Digitization is a common goal of nearly every industry. The primary drivers for it include remote access, ease of sharing, secure archival, simplified searching and waste reduction. Construction and industrial operators are as interested in these benefits as anyone else, yet adoption has occurred more slowly than in other sectors.
When asked about the lack of adoption, we hear a couple recurring themes. Some feel that paper-based workflows have worked for decades so there’s no need to change, while others believe the costs and logistics to digitize outweigh the benefits. What isn’t always realized is that digitization offers far more than online storage and access. Everyone should be asking how they can digitize their data, not just to store it, but also to process it and do real things with it that may improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.
The NPDES annual report process exemplifies what digitization can do beyond simply switching from the page to screen. Each year, construction and industrial permittees must compile a year’s worth of inspections, sampling data, deficiencies, corrective actions and rain events into a single report. In some states, this can mean pulling together 52 inspection reports, 365 entries from a rain logbook and other data from other sources. By hand, this collection and interpretation can take hours, if not days. A platform like CloudCompli reduces this to the press of a button by storing data digitally and compiling it all automatically – leaving the permittee free to just review it and make any final changes needed before submission.
Beyond administrivia, digitization also speeds up decision-making. In a recent survey of the construction industry, the Sage Group identified that 48% of companies would like to receive automatic alerts and 41% were interested in predictive forecasting. While notifications can occur in isolation, forecasting is only as good as the data it has to interpret, and thus, the more that is digitized, the more accurate the results. At CloudCompli, we’re leveraging inspection reports, regional compliance requirements, weather forecasts and observed weather data not only to speed up reporting processes but also to pro-actively notify users when they need to take action to avoid non-compliance.
Unfortunately, construction is on the lagging end of data utilization. A McKinsey Global Institute studyfound that construction stores less data than any of the other 18 sectors it evaluated. This dramatically reduces operational efficiency. A few years ago, NIST estimated that the capital facilities industry wastes over $15 billion per year. AECBytes Magazine attributes this as one of the key reasons why productivity in construction has fallen in comparison to other nonfarm industries. Under this lense, digitization is not a nicety but a necessity.
Many states now require electronic submissions in their compliance. Ohio’s eDMR system for NPDES saved them 6 FTE while reducing non-compliance incidents by 50%. The EPA expects that overall, e-reporting will save the regulating agencies $29 million annually. While e-reporting is a big win for the regulators, what about the operators? A few years ago, “big data” analytics was restricted to companies that could afford large implementation costs, but today, software-as-a-service products make such analytics accessible to all. This is the sort of change that we at CloudCompli hope to see (and enable) in coming years.