Blog

18 Jun
EHS Audit
KTL Renews Agreement to Provide Access to EHS Regulatory Question Modules

KTL is pleased to announce that we have renewed our agreement with the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which provides access to the following regulatory question modules:

  • The Environmental Assessment and Management (TEAM) Guide and the related state supplements address environmental compliance in the areas of air quality, cultural and natural resources, hazardous materials and waste, pesticide management, pollution prevention, energy conservation, petroleum, oils and lubricants, storage tanks, solid waste management, toxic substances, water quality, and more.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Guide is used in assessing compliance with the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It may also be used in combination with an agency-specific safety and occupational health manual. The OSH Guide is based on OSHA regulations from Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

KTL originally entered into this agreement with CERL in 2015. CERL’s experts are dedicated to conducting ongoing research, updating federal and state environmental and federal safety regulatory requirements, and developing and maintaining standardized audit checklists for those regulations. These checklists are very comprehensive; are used by auditors for DOD, DOE, DOI, and other federal agencies; are updated regularly to reflect any regulatory changes; and cover virtually all of the functions that would be present in a broad mix of industrial companies.

Our agreement allows KTL to make the TEAM Guide and OSH Guide available through an electronic format (i.e. dynaQ™). KTL staff can use these modules to stay current on changing federal regulations. The question modules bring a basis of significant credibility related to the reliability and completeness of audit content via a software tool that manages audit data and makes finding information more efficient. With this agreement, KTL remains one of the only professional service firms in the country to offer access to the following regulatory question modules.

27 Apr
Permit Tracking
Managing Projects & Permits

How many permits does your operating system (e.g., facilities, production, storage, transportation, distribution) have? What kinds of requirements are associated with each of those permits? Who is responsible for making sure requirements are fulfilled? Are there key/critical dates? How many contractors/vendors do you have carrying out activities pertaining to the many diverse permit requirements? How do you manage all that information? And, importantly, how do you verify compliance?

Depending on the breadth and locations of your operations, managing permits and their associated requirements and due dates without a centralized system in place can be an insurmountable challenge. This was certainly true for a large transportation company managing over 3,600 permits for over 1,600 projects across more than 20 states. Finding a better way to track and manage permits wasn’t just a matter of convenience, it was a necessity.

Web-based Tracking System

After a series of washout incidents, the company’s Engineering Department stepped up its efforts to develop a program to ensure engineering and maintenance activities were meeting applicable construction and environmental permit requirements. With so many activities, responsible parties, and deadlines, the Department retained Kestrel Tellevate LLC (KTL) to develop a web-based project tracking system to help:

  • Track permit requirements and construction restriction timeframes
  • Produce project-specific All Permits Issued (API) documents
  • Track post-activity mitigation requirements
  • Manage change information
  • Report actual-to-budget performance

While the Engineering Department remains responsible for the permitting activities associated with all construction, maintenance, and emergency response activities, KTL’s Permit Tracking System (PTS) offers a cloud-based project management solution to facilitate permit tracking across a variety of data points.

How It Works

The PTS serves as a communication conduit by providing a standardized approach to project/permit activity tracking, while distributing periodic, tailored reports that allow the Engineering Department to manage project activities, as needed. Integrating with internal databases, PTS provides a means to supplement project data with ongoing contractor/consultant input. This enables comprehensive program oversight on the timeliness of the permitting effort and project details, which, in turn, offers preemptive visibility on issues that may affect project construction and permit compliance.

In short, PTS allows the company to:

  • Catalog and track permits in one database
  • Document and track project conditions, impacts, construction timeframe restrictions, sensitive resources, etc.
  • Send and receive notifications of permits about to expire
  • Coordinate and communicate with project contractors
  • Establish accountability and a standardized approach for reporting and performance measurement
  • Effectively manage project process from permitting through handover to construction
  • Monitor financial performance

Business Benefits

The Engineering Department has managed nearly 1,600 projects with more than 3,600 associated permits through PTS. Permits in the system include 404 (most common), 401, Floodplain, NESHAPS, FAA, 402, Air, Coast, Air Emissions, 408 Levee, Coast Guard Bridge, Heritage Tree, Tank, Well, Excavated Materials, NPDES, and others.

With this many projects and permits being managed through a consolidated system, PTS is providing many business benefits, including the following:

  • Improved program efficiency, consistency, and coherence by fostering a standardized approach to all permitting data management and input by third-party users
  • Customized, automated reporting that allows for enhanced progress monitoring, project accountability, and detailed oversight
  • Flexible, cloud-based approach to accommodate a variety of program management aspects into a single tool for real-time, comprehensive visibility
  • Sole repository for all project management data to help foster communication and coordination both internally and with contractors/consultants
  • Improved permit compliance assurance reliability
10 Mar
Improving EHS Management with IT
April 16 Webinar: Improving EHS Management with IT

Effective information management is critical to complying with complex EHS regulations. Join KTL and Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) for this APPA webinar to get helpful tips for the successful management of EHS information, data, documents, and records.


