The Assurance of Going Paperless

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


5 Top Tips for Going Digital

Operating across multiple locations, assets and teams can be extremely challenging. Field based teams need to be able to compile and share data that is gathered out in the field in a smart, easy and safe way. Whether you are operating in the utility, construction, field services, engineering, manufacturing, facilities management or public sectors, making better use of data and sharing this information in real-time across management, compliance and back office functions is vital to ensure more efficient operations. Here we share a few top tips that may help you along your journey towards a paperless way of working:

  1. Choose your Software Platform: Do your research and engage with potential vendors. Make sure you have system demonstrations and trials to help you in your decision making. Don’t assume that the big brand names will give you what you want. Scalable and agile systems will give you what you need at a much lower cost!
  2. Streamline and Organise: Use this opportunity to map out your existing processes and identify opportunities to streamline and remove any unnecessary steps. This may be a painstaking exercise however it will make your business more efficient and will set you up nicely to transfer to digital!
  3. Engage your Users: Speak with your employees to understand the issues they are facing on a daily basis regarding current systems and processes and ask them to suggest ways to improve. If you engage people in the development process and take on their ideas, then this will lead to better engagement going forward.
  4. Don’t Fear the Change: Moving to digital can be a daunting prospect. If you understand your requirements and have done your homework on your software of choice, then embrace the change and feel confident that the outcome will improve your business.
  5. Review and Reflect: Evaluating the success of the project is a vital step. Ask questions such as; How much time and money did we save with this new approach? What do people like and dislike? Does it improve our customer service? Does it make people’s lives easier?

Digitising your business processes and systems is not an easy process, we understand that. If you follow our top tips this will help you along the way to ensuring you make the right decisions and reduce business disruption during the implementation phase. If you would like to know more about how Ctrl Hub can support your business transformation processes then please get in touch with a member of the team.


Are you Managing Your Supply Chain... or Hoping for the Best?

A word from Ctrl Hub's Managing Director, Mark Lisgo on effective Supply Chain Management...

It is all too easy to take your supply chain for granted.  When operations are running smoothly, it seems far important to hit the next target, close the next deal, or focus on that upcoming project.

You would like to think that your suppliers (and your customers for that matter) operate to the same high standards.  That they strive for the same high quality product or output every single time.

You have an expectation that they have the same commitment to health and safety as you.  They have proper procedures and systems in place.  All of their workers are suitably trained, qualified and competent to perform the task in hand.

You might assume that they have the same level of integrity as you.  They do not cut corners.  They put their hands up and accept liability for their own actions or omissions.

Far too often, however, you will only discover that all is not as you had hoped.  Unfortunately, that discovery generally happens once an incident has occurred, or an unsatisfactory outcome has arisen.  Instead of proactively addressing issues, damage limitation – finger pointing – becomes the required course of action.

According to the HSE, in the United Kingdom in 2017/18 there were:

  • 144 fatal injuries to workers;
  • 555,000 self reported injuries at work; and
  • 71,062 non-fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR

(Source: Health and Safety Executive Report – Health and Safety at Work 2018)

Hoping for the best is not an acceptable course of action.  Injuries and incidents are going to occur.

You can have the most detailed, thorough vetting procedures and pre-qualification exercise in the world.  All that gives you is a snapshot of the position prior to commencement of a contract.  If the supplier questionnaires are filed away, never to be looked at again, they quickly become obsolete.  Continuously updating those files is a laborious and time consuming task – and is therefore expensive.

Say an accident occurs on site, or out in the field.  Your admin and legal teams will go into panic mode, hunting for the relevant PQQ, requesting updated information.  Hoping that the relevant qualification or certification is still in date, and that the proper risk assessments and processes have been implemented.

Contractual liability should, in theory, flow through the supply chain and sit where the problem occurs.  This is not always the case.  If a supplier (or its lawyers) can see a potential avenue toward avoiding or reducing a liability, they will almost certainly look to take it.  A party who has suffered injury or financial damage will not necessarily look to the person most culpable.  They will seek the person with the deepest pockets or the person with the reputation to protect.

