What we can learn from the Verdantix summit

Opening Address

Choose digital tools that are fit for purpose

These days we all have to work to meet the requirements of sustainable investing, and digital tools are key in keeping large organizations on track.

“We’re seeing a tilt towards sustainable investment,”says David Metcalfe, CEO at Verdantix, as he delivered the opening address of the 2020 HSE & OPEX Innovation Summit in London on March 2.

As with many others, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) is asking companies to disclose their environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. It’s a key driver for organizational change.

In the next five years, industry will be transformed as collaborations increase between health and safety, operations and other business functions. Making the needed changes comes down to this: collaboration, controls and curves.

First Poll Image

Achieve collaboration and control

Businesses looking to achieve operational excellence are:

• 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

Honestly assess where your business is on each of these aspects of business excellence and plan boldly for the future, said David. Digital technologies that can tell you about the past, the present and the future already exist in software that records incidents and safety observations, industrial wearables and artificial intelligence or machine learning analytics, safety metrics and other leading indicators.

When you are looking at which technology to adopt, make sure you set down your organizational objectives first, and match the technology to that, he said. 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,” said Malavika Tohani (Verdantix Principal Analyst of Operational Excellence). Malavika said her research showed that half of all proofs of concept (PoCs) fail, with just one in five being successfully scaled up. One of the main reasons for this is that companies are thinking “technology first” instead using their business model as the starting point from where to select the technological tools that will help them attain their business goals. Show people the benefits.

To make it easier for people to adopt the technology you need, focus on showing those who will be using the technology how it will benefit them, Malavika said.

Her claim was underlined by Dan Platten (Health, Safety, Security and Wellbeing Director at SCS Railways) who stressed the importance of “selling the why” to all business 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 doing so elicits a positive response.

It’s also key to work to win over those who are not so keen on adopting the technologies you have chosen, and to keep communicating with all stakeholders. Open communication builds trust.

Organizational culture outweighs rules

“It’s 2020, and traditional thinking is no longer valid,”said Kevin Furniss, Head of Corporate Safety at Danish logistics company Maersk.

Reducing the rules can improve safety, he said. It’s organizational culture that makes the difference.

Be prepared

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

Recommendations included:

  • Clarify the purpose of the project
  • Use the language your stakeholders use
  • Demonstrate organizational commitment from the top

    Igor shared a cautionary tale, concluding: “Don’t innovate for innovation’s sakeotherwise 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.”

    Shape an effective digital twin strategy

    On a panel led by Malavika, 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. By integrating data via the model, you a can monitor operations in close to real-time, and go through various scenarios.

    The greatest potential benefits of digital twins are considered to be:

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

    Shape your environment, health, safety and quality culture

    Ratna Morjaria (Global EHS Director at Evonik) shared highlights and challenges from Evonik’s roll out of a global EHS system.

    • 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 others will automatically be on board.
    • Choose technology that serves your purpose – “The tool is a facilitator. Until you tell people why, they won’t be able to join you on the journey”, Ratna said.

    Health, safety and environmental technology investments: smart or stupid?

    Bill Pennington (Senior Analyst for EHS at Verdantix) led a provocative panel discussion with Julie Westcott (Group HS Director at DS Smith). The cost of a top-dollar suite of health, safety and environmental technology can be prohibitive, Bill said.

    Julie highlighted that one way to achieve your strategy is to be tactical; start small and targeted.

    A gap analysis will help you understand where the biggest risks and potential rewards are, she said. It's also important to understand where the relatively easy fixes are and use them as starting points. Quick wins boost acceptance, from users and leaders. This aids the case for even bigger budgets.

    How to achieve success in operations and health, safety and environmental collaborations

    While it’s almost universally agreed that the best performing HSE functions are those with high levels of collaboration with other departments, this 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, including: Lack of strong professional relationships – departments may have no corporate history of collaboration
    • Navigating different departmental priorities – that may exist due to decentralization
    • Lack of standardization (in terminology, goals and technologies) – possibly resulting from sites across jurisdictions, or from 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 who is 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.

    Innovation Awards

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

    Winners include 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 operating expenses (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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