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EHS Management Lags in Digital Transformation Involvement

Patricia Panchak

Here’s why you need to get on board, along with some tips for doing so.

As industrial organizations race to deploy the latest digital technology innovations, to achieve “Industrial Transformation (IX),” recent research suggests that EHS functional leaders are among the least likely to be involved. Compared with their counterparts in 18 functional areas, EHS management placed 15th, according to the LNS Research report, “Futureproof EHS Management,” which found:

“Among IX leaders (the 28%   of companies that say IX is “working”), only 21% of companies have participation from the EHS business leader. Among IX followers (the other 72% of companies that have not yet achieved results), only 13% have EHS business leader participation. However, among all manufacturers (e.g., not just leaders and followers), fewer than 14% of companies report that EHS is included in the focus of Big Data analytics or IIoT initiatives. That’s shockingly low, considering that over two-thirds of companies are implementing IIoT or Big Data analytics overall.”

Quality leaders were found to be more involved, with 41% of IX leaders and 38% of IX followers involved in digital transformation initiatives.

The report asserts that EHS management involvement in an organization’s digital transformation is critical, noting that, as companies become more digitally integrated, “the business models, processes and how work gets done creates new safety and operational risks that companies must manage.” It also “can fundamentally alter an organization’s risk profile.”

Researchers advise that EHS managers lead an EHS transformation in coordination with the organization’s efforts—from strategy to solution selection. Because the role of EHS is to support the business, EHS’ efforts should begin by aligning with the core business’ ongoing initiatives. “This alignment ensures that EHS becomes more tightly integrated with the core business, and adds maximum value in terms of productivity, innovation, and customer experience,” according to the report.

Next up, EHS must integrate with ongoing strategic initiatives, performance improvement programs and management systems, such as Operational Excellence, Lean, Six Sigma, and others. Doing so, says the report, is “the shortest path to obtain the right combination of resources and capabilities.”

As EHS integration progresses, leaders should aim to solve old problems in new ways and identify new problems to solve. For example, the report suggests pursuing “proactive risk mitigation,” which involves “applying advanced analytics to sensor-generated Big Data to identify previously unknown risk factors.”

Effective EHS integration into an industrial transformation also involves ensuring that the EHS management system aligns with the company’s technology architecture, including interoperability with operations technology systems. Alignment and integration ensure that “operational Big Data can be readily available for predictive and prescriptive analytics and risk management.” The report recommends conducting the software selection process within the context of the broader organization’s transformation initiatives.

Finally, the research indicates that EHS transformation is necessarily a change management initiative, not a project to manage. Ongoing management review of progress and mid-course corrections are critical to ensure long-term success in making EHS a full partner in a company’s digital transformation.

As industrial businesses digitize, EHS executives have a prime opportunity to reassert their role and become more tightly integrated with the business, ensuring that the function delivers maximum value “in terms of productivity, innovation, and customer experience. In short: If you haven’t started digitally transforming the EHS function within your organization, the time to start is now.

Additional Reading:

Bussey, P. (2019) Futureproof EHS Management: Digitally Transform Safety, Risk, and Environmental Performance for Long-Term Value. LNS Research. Available from https://blog.lnsresearch.com/futureproofehs?hss_channel=tw-459402318 (requires that you share information).

Vrsic, R. (2019) Verdantix ranks Intelex as a leader in EHS. Intelex Blog. Available from https://blog.intelex.com/2019/05/15/verdantix-ranks-intelex-as-a-leader-...

Freeman, G. (2019) How EHSQ 4.0 Is Set to Supercharge Your Organization. Intelex Blog. Available from https://blog.intelex.com/2019/03/20/how-ehsq-4-0-is-set-to-supercharge-your-organization/

Transforming Health & Safety: Digital Disruption With Mobile Technology. Intelex Whitepaper. Available from http://www.intelex.com/resources/whitepaper/transforming-health-safety-digital-disruption-mobile-technology

About the author: 

Patricia Panchak, president and editor of Panchak Media, Inc., brings 25 years of researching world-class leadership strategies to help executives implement strategies at the intersection of three powerful forces—digital technologies, lean management principles, and engaged employees. While each approach can be leveraged individually to create a disruptive competitive advantage, together, they become an unbeatable force. As the former editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek, Panchak is a widely recognized authority on business management and leadership issues. Through extensive research, she provides a window into the best practices of world-class organizations and provides the knowledge companies need to put the challenge of global competition in perspective. She guides companies to understand not only what’s possible but what is necessary to drive their business forward. Connect with Pat on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patriciapanchak/. Follow her on Twitter: @PatPanchak.

August 28, 2019 @ 09:52 AM EDT Manufacturing, Energy - Oil and Gas, Metals and Mining, Construction Health & Safety, Operations, Quality, Risk Management

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