Insights on Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), Operational Risk and Product Stewardship

With IoT, Things Are Changing Rapidly in Environmental Performance Tracking

April 14th, 2017
Jeff Ladner
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The Internet of Things compiles and tracks data in ways never thought possible.

Don’t believe us, just ask Alexa or Siri or whomever your favorite device voice is.

IoT can be found in everything from the smartphones that track our locations and purchases to the wearables that count the number of steps we take in a day to the infant monitors that help us better understand our babies’ sleeping patterns throughout the day. The possibilities are endless.

It’s no wonder that IoT has become such a popular and powerful tool in the Environmental Performance space as well.

Environmental Performance IoT is the convergence between operational technology and informational technology to streamline data collection—whether it’s calculating air emissions, monitoring wastewater discharges or keeping an eye on the operating conditions of a piece of machinery to see how efficiently the equipment is operating to understand its environmental performance.

For the corporate arm of a manufacturing company, for example, IoT provides the promise of a bird’s-eye view into what’s occurring in their plants to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. It also promotes the integration of information to allow for shared learning and problem-solving between different parts of the company—which should be an integral part of any organization’s compliance and internal communication strategy.

The Internet of Things removes the need to compile and send out weekly or monthly spreadsheets since with IoT you get real-time monitoring capability. You can also eliminate a noncompliance situation before it happens by automating the process. Too much Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) being emitted? Let’s find out why and get the problem fixed ASAP.

Ahem, Did I Mention PDM?

Sphera’s Process Data Manager software works with all types of Environmental Performance software to tally the numbers and process them automatically. The data can then be used for regulatory and Environmental Performance reporting and disclosures.

But beyond the convenience factor that IoT presents for Environmental Performance reporting, it also is a smart business move to incorporate the technology. By automating the data collection, it removes the need to pay people to do it manually reducing the inefficiency and error prone nature of manual tasks. That frees up your staff to do other things and keeps your costs down.

The initial price to incorporate IoT might seem high, but keep in mind that it’s a one-time cost with a cost-effective annual maintenance fee attached to it as opposed to a set cost of paying staff to track and monitor environmental data on a monthly basis year after year. In the long run, the technology will save you money in your environmental performance tracking costs.

For example, say it takes 10 people three days per month to track and analyze your Environmental Performance data. That’s the equivalent of 30 days’ worth of work per month. Multiply that by 12 and it adds up to the equivalent of 360 days of work each year. Besides taking your workers’ time away from performing other duties, suppose you calculate that work costs your company $250,000 per year. Over a five-year period, your company could spend $1.25 million on tracking the data alone. On the other hand, say an IoT system costs $250,000 and the yearly maintenance costs one-fifth that amount, i.e., $50,000, you immediately realize the cost savings

Perhaps more importantly than the potential financial opportunities IoT presents is that the data are more reliable because they’re tracked in real time or short intervals of your choosing and aren’t nearly as likely to be susceptible to the possibility of human error. Typos, lazy reporting or the like can cause real problems with the data.

If you’re looking to automate and improve the accuracy of your Environmental Performance data, the Internet of Things might be just the thing to satisfy your regulatory compliance needs.

Jeff Ladner

Jeff Ladner is Sphera’s vice president of environmental performance. He has been helping corporations drive operational excellence and effectively manage operational risk for 20 years. He leads the Sphera solution strategy, helping corporations enable their management systems. Focus areas include environmental performance, personnel and process safety, product stewardship, supply chain management, risk assessment, and change management. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue University in chemical engineering and an MBA from the University of Delaware.

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