By Chris Docherty
26 years ago, on 6 August 1991, the World Wide Web became publicly available. Before this point, companies used letter, telephone and fax to communicate. Projects based across multiple locations took weeks and months to complete as collaboration and information sharing was slow and complicated. Spreadsheets and paper were used to record data.
When the internet came about, business was revolutionised. Communication became simple; collaboration enabled fast business growth; online programmes allowed information to be updated and shared – across multiple locations – at lightning speed. 26 years later, the possibilities for adopting technology in business are endless.
Since 1989 I’ve worked in Quality, Reliability and Risk Engineering. This career path has taken me around the world, exposing me to some of the best QHSE (quality, health, safety and environmental) Management Systems or Integrated Management Systems there are. Throughout this time, one important lesson I’ve gained, has been that a system is only as effective as how it has been implemented and managed. I.e. a great system, implemented badly, can be as bad as useless.
Despite the capabilities available to businesses, time and time again I see them living in the past, using outdated systems, labour intensive processes and inadequate techniques to manage QHSE.
I’ve been in a number of those positions over the years that have required me to manage systems on spreadsheets and other documents. When this was peak technology – and I knew no better – I got on with the task at hand, however I was aware that using such systems required absolute meticulousness, to ensure that information recorded was followed up, tracked and reported correctly and effectively in order to get any benefit from the Management System. After all, why do we have these systems if it is not to bring about benefit?
In 2017, it is not only a huge waste of time and resources to use outdated practices to manage these systems, but it makes it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to meet basic requirements, never mind to continually improve or strive to become a High Reliability Organisation.
Adopting new technology such as Mango QHSE Compliance Software (view some of the capabilities of Mango in the video below) can hugely improve the efficiency of staying fully compliant and keeping everyone up to date with best practise and legislation. This technology has existed for some time, it saves companies time and money by providing accessibility and reporting through web-based and mobile technology. This technology acts as an enabler and catalyst to an improved reporting culture, as a result some companies are achieving 2 or 3 times the level of uptake.
Companies are starting to realise that having effective systems in place to communicate and manage QHSE should not be seen as a cost, but a value add. Why? Because these systems aren’t just spreadsheets with an internet connection, they actually transform how businesses operate their QHSE systems, utilising technology that can go with you anywhere, respond to negative impacts like non-conformances and incidents, and if properly used, can provide dramatic improvements in performance. Adoption of these solutions is happening, slowly but surely, however we are still very much in the beginning of Rogers’ Adoption Curve (Rogers, 2003).
To conclude, I leave you with the following quote: “You’re not going to replace a safety manager with a piece of software, you’re not going to replace your training with e-learning, but it will facilitate you to support that in a much better way; it will allow you to drive forward excellence and at a reasonable cost” (Geoghegan, 2017)
Geoghegan, D. (2017). Safety roundtable: IT’s getting better. [online] Healthandsafetyatwork.com. Available at: https://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/technology/software-roundtable [Accessed 15 Aug. 2017]. Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. 5th ed. New York: Free Press, p.221.