Improving EHS Management with Information Technology: A University Demonstration
April 16, 2020 | Noon – 1:00 p.m. CT
REGISTER NOW!


This webinar will use a formal EHS management system model (plan-do-check-act) to highlight the importance of:

  • Identifying, understanding, and documenting applicable EHS requirements
  • Providing easy-to-use EHS information management tools
  • Capturing institutional knowledge of experienced staff for operational sustainability

Learning Objectives

Facility managers, plant operators, EHS staff, and supervisors working in higher education will better understand:

  • Key components of an effective EHS management system based on ISO 14001/45001
  • Best practices for applying information technology to assist with EHS compliance
  • Strategies for improving adoption of new technology tools throughout campus
  • How to use an affordable, available technology platform (Microsoft SharePoint®) to enhance EHS compliance and communication practices

Presenters

SEMO’s Autumn Gentry will join KTL Principal Joseph Tell to provide a demonstration of SEMO’s recent efforts to manage and communicate EHS information using Microsoft SharePoint® tools to simplify EHS compliance.

REGISTER NOW!


About APPA, Leadership in Educational Facilities
Formerly known as the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, APPA is recognized globally as a leader in professional development programs, credentialing, research, publications, networking, and information services for the educational facilities profession. APPA’s mission is to “support educational excellence with quality leadership and professional management through education, research and recognition.” 

26 Feb
Martin Mantz KTL Partnership
KTL Announces Partnership with German Company Martin Mantz

KTL is pleased to announce our partnership with Martin Mantz Compliance Solutions (Martin Mantz), developer of the GEORG Compliance Management System® software. KTL is providing regulatory compliance expertise to the German-based company as it expands its offerings to clients with operations in the United States.

“Martin Mantz has created something unique with the GEORG software in that it simplifies and provides an interpretation of legal and technical requirements in a customer-specific database,” KTL Principal Lisa Langdon states. “KTL’s understanding of industrial operations, as well as U.S. legal and technical requirements (e.g., EPA, OSHA, FDA, ISO), allows us to translate these requirements into simple tasks in the GEORG system that employees can follow to help fulfill regulatory requirements.”

How GEORG Works

GEORG is used to make the requirements of standards and regulations comprehensible and transparent. KTL specializes in the practical mapping of legal requirements and audits. These audits allow KTL to create technical content for the GEORG system based on facility-specific applicability. We then work directly with the company to delegate the identified tasks. If there are revisions in the standards/regulations, KTL works in the system to ensure tasks are updated to meet regulatory requirements.

The benefits of this approach include:

  • Effectiveness – All tasks are assigned, easily formulated, and regularly updated.
  • Efficiency – The effort and expertise required to understand complicated regulations is reduced.
  • Transparency – Responsibilities are clear and easily visible to all employees.
  • Conformity – Compliance status within the system reflects the degree of fulfilment of the related requirements.

Faber-Castell Expands GEORG Implementation to U.S. Subsidiary

Faber-Castell Cosmetics, an internationally renowned Martin Mantz customer with worldwide operations, is already benefitting from the Martin Mantz-KTL partnership. After successful implementation of the GEORG software in their German facilities, Martin Mantz has worked with KTL to expand usage to Faber-Castell’s subsidiary in the U.S.


About Martin Mantz Compliance Solutions
Martin Mantz Compliance Solutions, based in Grosswallstadt and Leipzig, Germany, offers its contractual partners services in the area of ​​legal organization (GEORG) of companies to avoid organizational negligence and compliance violations. This includes consulting and provision of the compliance software GEORG Compliance Management System®, implementation of the technical and legal modules, as well as construction and maintenance of the customer-specific database. https://www.martin-mantz.de/

About Kestrel Tellevate LLC
KTL is a multidisciplinary consulting firm that specializes in providing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) and food safety management and compliance consulting services to private and government clients. Our primary focus is to build strong, long-term client partnerships and provide tailored solutions to address regulatory requirements. KTL’s services include management system development and implementation, auditing and assessments, regulatory compliance assistance, information management solutions, and training. KTL is a Small Business Administration-registered company with headquarters in Madison, WI and Atlanta, GA and offices across the Midwest and Washington, D.C. www.kestreltellevate.com

05 Nov
waste management compliance efficiency tools
How Do I Efficiently Sustain Waste Management Compliance?

Understanding your waste requirements and then getting your facility in compliance with those requirements are important steps in your waste management efforts. However, effective waste management is not a one-time effort. It takes ongoing resources and tools to sustain ongoing compliance. Consider the following:

  • How do you track your waste inventory?
  • Do you have ongoing permitting requirements to manage?
  • Does your staff need periodic training?
  • Are there regular (e.g., annual, semi-annual) plans and/or reports you need to submit?
  • Do you have routine inspections and monitoring?
  • How do you maintain your records? Where do you house your documentation?

