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

Achieve collaboration and control

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.

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 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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