Collaboration, Controls & Curves: What we can learn from the Verdantix Summit

Opening Address

Verdantix Summit Day One

In the next five years, the industry will be transformed as collaborations increase between Health and Safety, Operations and other business functions. This is the bold statement made by David Metcalfe, CEO at Verdantix, as he delivered the opening address of the 2020 HSE & OPEX Innovation Summit in London on March 2.

“We’re seeing a tilt towards sustainable investment,” observed David. In response to investor demand, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) are asking companies to disclose their ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting. That’s one of key drivers prompting organizational change.

Such change in fact can be summarized in three words: Collaboration, Controls and Curves. Businesses looking to achieve operational excellence are doing this by:

• Transforming collaboration with digital capabilities to get better results

• Applying controls in real-time to improve business performance

• Deciding which digital innovation curve they have the skill set for

Different companies and indeed leaders are at different stages of the digital journey or ‘curve’ as David explained. Any company wishing to advance needs to honestly assess where they are today and to be bold when looking to the future.

Available right now, are digital technologies that can provide decision-makers with information about the past (e.g. software that records incidents and safety observations), present (industrial wearables) and the future (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning analytics, safety metrics & leading indicators).

David advises leaders to relate technological adoption to organizational objectives. How much more can you achieve with the right people and skills, processes and technology solutions?

Once leaders have a vision, implementation can only be realized with the support of a partner ecosystem.

“The reality is that there are barriers to digital operational excellence that need to be overcome”. Malavika Tohani (Principal Analyst of Operational Excellence at Verdantix), shared her research findings; that half of all PoCs (proof of concepts) fail and just one in five PoCs successfully scale up. One of the main reasons for this is that companies are thinking “technology first” instead of the business model.

When polled, 53% of audience members (comprising senior managers in EHS, operations and engineering roles from various industries) agreed that ‘organizational mindset’ was the biggest barrier to digitizing operational excellence programs.

First Poll Image

As such, leaders are encouraged to take a change management approach: listing stakeholders before engaging them and addressing their needs. In order to become supporters, people need to be taken on the journey, communicated with and shown the benefits.

The theme of stakeholder management continued into the final panel of the day led by Steve Bolton, Research Director at Verdantix. Experts discussed the role and value of wearable technologies – if they help resolve the root cause of the problems, or if they simply monitor workplace health and safety hazards. When polled, 40% of audience members stated that the primary value of deploying industrial wearables was to positively engage frontline workers in safety.

Moreover, for initiatives to be successfully adopted, Dan Platten (Health, Safety, Security & Wellbeing Director at SCS Railways) stresses the importance of “selling the why” to all levels (from management to frontline workers). “Once you have buy-in, you’ll see the right behaviours. That’s critical as technology alone won’t make the workplace safe.”

Sergey Kharitich (Global HSE Director at Nordgold) agreed, adding that it’s imperative to thank people for their feedback, even if it’s non-voluntary, as it has a positive response.

When asked how to manage detractors, Dan recommended to keep them close, “get the skeptics on board, win them over and they’ll be your biggest champion”

The panel concluded with a reiteration of the importance of ongoing communication. By closing the feedback loop - by sharing how information is used – trust is built, a key component of successful relationships and therefore projects.

Verdantix Summit Day Two

Day Two of the EMEA Verdantix Summit kicked off with a spectacular keynote from Kevin Furniss, Head of Corporate Safety at Denmark-headquartered Maersk. With 88 000 employees across 130 countries to consider, Kevin has a different perspective on safety: “it’s 2020, and traditional thinking is no longer valid.”

Kevin went on to explain that reducing the rules can improve safety; that it’s organizational culture that makes the difference. As such, his new corporate safety strategy has not been created in isolation. Instead it embraces organizational culture at both global and local levels. Key pillars include; ‘lead with care’, ‘build safety capacity’ and ‘engage to learn’.

“Maersk is a safe place to work,” Kevin concludes. By continuously learning and leveraging leading indicators, we can focus on the emerging situation.

Panel: Shifting Mindsets to Deliver HSE and Operations Innovation

Steve Bolton was joined by experts including Jane Austin (Group Director HSE at Qinetiq) and Igor Milic (Digitalization Senior Expert at MOL Group) to discuss best practice recommendations on how to prepare the organization for projects.

Recommendations included:

  1. Clarify the purpose of the project
  2. Use the language of your stakeholders
  3. Demonstrate organizational commitment from the top

Igor shared a cautionary tale, “Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake” he stressed, “otherwise you’ll end up with dozens of separate tools.” Make sure you check the business objective and “ask why.”