Managing all these things and effectively resourcing ongoing regulatory compliance needs can quickly become overwhelming—especially for those companies without a dedicated team of full-time environmental, health and safety (EHS) staff.

Technology Tools

Documenting waste management procedures and processes, along with management oversight and continual review and improvement, is key to ensuring ongoing compliance. Technology (i.e., a compliance information management system (IMS), apps, tools) can help create process standardization, operational efficiencies, and, subsequently, consistent and reliable compliance/waste management performance.

However, it must be noted that applying technology to operations isn’t about just finding and buying a software tool. It is about:

  • Understanding the business need;
  • Customizing and integrating the appropriate tool into existing operations; and
  • Deploying it so it is effectively applied.

Scalable Solutions

Virtually every regulatory program, including those related to waste management, has compliance requirements that call for companies to fulfill a number of common compliance activities. While they do not necessarily need to be addressed all at once or from the start, considering the eight functions of compliance when designing compliance efficiency tools helps define the starting point and build a vision for the end result.

Compliance efficiency tools built on an Office 365 platform offer an adaptable/scalable solution that can allow you to more efficiently manage compliance tasks, corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs), and other project activities to ensure you are meeting your compliance requirements. Translating these common compliance functions into modules that can be instrumental in establishing or improving a company’s capability to comply, including:

  • Facility profiles
  • Waste inventories
  • Compliance calendars
  • Assessments & inspections
  • Mobile forms & checklists
  • Audit tracking
  • Permit management/tracking
  • Document and records management

Adding Business Value

In the end, implementing compliance efficiency tools such as this can provide the resources needed to effectively manage your waste management program—plus a number of other lasting benefits to the overall business:

  • Helps improve the company’s capability to comply on an ongoing basis
  • Establishes compliance practices
  • Creates a strong foundation for internal and 3rd-party compliance audits and for answering outside auditors’ questions (agencies, customers, certifying bodies)
  • Helps companies know where to look for continuous improvement
  • Reduces surprises and unnecessary spending on reactive compliance-related activities
  • Informs management’s need to know
  • Enhances confidence of others (e.g. regulators, shareholders/investors, insurers, customers), providing evidence of commitment, capability, reliability and consistency in the company’s waste management program
06 Sep
Top 8 Tips for Building a New Compliance IMS
Designing and implementing a new compliance Information Management System (IMS)—or improving an existing one—is not a task to be taken lightly. Change when it comes to any IT system is significant because of the investments of time, money, and resources required, not to mention the disruption to the current way of doing things. That is why it is important to do your homework before jumping in with a system that, if not properly designed, may not meet your needs in the long run. The following eight tips can help ensure you end up with the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools for your organization:
  1. Inventory your existing systems – Identify how you are currently managing your compliance needs/requirements. What’s working well? What isn’t working? Do the systems work together? Do they all operate independently? This inventory should evaluate the following:
    • Current systems and tools
    • Status and functionality of existing processes
    • Data sources and ability to pull information from various sources
    • Organizational complexity
    • Compliance status
    • Existing management systems
  2. Determine your business drivers – Are you looking to save time? Create efficiencies? Reduce the number of resources required? Have better access to real-time information? Answer to senior management? Respond to regulatory requirements? These drivers will also drive the decisions you make when it comes to module development, dashboard design, reporting, and more.
  3. Understand the daily routine of the individuals using the system – Systems and modules should be built according to existing daily routines, when possible, and then implemented and rolled out in a way that encourages adoption. Having a solid understanding of routine tasks and activities will ensure that the system is built in a way that works for the individuals using it.
  4. Understand your compliance requirements – Do you have permitting requirements? Does your staff need training? How do you maintain your records? Are there regular (e.g., annual, semi-annual) plans and/or reports you need to submit? Do you have routine inspections and monitoring? All of these things can and should be built into a compliance IMS so they can be managed more efficiently.
  5. Get the right parties involved – There are many people that touch a compliance IMS at various points in the process. The system must be designed with all of these users in mind: the end user entering data in the field, management who is reading reports and metrics, system administrator, etc. A truly user-friendly system will be something that meets the needs of all parties. If employees are frustrated by lack of understanding, if the system isn’t intuitive enough, if it is hard to put data in or get metrics out, the system will hold little value.
  6. Make your wish list – While you may start your project one module at a time, it is important to define your ultimate desired end state. In a perfect world, how would the system operate? What parts and components would it have? How would things work together? What type of interfaces would users have?
  7. Set your priorities, budget, and pace – What is the most important item on your list? Do you want to develop modules one at a time or as a fully functional system? It often makes sense to start where you already have processes in place that can be more easily transitioned into a new system to encourage user buy-in. Priorities should be set based on ease of implementation, compliance risk, business improvement, and value to your company.
  8. Select the right consultant – For a compliance IMS, it is valuable to have a consultant who doesn’t just understand technology but also understands your operational needs, regulatory obligations, and compliance issues. An off-the-shelf software solution isn’t a silver bullet. A consultant who can understand the bigger picture of where you want to go and will collaborate to design the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools will bring the most value to your organization.
That is exactly the forward-thinking perspective Kestrel takes on all projects—thinking beyond individual efficiency tools, considering the desired state, and determining how technology can make that happen. By coordinating technology and compliance expertise, Kestrel offers unique capabilities and perspective. Our EHS and food safety professionals understand the regulatory obligations, business needs, and needs of the users. This drives design and development of the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools. That includes the time it takes to develop, adapt, and populate your compliance IMS, including:
  • Understanding the bigger picture of where you want to go. We ensure your system is scalable and flexible; upfront planning enhances the outcome more efficiently.
  • Collecting and organizing the information in a way that reflects how you conduct business and that aligns with other systems/processes.
  • Offering guidance on compliance best practice and what modules and level of customization will bring you the most value.
  • Providing as needed compliance support (e.g., review of existing forms and checklists, program improvement, development of training content, compliance audits, audit protocol).
04 Sep
Technology & the 8 Functions of Compliance

