Ask the Expert: Environmental Compliance Challenges and Trends

Kyle Schiber
October 01, 2019
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

A few months ago, we published a post where I asked five questions to Martin Vauthier, Head of Artificial Intelligence Analytics at Enablon.

Our Q&A post was very well received, so we decided to expand the series by talking to other Enablon experts also.

I spoke recently with Kyle Schiber, Product Manager of Environmental Compliance and Process Safety at Enablon. I asked him five questions about environmental compliance. Here are Kyle’s answers.

1) What is the biggest challenge you see today for companies that have to manage environmental compliance?

Far and away, the biggest challenge is managing data. Large organizations (or even large facilities) have dozens of data streams that have to be consolidated and reviewed each year. The data is plugged into spreadsheets or a home-grown calculation tool, and the numbers that are returned are accepted as truth, even though those calculations may be years old and poorly understood.

You end up with a data management process that takes an extraordinary amount of time, and you even have some experienced environmental professionals who spend the entirety of reporting season chasing down missing data or updating calculations to meet new permit provisions. It’s untenable.

And what happens when those environmental professionals leave or retire? Companies are looking for a way to automate their data handling and reporting process. Environmental professionals have better things to work on.

2) What are the main geographic differences you see regarding environmental compliance needs for companies with facilities in multiple countries?

Regulations differ by region, and this creates slightly different headaches depending on where you are. In the United States, federal regulations set limits and the main objective for companies is to prove compliance with those limits (this is assuming, of course, that the company has solved the first objective of understanding exactly what limits they have to comply with). Non-compliance leads to additional costs through fines.

In Europe, EU regulations like EU ETS define an actual cost to the pollutant emission itself: the primary cost comes not from failing to comply with regulation, but from the credits that must be purchased for each ton of CO2 that is emitted.

Different regions are similar in that the regulations define for each process or emission source how emissions are estimated, which emission factors can be used, and how to report. Those similarities are fortunate because a system like Enablon’s Air Compliance Management application can still leverage the same template framework across the globe, and use templates with different calculation methodologies depending on the region.

3) What are the benefits of having environmental compliance managed on the same, unique EHS platform?

Users want to leverage data to make informed decisions any time. If your environmental compliance data is consolidated once a year, it’s impossible to make informed decisions except for that once-a-year date. It’s impossible for an organization to make informed decisions globally when the data is spread among different spreadsheets or databases at each facility.

By aggregating all of this data into a single EHS platform like Enablon, users are able to compare environmental compliance data from across the entire organization, at any time. EHS Managers can see which facilities and which assets are performing well.

There is a peace-of-mind that comes with having all of your data consolidated into one place: you can always know if data is missing, you can be sure that different sites are estimating emissions in the same way, and you can see at-a-glance the compliance status of all of your sites.

4) There’s a lot of talk about Industry 4.0, the connected enterprise, and the greater share of machine data through sensors connected to the IoT. How do you see this impacting environmental compliance?

I see Industry 4.0 enabling a completely hands-off data and reporting process once a system like Enablon is implemented and live. If the data is gathered from sensors, the data is automatically validated, and calculations are continuously run, then you only need end users when it’s time to generate an end-of-year report or analyze data. It would save an incredible amount of time and would give environmental professionals real-time tracking against limits and objectives. Emission tracking becomes an everyday, any day check on a dashboard instead of a once-a-year slog.

5) Let’s stay with the themes of Industry 4.0, data analytics and the IoT. How are they changing the role of EHS managers, environmental engineers, compliance managers, and those involved in environmental compliance? How will their roles evolve?

Industry 4.0, data analytics and IoT are going to replace the manual, low-level tasks that these roles perform today. Environmental engineers won’t have to collect or validate data to estimate emissions. Compliance managers won’t have to read through permits to understand compliance obligations.

The data being analyzed for these roles is going to allow them to make informed decisions on the tasks that they should be doing: environmental engineers will know which assets to buy new control devices for; compliance managers will know which equipment are worth replacing. EHS managers can optimize their operations proactively instead of reacting to threats to EHS compliance. Most importantly, Industry 4.0 and IoT devices will free up time for these roles to understand their operations and to make better informed decisions.

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That’s our Q&A with Kyle. There are plenty of interesting perspectives that I’m glad we shared with you.

Author

JG

Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader