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How to Find Relief from the EHS Time Crunch: Part 2

Nov. 29, 2012
In the conclusion of this two-part blog series, Gary Vegh helps EHS managers identify their primary “time drains” and suggests ways to more efficiently manage their data.

In the first part of this blog series, we showed how automating tasks can help EHS managers find the right balance to accomplish their duties despite working with limited time and resources. In this second and final instalment, we’ll discuss automaton further, identify an EHS professional’s primary time drains and offer suggestions for smarter, more efficient data management.

Pinpointing Your Primary Time Drains

Three tasks occur in
every facility that are prime candidates for automation: collecting data from your vendors, monitoring environmental regulations and new product approval. All are technically simple but carry a high time cost. Failing to do these tasks correctly can shake the foundations of your regulatory compliance, making it even more vital that they get done correctly.

For example, collecting data from your vendors can be the source of an EHS manager’s biggest headaches, as it is one of those moments when you’re stuck working on someone else’s schedule. There’s nothing worse than having to wait on a vendor to send you a high priority updated version of an MSDS when you’ve already got a tight schedule.

And once that data gets into your hands, it needs to get processed – typically typed in by hand – before it can be useful for calculations or reporting. An EHS manager in charge of more than one facility can spend dozens of hours simply typing away at a keyboard, which is a waste of his or her time and expertise.

How you streamline this process will depend on your relationship with your vendors and the type of environmental management system you use. A good place to start is to create an electronic template that your vendors fill out with chemical compound data. That way you can more quickly upload MSDS data.

If you’re willing to put in some effort and have some degree of technological savvy, an even more efficient system is a shared Web portal that allows your vendors to upload approved data into your database directly. However, this system also requires you to have an established relationship with your vendors and be willing to work with them to implement the system on their end. Many vendors will be cautious of sharing their proprietary data when they don’t know where it will end up.

Managing Data Smarter

Product approval is another area that often eats up a lot of time and can benefit from a degree of automation.

Approving and forecasting incoming chemicals is essential for protecting your compliance. Most facilities already have a list of banned products built into their operating permits and an internal strategy for reducing emissions. Setting up an automated system can be as basic as creating an electronic database of these filters and creating a script to compare any new products against this centralized database.

By implementing automation into your environmental management, you stand to save hours each day that you can use to get back to the most important elements of your EHS management. When you are being pulled in multiple directions, automation can be the best way to reclaim your lost time.

Gary Vegh is co-founder of ERA Environmental Management Solutions with more than 15 years of experience in providing software solutions to manufacturing companies looking to comply with complex environmental regulations. Vegh graduated from Concordia University – Montreal, where he studied Chemistry/Ecotoxicology. He later moved to the Research Triangle, N.C., where ERA was founded, to meet the compliance needs of the local wood furnishing industry. Today, the company’s clients include Volkswagen, Toyota, Nalco, Vigor and BMW. 

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