Virtually every regulatory program—environmental, health & safety, security, food safety—has compliance requirements that call for companies to fulfill a number of common compliance activities. While they do not necessarily need to be addressed all at once or from the start, considering the eight functions of compliance (as outlined below) when designing a compliance Information Management System (IMS) helps define the starting point and build a vision for the “end point” when planning IMS improvements. These compliance functions translate into modules—facility profiles, employee counts, training tracking, corrective action tracking, auditing tasks, compliance calendars, documents and records management, permit tracking, etc.—that are instrumental in establishing or improving a company’s capability to comply. 

8 Functions of Compliance

  1. Inventory means taking stock of what exists. The outcome of a compliance inventory is an operational and EHS profile of the company’s operations and sites. In essence, the inventory is the top filter that determines the applicability of regulatory requirements and guides compliance plans, programs, and activities. For compliance purposes, the inventory is quite extensive, including (but not limited to) the following:
    • Activities and operations (i.e., what is done – raw material handling, storage, production processes, fueling, transportation, maintenance, facilities and equipment, etc.)
    • Functional/operational roles and responsibilities (i.e., who does what, where, when)
    • Emissions
    • Wastes
    • Hazardous materials
    • Discharges (operational and stormwater-related)
    • Safety practices
    • Food safety practices
  2. Authorizations, permits & certifications provide a “license to construct, install, or operate.” Most companies are subject to authorizations/permits at the federal, state, and local levels. Common examples include air permits, operating permits, Title V permits, safe work permits, tank certifications, discharge permits, construction authorization. In addition, there may be required fire and building codes and operator certifications. Once the required authorizations, permits, and/or certifications are in place, some regulatory requirements lead companies to the preparation and updating of plans as associated steps.
  3. Plans are required by a number of regulations. These plans typically outline compliance tasks, responsibilities, reporting requirements, schedule, and best management practices to comply with the related permits. Common compliance-related plans may include SPCC, SWPPP, SWMP, contingency, food safety management, and security plans.
  4. Training supports the permits and plans that are in place. It is crucial to train employees to follow the requirements so they can effectively execute their responsibilities and protect themselves, company assets and communities. Training should cover operations, safety, security, environment, and food safety aimed at compliance with regulatory requirements and company standards and procedures.
  5. Practices in place involve doing what is required to follow the terms of the permits, related plans and regulations. These are the day-to-day actions (regulatory, best management practices, planned procedures, SOPs, and work instructions) that are essential for following the required processes.
  6. Monitoring & inspections provide compliance checks to ensure locations and operations are functioning within the required limits/parameters and the company is achieving operational effectiveness and performance expectations. This step may include some physical monitoring, sampling, and testing (e.g., emissions, wastewater). There are also certain regulatory compliance requirements for the frequency and types of inspections that must be conducted (e.g., forklift, tanks, secondary containment, outfalls). Beyond regulatory requirements, many companies have internal monitoring/inspection requirements for things like housekeeping, sanitation, and process efficiency.
  7. Records provide documentation of what has been done related to compliance—current inventories, plans, training, inspections, and monitoring required for a given compliance program. Each program typically has recordkeeping, records maintenance, and retention requirements specified by type. Having a good records management system is essential for maintaining the vast number of documents required by regulations, particularly since some, like OSHA, have retention cycles for as long as 30 years.
  8. Reports are a product of the above compliance functions. Reports from ongoing implementation of compliance activities often are required to be filed with regulatory agencies on a regular basis (e.g., monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually), depending on the regulation. Reports also may be required when there is an incident, emergency, recall, or spill.

