4 The record articles

2023 Look Ahead: Digital Solutions (Industry 4.0)

Posted: January 30th, 2023

Authors: Stephanie T. 

Expectations both internally and externally (public, regulatory agencies) are continually increasing around availability, quality, transparency of environmental and health and safety data (EHS). This data is typically expensive to collect, manage and report and digital solutions can help address those challenges through automation, harmonization/standardization, streamlining and improved efficiencies, and removal of duplicative efforts. 

In 2023 and beyond, there will be more need and opportunity to leverage digital solutions to tackle ever-increasing demand for more frequent and granular data, to allow for companies to move from being reactive to being proactive and preventive. External data consumers require assurances on data quality including expanding best practices and pending regulations related to ESG data. With evolving SEC regulations, international pressure, etc. the concept that EHS data is auditable to the level of financial data directly applies to the need for clarity on the source of data, processing of the data, and audit trails for the inputs into calculated and reported values. 

Related to these evolving needs is an offering that two of our teams are collaborating on to develop and implement a digital strategy that includes upstream data collection system (CEMS, PEMS), the use of a digital transformation tool such as a data acquisition and handling system (DAHS) or other extraction/transformation/loading tools that can be configured to incorporate client business rules, validation best practices, etc., so that downstream EHS systems receive high quality, consistent, pre-processed data that has full transparency for audit purposes but that can also be used more easily used in calculations and reports. For example, let’s follow the breadcrumbs on a fuel value being used in an ESG calculations. Through developing a digital strategy that incorporates multiple digital tools that all talk to each other and work hand-in-hand seamlessly we can show that the meter used to capture the fuel flows was calibrated and providing accurate data, we can show how individual minute data was aggregated and any missing data substituted using best management practices (not via manual interventions), we can show how this aggregated fuel value was used in a standard calculation methodology with rigor on other relevant values such as emission factors and  how teams can be alerted to discrepancies and outlier conditions before they are buried in an annual emission number. This concept removes subjectivity and the need for most if not all manual intervention in the data capture, processing, managing and outputs (reports, dashboards, alerts and notifications). 

On the safety side, companies are adopting technologies such as wearables, internet of things (IoT), beacons, sensors and other tools that permit the capture of exponentially more data which then needs to be analyzed in order to glean the benefits and insights. Fortunately no company has a high enough volume of employee injuries to qualify as “big data” but if companies use technology to capture conditions, worker positions, operational data on nearby equipment, etc., then we are getting into the volume of data that could provide the ability to identify underlying issues and contributing causes for safety events. With these increased volumes, simple spreadsheet analysis or even manual reviews are less practical and digital tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning may be required. 

ALL4 has a Digital Solutions Practice (DSP) comprised of IT and EHS professionals who understand the challenges and solutions available to tackle these challenges. Please contact Stephanie Taylor at staylor@all4inc.com or Linsey DeBell (ldebell@all4inc.com).   


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