecessor was big on physical paper reports, inspections, operational records, and performance tests. Every record was accounted for in the office, but it was difficult to decipher the organizational strategy and find important compliance reports in a timely manner.
Furthermore, it was nearly impossible to use the data to gather deeper insights. Unfortunately, when essential information from one employee to the next isn’t easily transferred and shared, the room for error and lost data is exponential.
When the 2020 global pandemic hit, the need to go digital became glaringly apparent. Paperwork was already cumbersome and the pandemic made it even more difficult to keep up with reports. When the world shifted into socially-distanced work processes, manually tracking compliance for critical checks on physical forms and gaining any insight into that information proved dangerously inefficient.
As a critical safety precaution, on-site staffing was limited to essential workers and the contractors employed to prepare vital compliance reports were asked to mail documents to CalPortland’s team. Unfortunately, slow moving mail meant inspection reports and valuable data took up to six weeks to reach key stakeholders.