Reliable Compliance Performance

Documenting procedures on how to execute these eight functions, along with management oversight and continual review and improvement, are what eventually get integrated into an overarching management system (e.g., environmental, health & safety, food safety, security, quality). The compliance IMS helps create process standardization and, subsequently, consistent and reliable compliance performance.

In addition, completing and organizing/documenting these eight functions of compliance provides the following benefits:

  • Helps improve the company’s capability to comply on an ongoing basis
  • Establishes compliance practices for when an incident occurs
  • Creates a strong foundation for internal and 3rd-party compliance audits and for answering outside auditors’ questions (agencies, customers, certifying bodies)
  • Helps companies know where to look for continuous improvement
  • Reduces surprises and unnecessary spending on reactive compliance-related activities
  • Informs management’s need to know
  • Enhances confidence of others (e.g. regulators, shareholders/investors, insurers, customers), providing evidence  of commitment, capability, reliability and consistency in the company’s compliance program
02 Sep
Case Study: Integrated Compliance IMS

This is the next article in Kestrel’s series about Technology-Enabled Business Solutions.

What do you do when your company has multiple grandfathered-in systems that don’t talk to each other? How about when not all locations have access to the same systems…and you have over 150 locations and are still growing? What about when employees are spending excess time collecting and combining information manually instead of electronically? What if you can’t correlate data and generate reports because of multiple systems?

Cut Your Losses, Prioritize Your Needs

These things happen—probably more frequently than one might think. For one of Kestrel’s clients, a large chemical distribution company, all these things were happening simultaneously, and the cost to upgrade existing systems to respond to these needs was getting out of hand. How do you manage that? Do you just cut your losses and find a new compliance IMS solution? Do you address one issue at a time, or does that introduce the risk that everything won’t work together? Again.

Transitioning from one system to another—whether in part or completely—isn’t simple. It takes planning and forethought to create a scalable solution that can be adapted to the company’s overall needs. Proactively managing any sort of technology transition—including prioritizing needs and scheduling how quickly modules are developed and rolled out—is key.

From the beginning, Kestrel’s EHS and IT consultants worked to fully understand the company’s operations, existing systems and workflows, and desired outcomes of the overall system before recommending an approach. Without these upfront conversations, this company could’ve ended back in the same situation with a different system. Instead, they are on their way to developing a robust and scalable compliance IMS that can be adapted to the company’s overall needs and will eventually replace their off-the-shelf software. 

Starting with the Data

Our client’s initial request was for dashboard reporting that would:

  1. Provide a visual of the Excel reports the company was pulling from multiple independent systems, and
  2. Create efficiencies in the data collection and reporting approach.

During initial conversations about the company’s compliance, information management, and overall business needs, it became clear to Kestrel that the existing facility database forms the foundation for the overall system. All content stems from this database. To create the efficiencies and dashboards the company wanted, building the facility database needed to happen first.

Facility information was originally tracked on individual Excel spreadsheets that were later combined to create a quarterly report. This very manual practice presented risks of user error in data entry, data manipulation, analysis, and reporting. Kestrel developed a facility database in SharePoint to serve as a centralized list, with detailed information on each location. Multiple other databases were then created that filter content into each facility page to create a simplified view of all items associated with each facility. Those other databases currently include:

  • Employee counts
  • Facility audits
  • Sustainability reports
  • List of storage tanks, with other assets to be added in the future
  • Facility images
  • Managed requirements

Let’s look at the employee database as one example of data that flows into the facility database. The employee database is used to track the number of employees in each location and each department. Information is filtered into the facility database, updating the employee count section. This employee database is also used to track access/permissions to the company site, look up individuals within other forms, and assign training based on job title.

