If you’re tracking environmental data from a large facility, or a group of several facilities, the amount of data requiring your attention and management is enormous. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and get lost in piles of paperwork.
Wading through dozens of interconnected spreadsheets to calculate your air emissions or generate compliance reports can be an even more aggravating process. It might even be costing you more money than it is worth if it takes an unreasonable amount of time or a large team of EH&S specialists to get things done.
The more data you collect, the more inefficient your data management systems can get. They get bulky, dense, and impenetrable. They simply cease to make your work easier.
You don’t need a huge system to handle a huge amount of data. In fact, the more complex your data management needs, the more streamlined and simple your environmental management system should be.
That’s why the secret to useful environmental data management for your large facility is this: think small.
Thinking Small: Centralized
If you’re managing a large facility or a network of facilities, one of the biggest roadblocks to success is the fact that your data gets stored all over the place.
This makes it difficult to coordinate your management efforts with other EH&S specialists.
Instead of have a large, scattered, multi-tiered system that will inevitably slow you down, keep it all in one place. Having everything you need at hand and instantly accessible from one location can end up saving you hours every week.
Using specialized environmental data management software is probably the best way to centralize everything, since it allows you to retain the convenience of remote access, but developing internal solutions is also a viable option.
You might consider implementing a web-based solution so that your entire team can use the data from anywhere. You could also have a specific location on a dedicated internal server just for storing chemical data.
When you do centralize your data management, just be sure to have an equally dependable system in place to track who makes changes or adds new data.
Otherwise you’ll end up with a constantly changing mass of data that is impossible to QAQC.
Thinking Small: Work Less
There’s a lot of preparatory work that goes into compliance reporting and environmental management. It requires doing research about updates to environmental regulations, constantly monitoring your emissions, and – if you’re using spreadsheets – building formulas from scratch.
All that work needs to get done before you can even get to the work that protects your business from noncompliance fines.
When it comes time to "think small", you should also think about reducing the amount of time you spend maintaining your environmental management system. That means finding a system that regularly updates all of the "variables" to your system, like your emission factors, formulas, and regulations.
If you’re using an online data management system or a solution from a proven software provider, you’ll potentially be able to find a solution that dramatically shrinks your background work by receiving automatic updates online.
Thinking Small: Switch to Environmental Software
The easiest way to shrink your data management system while increasing its capabilities is to make the switch from generic data management solutions to an environmental-specific system.
While a spreadsheet software program is certainly better than the old-fashioned pen to paper way of doing environmental management, it is lacking in some of the most important features that are essential to a successful environmental data management software system.
For example, spreadsheets do not have any form of data security or quality assurance. If you find a mistake in a piece of data, there’s almost no way of knowing what other information has been affected.
When used for environmental data management, spreadsheets are prone to rapidly inflating. A single emission source can use dozens of rows and columns, making it impossible to see all your data at once.
Even more complicated, you may need to cross reference several spreadsheets just to complete a single calculation for a single source.
To top it all off, you’ll probably have to enter the same data more than once, wasting your time and making some of your work redundant.
Making the switch to a software program that is specifically designed by environmental specialists for environmental managers will streamline your entire data entry process. It lets you enter your data just once, and see it automatically entered everywhere you’ll need to use it.
Plus, it will have much better security and data protection.
Quite simply, environmental data management software cuts the fat from environmental management:
- One piece of data only needs one entry – no redundancy
- Eliminates preparatory research
- Takes up virtually no space
- Access for your entire team, from any facility
If you're looking for a way to improve your environmental data management, download our our data automation eBook.
About the Author: Ross O'Lochlainn is the Environmental Researcher & Online Content Manager for ERA Environmental Management Solutions. You can find Ross on Google+
(Image credit: JD Hancock)