By Mark Lisgo, Managing Director of Ctrl Hub

Published on 28th February 2019 in Institute of Water Magazine – Spring 2019 edition.

For those businesses operating at the coal face of the water industry, health and safety assurance is probably the number one headache at senior management level – particularly so with the HSE required to generate a substantial amount of its funding from fines.  Contractor management is also high on the agenda.  These issues must be balanced against ever tightening margins, and the resulting need to drive productivity and efficiency.

Can you imagine just how good it would feel to have real time assurance that your entire operation and supply chain is competent and compliant?  Picture a screen in your office, showing green lights across the board.  Operatives all trained and competent.  Fleet and equipment properly certified and maintained.

The appearance of an amber light on your screen would be proactively and easily addressed.  You don’t want any unwelcome, non-compliant red lights creeping in.

Critical data would be fed directly in from the field, having gone through the appropriate approval channels.  Easy to digest management information would show key performance indicators and highlight developing trends.

This operational nirvana is available to you – if you are prepared to overcome your fear of change and embrace digitisation.

I hear plenty of reasons why managers or directors are not prepared to make what they see as radical and unnecessary changes to how their businesses operate.

Cost is always high on the list.  We understand that budgets are constantly under scrutiny, and change seems like an expensive activity.  However, the right software, properly deployed, will result in efficiencies and savings that far outweigh the cost.

We carried out a workshop with a major client to map out existing manual processes against the proposed digital solution.  The result was a system costing 6% of the savings it generated, largely through a huge reduction in non-productive back office admin time.  Other savings were made against significant paper costs, document storage and document transportation.

That figure represents only the quantifiable savings to be made.  Additional savings will undoubtedly be made in terms of risk reduction – the risk of an HSE fine, or the risk of being unable to defend a claim due to having inadequate documentation.  There is also the time spent searching through paper records to send to site when inspectors show up, or when an incident requires investigation.

Retrieval of data has to become instantaneous, capable of being searched against and downloaded by reference to a range of filter categories.  The costs of data storage are decreasing year on year, as technology advances.

Redirect your human resources to tasks and projects that will generate revenue.  Remove, or at least significantly reduce, the scope for human error in your assurance processes.

Another common argument against technology is that field based operatives simply won’t accept it.  They don’t like change.  They won’t accept new ways of working.

Our experience has been incredibly positive.  Operatives are very open to new methodology and technology, provided it assists rather than hinders their day to day work.  Engagement is the key – instead of unilaterally imposing a solution from the top.  It is vital to work with them to understand their pressure points and frustrations.  Listen to what they say.  They need an interface that is straightforward and intuitive.  It must be capable of adapting very quickly to address operative feedback or changing regulations.

We hear businesses complain that they already have a number of different software platforms in place, half of which they don’t use, none of which talk to each other.

Why continue to tolerate that situation?  Why procrastinate?  In relative terms, take a tiny step back and evaluate what the business actually needs.  Implement a cost effective solution that fits your business.  Discard what you don’t need.

Your software systems should compliment each other, not compete for attention.  Your field management software must be capable of seamlessly interacting with other business critical systems such as finance and HR.  The data captured in one platform must be capable of being used in the others.

For larger organisations running enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, integration is absolutely essential.  ERP systems are incredibly powerful, but they are also very complex.  They are not built for rapid change.  An agile field management solution can provide the required adaptability and responsiveness at a far more cost effective rate.

The right digital software solution can provide assurance across operatives, fleet, plant and equipment.  It can provide assurance through an entire supply chain.  Why wouldn’t you want to ensure that your entire operation is compliant?  Why take the risk that contractual liability will sit further down the chain if an incident occurs?  Reputational risk certainly won’t sit down there.

Technology provides an audit trail that can evidence that things have been done properly, and are being done properly.  It provides factual evidence. It removes guesswork, doubt, hiding places and wriggle room.

Real time data capture and real time reporting allow you a far greater understanding of how your workforce, and supply chain, is performing.  You can promote best practice and efficiency that enables them to perform better and more cost effectively.  You can respond instantly to issues as they arise, instead of dealing with the aftermath of an incident or an improvement notice. You can significantly reduce risk.

Health and safety compliance is not going to reduce.  The need to capture critical information out in the field is not going to go away.  The ability to instantly access and utilise that information is going to become increasingly valuable.  Technology must be utilised properly, and businesses must be prepared to adapt.  Those who do will undoubtedly flourish against their competitors who do not.

Article also available here: Institute of Water Magazine – Spring 2019 Edition