The facility database now acts as the centralized core to the entire system. Information available here can be used to drive other actions and lists within the site, such as compliance tasks, corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs), inspections, near-misses, incidents, permitting requirements, etc.

Bringing in Forms

Where does all the data in those databases come from? That is where mobile forms and checklists enter the picture. Integrating various Office 365 technologies, Kestrel is creating several mobile forms, such as the near-miss app, to allow employees in the field to capture data electronically. The forms are accessible at multiple levels and can be assigned down to an individual location. Importantly, there is no need to log in to submit data, ensuring ease of access and use for all employees.

As employees complete the forms, data is collected and uploaded into the company’s related database(s) in real-time. All forms and databases are integrated. Not only does this eliminate the problems associated with manual data entry and manipulation, it provides real-time access to valuable data.

Compliance Dashboard

Kestrel has also created a login-driven compliance dashboard that houses key metrics, compliance tasks, and an at-a-glance compliance calendar. The dashboard can be customized for various applications based on the company’s needs as they continue to use the system—employees, management, departments, divisions, facilities, etc.

Currently, various compliance tasks (and associated reminders) are assigned to individuals throughout the 150+ locations. The dashboard filters assigned tasks to the individual logged in, so each employee can view his/her compliance-related tasks. At the same time, management can view outstanding issues that fall under their area(s) of responsibility, and the calendar provides a quick overview of compliance deadlines throughout the year.

The dashboard provides additional visibility for compliance tasks and alerts management to issues that need attention/resolution across the organization. It can also incorporate data analytics to help identify patterns and trends, inform business decisions, and guide resources.

Building for the Future

Now that the company has a solid foundation, work can commence to bring the independent systems into a single platform. Kestrel’s EHS team continues to identify additional compliance management needs, including checklists and mobile forms, internal audits, permit tracking, training tracking, safety meetings, mobile inspection/audit functionality, document control, incident reporting, and more. As these needs are identified, they can be built into the larger compliance IMS to create one integrated system going forward.

As Kestrel’s lead SharePoint Specialist Jaime Doty stated in a recent Q&A, “If you know where you want to end in an ideal world, it becomes a lot easier to find the starting point. It also makes creating a scalable system much more likely, because you are designing the system with the end in mind.”

This has ensured development of a system that:

  • Is built from the perspective of the people who will be using them—in the field, in the plant, in the office, in the board room
  • Integrates various databases and forms into a single, familiar platform
  • Allows information to be shared and tracked in multiple ways 
  • Gives the ability to manage sites/facilities/plants/departments for compliance purposes 
  • Simplifies the data entry process by providing user-friendly functionality 
  • Provides for continual adaptation to meet future data management and reporting needs 

That is exactly the forward-thinking perspective Kestrel takes on all projects—thinking beyond individual efficiency tools, considering the desired state, and determining how technology can make that happen. By coordinating technology and compliance expertise, Kestrel offers unique capabilities and perspective. Our EHS and food safety professionals understand the regulatory obligations, business needs, and needs of the users. This drives design and development of the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools—one that works within the company’s implementation timeline and budget—to reduce compliance risk, create operational efficiencies, and generate business improvement and value.


31 Aug
Q&A with KTL’s SharePoint Specialist

Today, we sit down with KTL’s own SharePoint Specialist, Jaime Stout, to pick her brain on all things related to developing a compliance Information Management System (IMS), particularly as it relates to using Office 365 and SharePoint. Jaime has over 20 years of experience analyzing and streamlining business processes, from operational needs to workflow and application needs, to develop IT solutions. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share on how to create a successful and valuable compliance IMS.

Q: How do you start a project?

As I have worked with different clients over the years, I always start with asking what their “pie in the sky” wishes are. If you know where you want to end in an ideal world, it becomes a lot easier to find the starting point. It also makes creating a scalable system much more likely, because you are designing the system with the end in mind.

In reality, that means considering the immediate issue within the context of the overall business need, and then formulating platforms/systems, as required, into an aligned system. This requires truly understanding the daily routine of the individuals using the system and looking at the bigger picture of where you want to go, not just where you are right now. It’s a forward-thinking perspective, where we look beyond the singular project need to the big picture and then design backward. This requires a shift in mindset from “How can I use technology to make this efficient?” to one that asks, “Ultimately, what does the big-picture, desired state look like…and how can technology get us there?”

As one example, we worked with a chemical distributor who wanted to pull data from facility reports for 150+ locations into one database—that was the “simple” problem. Understanding that the facility data is intertwined with many aspects of the business, KTL looked beyond this singular issue at the bigger picture. The forward-thinking solution would be to create a technology platform that would solve this facility data problem and could easily be expanded to other business needs. We built the facility form into SharePoint as the base application for the company’s overall system. The SharePoint system is continuing to be expanded to integrate other systems into a single source that will create significant business efficiencies. 

