Manufacturing punches above its weight in the US economy. While this sector only makes up around 11% of GDP, its expansion has fueled almost 20% of U.S. economic growth over the past 15 years.
One reason for this success is the manufacturing industry's willingness to embrace technology. From assembly lines to industrial robots, manufacturers have always been on the leading edge of innovation.
However, one technology that's often overlooked is EHS software. That's a big mistake, given the numerous benefits EHS software has to offer. Let's take a closer look at a few of these benefits below.
Benefits of EHS software for the manufacturing industry
You can certainly run a manufacturing business without EHS software. However, you won’t be nearly as efficient as you could be and you’ll most likely make some mistakes. By tracking regulatory data and requirements more carefully, EHS software can help manufacturers reduce risks and ensure compliance. It can help you improve your safety and environmental performance. It can also help you discover opportunities to reduce costs, improving your bottom line. And it does this all in one platform, saving you money and reducing IT headaches.
1. Reduce compliance costs & risks
According to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, the average manufacturer pays $19,564 per employee per year to comply with federal regulations. For small manufacturers with less than 50 employees, that number jumps to $34,671 per employee. Of course, as the saying goes, “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.”
One of the most effective ways to reduce your compliance costs and ensure your manufacturing company stays above board is to implement EHS software that automates time-consuming manual processes. While software won't reduce the number of regulations you have to deal with, it will help you be more efficient.
For example, you’ll no longer have to remember permit renewal deadlines or check spreadsheets every day to see what’s due. Instead, just login to the system and look at your compliance calendar. All your team’s work is organized in a single location, with the ability to assign tasks and attach files to speed things up further. Everything is color-coded to highlight urgent items, such as upcoming renewals, to help you focus on the most important tasks. And you can set up automated alerts to remind you about tasks that are due soon or need your attention.
Leveraging EHS software can help ensure compliance tasks get completed on time. And, should something get overlooked, software can automatically flag these items for a supervisor, reducing the risk of a violation. Over time, this could end up saving you thousands of dollars in compliance costs — not to mention the positive impact on your manufacturing company’s reputation.
2. Reduce waste & improve efficiency
EHS software can help manufacturers save money in other ways, too. For one, better data will result in less waste. With EHS software, you’re able to see resource usage compared to production throughput in real time in order to identify opportunities for improved efficiency.
Take chemical usage, for example. Poor chemical inventory management is a huge source of unnecessary waste for manufacturers. Depending on the chemicals you use, stock can expire or go bad while sitting around unused. Not managing your inventory effectively can drive up disposal costs, introduce regulatory risks, and hurt your sustainability efforts. There are also holding costs associated with over-purchasing materials.
EHS software can help reduce waste by allowing you to track your chemical inventory, oversee day-to-day activities such as storage and disposal, track and manage waste, access permits and compliance data, and even report on emissions related to chemical use all in one place.
Likewise, the ability to manage energy usage and other metrics at the asset level can help reduce overhead costs. A single factory can have thousands of sources (boilers, heaters, etc.). EHS software, combined with the correct sensors and IoT integration, allows you to measure performance for each asset every 15 minutes or every hour. Instead of monthly summaries, you can see energy consumption, waste, emissions, and resource usage in real-time. With this kind of granularity, you’re able to discern the impact of each pump and piece of equipment to drive improved efficiency.
3. Improve environmental performance
According to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, more than 70% of manufacturing CEOs say that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) objectives will become increasingly important in the next 12 months. Many manufacturers have already set zero waste or energy reduction targets, and the pressure to do so will only increase as the world transitions toward a low-carbon future.
Meeting production demands while minimizing your company’s impact on the environment is no easy feat. Fortunately, there are also environmental benefits to using EHS software. Software takes the guesswork out of sustainability decision-making. By knowing which processes and pieces of equipment use the most energy, for example, you can make decisions based on actual evidence rather than intuition or observation alone. It’s a lot less random (and a whole lot more effective) than replacing light bulbs.
4. Streamline audits & inspections
When the pandemic hit, many manufacturers found themselves scrambling to complete regularly scheduled audits and inspections. Stay-home orders meant that auditors couldn’t travel or go on-site.
However, factories that were using EHS software were able to continue with their normal workflows. Armed with mobile phones or tablets, employees at the inspection site were able to capture data, images, audio, and video during a walkthrough and upload it to the centralized system for analysis.
Even as restrictions lift and business returns to normal, mobile apps will reduce the need for expensive and environmentally wasteful travel. Fewer days on the road will mean more time to focus on initiatives that improve the business.
Using EHS software to complete audits and inspections saves time in other ways, too. Unlike paper forms, digital assessments use built-in logic so people don't waste time filling out fields that don't apply to them. Back at the office, teams can reclaim dozens of hours that would normally be spent inputting data from paper forms. And, software can automatically generate corrective actions and work orders to improve maintenance efficiency and reduce downtime.
5 Improve safety performance
As any savvy manufacturer will tell you, a safe factory is a productive factory. By eliminating preventable work-related injuries, employers could gain back 103,000,000 days of production — the equivalent of 394,636 full-time workers. Manufacturers that prioritize safety will be rewarded with greater output, better morale, and higher profits.
To do that, manufacturing teams need better insights about where, when, and why injuries are happening. Having reliable safety data in one place and making it accessible to decision-makers through data dashboards is how you eliminate injuries, because those decisions are based on a complete picture of risks and safety-related issues.
Of course, you want to be confident that your safety data is complete and you’re not missing anything. EHS software can help here, too, by allowing workers at all levels to report issues and concerns. Using kiosks or their own mobile devices, workers can report near misses and good catches on the spot. Think of it like a safe, anonymous digital suggestion box — only it automates the process of notifying the right person, kicking off an investigation, and managing a corrective and preventive action plan. This helps you address hazards and concerns more efficiently, ultimately leading to fewer accidents and injuries.
An EHS software system will make your entire manufacturing operation more efficient. With better data, you’ll be able to streamline compliance and reduce the associated costs and risks. Furthermore, you’ll have a better understanding of how to reduce waste and lower your overhead costs. And, you can gather insights that help you improve your business’ environmental and safety performance. Without the right tools, compiling all this information takes up too much time and money.
The good news is that today, EHS software is no longer just for huge global enterprises. Low-cost, cloud-based systems mean this kind of technology is now within reach for smaller manufacturers, too. With that in mind, there’s really no excuse not to have a modern EHS management system in place.
Next, learn why putting off EHS software is costing you more.