Reputational damage rarely passes down a supply chain in the same way that contractual liability would be expected to flow.  The bigger the name, the bigger the reputation and the bigger the target for all those who might look to take a go – be it injured parties, press, the general public or regulators.  You can point to the supplier who was at fault, but Joe Bloggs Limited does not capture attention in anywhere near the same way as a household name client or a tier one contractor.

The world we live in has changed enormously over the past twenty years.  We have instant access to news and information.  We demand real time data.  It is becoming less and less acceptable or defensible to simply point the finger down the supply chain and say “it was their fault, we thought everything was fine”.

It is also no longer acceptable to say “I prefer using paper” or “this is how we have always done things”.  Your competitors will not tolerate this from their workforce.

Digitisation is key to proper supply chain and contractor management – unless you are prepared to dedicate a team of admin staff (and the huge cost that entails) to continually request and monitor supplier information.  Why not redirect your human resources to tasks and projects that will generate revenue?

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 and wriggle room.

Real time data capture and real time reporting allow you a far greater understanding of how your supply chain is performing.  You can respond instantly to issues as they arise, instead of having to scramble after damage has already been done.

By proactively managing your supply chain, you can influence and guide how they perform.  You can promote best practice and efficiency that enables them to perform better and more cost effectively.  You can significantly reduce risk.  That all benefits everyone involved.

Few things are certain in these fast paced times.  This, however, I am prepared to say with total certainty.  Companies who embrace digitisation will thrive against those who are unwilling to accept or face change.  You must move ahead, or you will ultimately cease to exist.

 


Ctrl Hub Shortlisted for Innovation Award

Ctrl Hub have been shortlisted in the category of Digital Innovation as part of the North East Innovation Awards from the Innovation Super Network.

The awards celebrate the most innovative businesses in the region and take place as part of the programme for VentureFest North East, taking place at St James’ Park on 14th November 2018. Ctrl Hub have been shortlisted along with 4 other fantastic local companies.

Ctrl Hub’s digital operations management platform is revolutionising the way our clients manage their people, projects, plant, equipment, fleet and health and safety management systems. This is particularly the case for one of our key clients, Northern Gas Networks (NGN).

NGN operate the gas transmission assets for 2.7 million homes and businesses across the North East, Northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire, so they have a lot on their plate! The Ctrl Hub system enables NGN to have better control and governance over their operations and supply chain through the provision of a central platform where both direct staff and supply chain companies’ access and submit critical data across their vast operations. Ctrl Hub has helped NGN to improve productivity, reduce operating costs and drive towards a paperless way of working.

At Ctrl Hub, we are very proud of the work we are doing with our platform to help drive innovation and best practice across various industries. Good luck to all shortlisted companies across all categories and we look forward to seeing you all at VentureFest on 14th November.


Version 2.0 Updates Launched into Northern Gas Networks

 

Ctrl Hub have recently completed their roll out programme of the major version 2.0 system update to Northern Gas Networks (NGN). This roll out programme was undertaken in just 7 weeks to over 200 Operational, Administration and Managerial staff. This was delivered to all areas in the North of England Network via 15 dedicated workshops.

The enhanced V2.0 offers even more features, innovation, efficiency and best practice across NGN's network. The updates have supporting the Operational (DSP) community even further in delivering the replacement expenditure (repex) programme for NGN.

NGN adopted Ctrl Hub in early 2017 as their operations management platform. Since then we have been gathering system improvement requirements from NGN in order to enhance and develop the system. The feedback received from system users, has allowed us to further develop Ctrl Hub in terms of user interface and business critical reporting.

Ctrl Hub has helped significantly reduce the amount of time spent on non-revenue generating tasks allowing staff to spend more time on the actual 'day job'. This includes reducing the amount of time monitoring and updating spreadsheets, downloading and printing paper-based forms and responding to information requests for hard copy documentation, the new V2.0 update also allows remote authorisation and processing of key site based information.

Dean Shepherdson, Head of Construction Services for NGN said:

Ctrl-Hub gives NGN the assurance that all plant, equipment and employee qualifications are up to date using one common system for all DSP’s rather than 14 different versions.  It has made monitoring and auditing easier for NGN.

If you would like to know more about how Ctrl Hub can support your drive towards improved operational efficiency and productivity, please contact Mark Baty (mark.baty@ctrl-hub.com).