SharePoint Approach

Q: I understand the approach, but what does that process look like for my company?

The process will vary a bit depending on your company’s current state in a variety of areas:

  • Current systems and tools in use
  • Status and functionality of existing processes
  • Data sources and ability to pull information from various sources
  • Organizational complexity
  • Compliance status
  • Existing management systems

We recommend starting with something simple that is already working well—perhaps a paper checklist that can be turned into a mobile form. We can build an initial trial module with the end in mind. We help set priorities based on ease of implementation, compliance risk, business improvement, and value to your company. And then work at your pace and budget to build and integrate only the modules you need, one at a time or as a fully functional system. Our goal is to develop the system in a way that will work with your business.

Q: But why Office 365 and SharePoint? Aren’t there better systems out there?

It is not uncommon for people to cringe when you mention SharePoint due to negative past experiences! However, in the past 15 years that I have been working with Microsoft Office and SharePoint platforms, I have discovered that virtually everything can be done through SharePoint—if you are working with a developer who is willing to think outside the box.

The key to creating a positive experience is in how the system is built and, equally important, how it is rolled out. What makes SharePoint so great is that it is a dynamic solution tool that can be adapted and designed to capture data and provide consolidated reporting to all levels of management. One platform allows for multiple solutions that meet business and overall compliance needs. On top of that, most people have familiarity working with Microsoft Office products, so the learning curve isn’t too steep, allowing for easy adoption and buy-in from all users. Plus, there aren’t typically additional license fees, and that helps keep the budget in check.

Because of SharePoint’s flexibility, the possibilities of what it can do are virtually endless:

  • Creates a single, familiar platform that simplifies access
  • Provides functionality for continual adaptation to meet future data management and reporting needs
  • Adapts to the needs of the business, rather than the business adapting to the capabilities of the program
  • Maximizes efficiency and connectivity between many field and corporate groups
  • Allows information to be shared and tracked in multiple ways
  • Allows users to easily create complex databases that are both manageable and flexible
  • Gives the ability to manage sites/facilities/plants/departments for compliance purposes
  • Simplifies the data entry process by providing user-friendly functionality
  • Consolidates reporting
  • Provides a dynamic solution – updates made to the tool are reflected immediately
  • Allows local users to control and build sites to their specifications
  • Allows all levels of users to work with it easily due to its intuitive nature

Q: What makes KTL different than other SharePoint and compliance IMS developers?

KTL is not a software company. Rather, we integrate and apply IT, along with compliance know-how. Our team is made up of EHS, quality, and food safety professionals with the technology expertise to design and build scalable systems that allow you to more efficiently and effectively manage compliance and business processes. Behind KTL’s systems, we have professionals with real-world industry experience, who understand your business and regulatory compliance obligations. This ensures that systems are built from the perspective of the people who will be using them—in the field, in the plant, in the office, in the board room—so they function the way you need them to.

Many companies look at software as a silver bullet—a fix for everything. But applying technology to operations isn’t about just finding and buying a software tool. It is about understanding the business need, adapting and integrating the appropriate tool into existing operations, and deploying it so it is effectively applied. That’s why we focus on taking a business approach versus an IT approach. That means we start with the end user and build around that. If the system doesn’t work for the end user, then it’s not going to be used, no matter how fancy or how many bells and whistles it has.

In short, we build scalable systems that allow you to more efficiently and effectively manage compliance and business processes and have over two decades of experience creating compliance and business solutions using tools (i.e., Office 365) already available to you.

Q: It doesn’t quite sound like I’m just buying software. What exactly am I buying?

Working with KTL, you’re getting EHS, quality, and food safety professionals who collaborate with you to design the right compliance IMS and efficiency tools for your organization. That includes the time it takes to develop, adapt, and populate your compliance IMS, including:

  • Understanding the bigger picture of where you want to go. The system is scalable and flexible, but upfront planning will enhance the outcome more efficiently.
  • Collecting and organizing the information in a way that reflects how you conduct business and that aligns with other systems/processes.
  • Offering guidance on best practice and what modules and level of customization will bring you the most value.
  • Providing as needed compliance support (e.g., review of existing forms and checklists, program improvement, development of training content, compliance audits, audit protocol).

Q: Changing an IMS is hard. How do you effectively manage the transition?