Key take-away from Jane, “once you’re clear about what you want to achieve, engage the right people with the right language.”

Panel: Shaping an Effective Digital Twin Strategy

On a panel led by Malavika Tohani, experts discussed the growing popularity of ‘digital twin’ technology. Malavika explained that a digital twin is a computer model, a digital replica of a physical asset such as an industrial facility, and that by integrating data, leaders can monitor operations in close to real-time in addition to trialling scenarios.

In practice, the greatest potential benefits of digital twins are considered to be:

  • Safer operations
  • Plant-wide productivity improvements
  • Big savings on maintenance programs
Poll 2

Best Practice Workshops

The themes of change management and stakeholder communication continued into the best practice workshops.

Shaping EHSQ Culture Through Strategic Planning

Ratna Morjaria (Global EHS Director at Evonik) shared the highlights and challenges from Evonik’s journey to rolling out a global EHS system.

For a successful EHS software implementation, Ratna recommends that leaders:

  • Leverage experts – use independent research to support decision making and consultants to fill skill or experience gaps
  • Be realistic with time commitments – it’s a challenge to be “all in” if you have a day job. So create a schedule and allow adequate time for parties to give feedback and any training requirements
  • Be transparent in company meetings – admit failures and share wins
  • Become champions for change – and don’t assume leadership will automatically be on board. Ratna emphasized that, “the tool is a facilitator. Until you tell people why, they won’t be able to join you on the journey.”

Creating Greater Visibility and Control of Contractor Works

Carolina Maltby, Interface and Process Manager at London City Airport, shared the challenges London City Airport faced when managing contractors during their GBP 500 million expansion. A software solution was essential to improve the control of contractor works. Technology now enables the organization to monitor the permit status of contractors and validate training. London City Airport had bespoke processes and approval workflows so it was important for them to have a software that can be tailored to their needs.

Tactical HSE Technology Investments: Smart or Stupid?

Bill Pennington (Senior Analyst for EHS at Verdantix) led the provocative panel discussion with Julie Westcott (Group HS Director at DS Smith). Bill commented that many EHS leaders need millions of dollars to realise their corporate visions for safety, when the reality is that budgets are often restricted to a couple of hundred thousand dollars. What can organizations do about this?

Julie highlighted that one way to achieve your strategy is to be tactical; start small and targeted. Sharing her story, Julie explained that carrying out a gap analysis will help you to understand where the biggest risks and potential rewards are. And that it’s also important to understand where the relatively “easy” fixes are as that may be a good starting point. When you achieve quick wins with both users and the board, such as user acceptance, this will help you secure more investment.

Key Success Factors for Operations/HSE Collaborations

While it’s almost universally agreed that the best performing HSE functions are those with high levels of collaboration with other departments, it’s easier said than done. David Metcalfe led the summit’s final panel discussion on the internal and external barriers to collaborating with departments such as production and engineering.

Panelists discussed the typical challenges that include:

  • Lack of strong professional relationships – departments may have no corporate history of collaboration
  • Navigating different departmental priorities – that may exist due to de-centralization (among other things)
  • Lack of standardization (in terminology, goals and technologies) – possibly resulting from sites across jurisdictions, or mergers and acquisitions
  • Lack of user adoption (related to technology solutions)

When asked what they believed to be the biggest enabler of operations/HSE collaboration; 57% of the audience cited “Building personal relationships.”

Third Poll Image

Additional factors that contribute to successful collaborations are:

  • A CEO that’s visible and supportive of safety
  • Incentivized safety targets
  • Engaging the board from the start
  • On-site visits
  • Designing technology solutions for the end user

Underpinning all successful collaborations is the need to share a common goal. To avoid conflict, safety needs to be a pillar of the organization’s overall strategy that all individual departments can then align to.

Innovation Awards

The fantastic Verdantix Summit concluded with a Gala Awards Dinner . The 2020 Operational Excellence Innovation Awards recognize the people and organizations instrumental in launching successful projects using innovative technologies which enhance Operational Excellence strategies.

Winners included EDF (Utilities), Evonik Industries (Chemicals) and Aker BP (Oil & Gas).

HS & OPEX Innovation Summit Americas 2020

The next summit will be hosted at The Lost Pines Resort in Austin (Texas) on September 15-17, 2020. Promising to be a memorable experience, the three-day event will comprise 200+ attendees, 50+ speakers and 30+ sessions.

IsoMetrix, a gold sponsor, will be at the event together with some of its customers to share best practices in EHS and OPEX: how people, processes and technology can deliver transformational business growth.

For more information about the summit and how to attend, contact Verdantix.

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