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How To Reclaim Your Time with Environmental Data Automation

Posted by Alex Chamberlain

Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.

environmental data automation can help you reclaim your timeEnvironmental managers are busy people. They’ve always got a lot on their plates when it comes to their environmental compliance, all of it is vital to a company’s overall success, and everything comes with a tight deadline. Under those circumstances there is one resource that is invaluable and irreplaceable for EH&S specialists: TIME.

There is simply never enough time to do everything that needs to be done. More often than not, companies only have the time to finish their big environmental compliance reports at the last minute. Some even run out of time and end up reporting late, paying noncompliance fines to bridge the gap.

It takes time to plug data into a database system and to calculate air emissions from product usage records. It takes time to get useful environmental from your chemical vendors and to decide whether to approve your new materials or reject them.

So how can an overwhelmed EH&S manager get more time without sacrificing any vital obligations like compliance reporting or sustainability planning? The secret is to automate all those time consuming activities that don’t require a lot of hands-on expertise.

We’re talking about manual data entry, collecting data from product vendors, product approvals, and even generating environmental compliance reports. Each of these tasks can be done automatically by an intelligent EMS (environmental management system), drastically reducing how long it takes to get the results you need.

Importantly, data automation isn’t about adopting a “set it and forget it” mentality: all these automated tasks should still be reviewed by an environmental management specialist to ensure your environmental data management is still top notch.

By reducing your burden to simply reviewing and supervising, you’ll save hours each week. (As added bonus, you’ll have fewer data errors because you’ve removed the human element from data entry).

Here are 2 simple ways you can implement today to reclaim some of the time you lose to common tasks:

1) Product Approval

Product approval simply doesn't allow anything into your facility that could put your compliance at risk.

Approving products like chemical coatings before you start using them is essential. It’s the most proactive way of managing air emissions and making sure you don’t accidently break one of your permit conditions and risk getting shut down.

It’s also an effective place to start automating your processes to save time. You probably already have electronic lists of products you can’t use or are choosing to avoid. It doesn’t take much to set up an EMS that can run a search for any new product you purchase against your database of banned products.

With this new time saving measure in place, instead of checking list after list, will be to ensure your ban lists are kept up to date and researching alternative products you could use instead.

2) Collecting Vendor Data

One of the biggest headaches environmental managers complain about is chasing after their product vendors for more chemical information or better information.

Chemical vendors don’t necessarily work on the same schedule as their clients, which can inhibit your ability to get and enter the data you need when you want it. A reporter’s biggest nightmare is having an upcoming environmental compliance report and be stuck waiting for an MSDS or chemical component data.

Depending on your relationship with your vendors, you can streamline your product data collection from vendors in a number of ways. If you have a good electronic product database, or even just an Excel spreadsheet (which isn’t always your best option), you could request for product vendors to supply you with chemical data in an electronic template that can easily transfer the necessary data.

If you’ve got an outstanding relationship with your vendors and partners, you could even create a shared EMS system or portal for the electronic sharing of data. That way you can get more reliable information and it will be kept completely confidential.

With this system in place, you’ll save time in both chasing down vendors for info and from the hours typically spent entering MSDS data into chemical inventory management records. Instead, you’ll just have to review chemical data before you transfer it. For most companies with dozens, if not hundreds, of products coming in, that can translate into huge time savings.  

Spending Saved Time

How will you use the hours that you save?

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga facility starting implementing ERA Environmental Management’s time saving EMS to automate their environmental data management, and cut back the time they spend on EH&S tasks by almost 80%.

This allowed their staff to focus on winning an Edison Green award, get LEED certified, and their spectacularly successful Think Blue sustainability program.

What could you accomplish with 80% more time?

What plans have you been putting off because you don’t have the time right now?

You do have the time, you just need to take it back. Learn how by watching a free webinar about EHS Data Automation below...

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ERA Environmental Alex

About the Author: Alex Chamberlain is a writer and blogger who regularly contributes to ERA Environmental Management Solutions' blog. You can find Alex on Google+LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog

Image credit: Brooks Elliott

Topics: Environmental Compliance & Data Management