The good news is that change management and adoption of a system like this (i.e., Office 365, SharePoint) is far easier than working with proprietary software because it’s familiar technology. I can’t stress how big of a deal this is. Many people are so afraid of change that they will continue operating with inefficiencies and without getting the information they need (and often at a greater expense) rather than implementing a new IMS! 

We build systems according to what your users are familiar with and then implement and roll out the technology in a way that encourages adoption—often one module at a time, starting with a familiar form or checklist.

For example, when possible, we take an existing format (e.g., an Excel file) and re-create it in the new system to look and act similarly to what employees are accustomed to. This helps users become comfortable using the new system much more quickly. Additional modules can be added with relative ease since employees are already comfortable with the new system.

Q: From a technical standpoint, what will my IT department want to know if we already use SharePoint – or if we don’t?

If you already use SharePoint, we can either build into your existing system, or we can create a new instance of SharePoint. To do this, we leverage your company’s Microsoft accounts to give you seamless access to the system we help you build. 

If you don’t have SharePoint, we create an environment for you and “hand it over” once we have piloted system development and users are comfortable with the applications. 

All applications run on a Microsoft platform—there are no external or proprietary software requirements. The system and information are all yours. KTL does not charge subscription fees or house any data. Your company can make modifications or continue to retain KTL to update and adapt the system, as needed.

Be sure to check out the rest of our series on Technology-Enabled Business Solutions, compliance IMS, case studies, and efficiency tools.

29 Aug
Making the Most of Mobile Technology

This is the third in Kestrel’s series of articles about Technology-Enabled Business Solutions.

A decade ago, when “handheld computers” (i.e., smartphones) first became popular, storing appointments and contact information on a portable electronic device was the prime functionality of the smartphone. Convenient? Yes. Robust? Not quite yet.

Mobile technology has clearly come a long way since then. Your smartphone and other mobile devices/tablets are every bit as powerful as any computer you have in the office—perhaps even more so when it comes to collecting real-time data and creating operational efficiencies.

Forms, Checklists, and More

Think about this for a minute…how many forms and checklists do you use in your operations? Maybe it is a daily forklift checklist, near-miss form, behavioral-based safety observation, daily housekeeping checklist, food safety sanitation inspection, hazardous waste inspection checklist, near-miss form, and so on.

What if—instead of taking a clipboard into the plant or field—employees were able to simply pull out a phone, complete the checklist online, and hit submit? What if they were able to do it from anywhere and without any login information? What if management could access the data immediately to run reports and get real-time analytics?

Case Study: There’s an App for That

That is precisely what a large chemical distribution company needed. In the most basic terms, they asked Kestrel to create a mobile form for forklift inspections that would provide:

  • Simple electronic access to the forms employees already use daily
  • Ability for employees in the field to submit data without logging into the system for ease of use
  • Data in CSV format that could be sent immediately via email to management for review/analysis
  • Dashboard reporting to show a real-time view of checklist status, outstanding issues, overdue items, and other metrics

By integrating various Office 365 technologies, Kestrel created an app using the company’s familiar forklift inspection form, which can be customized per location. The mobile version allows employees in the field to capture forklift inspection data electronically. The forms are accessible at multiple levels and can be assigned down to an individual location. Importantly, there is no need to log in to submit data, ensuring ease of access and use for all employees. Shortcuts to forms can also easily be added to mobile devices, computers, or other websites for ease of access.

As employees complete the checklists, data is collected and uploaded into the company’s Office 365 compliance information management system (IMS) in real-time. Not only does this eliminate the problems associated with manual data entry and manipulation, it provides real-time access to valuable data. Kestrel has created dashboards that house key metrics on inspections completed and issues identified that are updated immediately and automatically whenever a new checklist is completed. Beyond that, using the simple forklift checklist, we can now automatically create an entire series of events that had traditionally been done manually (e.g., maintenance requests, part orders, inspection requests).

Mobile Technology, Operational Efficiencies

For employees, mobile technology makes completing checklists of almost any type easier and faster in the field. For management, mobile technology takes things a step further by creating operational efficiencies:

  • Provides central management of inspection schedule, forms, and other requirements.
  • Increases productivity through reductions in prep-time and redundant/manual data entry.
  • Improves data access/availability for reporting and planning purposes.
  • Allows data to be submitted directly and immediately into SharePoint so it can be reviewed, analyzed, etc. in real time.
  • Creates workflow and process automation, including automated notifications to allow for real-time improvements.
  • Allows follow-up actions to be assigned and sent to those who need them.
  • Integrates with the overall compliance IMS for a comprehensive view of compliance status.

Stay tuned for coming articles in our series, which will continue to dig deeper into functionality, highlight some case studies of Office 365 in action, and tap the insights of Kestrel’s Office 365 developer.

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