Cogentrix, an industry-leading power generation organization, has been part of the power landscape in North America for more than 30 years, and is now transforming energy production for a new generation.
Each of its 27 sites across the Eastern US is subject to an annual compliance assistance visit (CAV), which involves an extensive facility inspection and compliance review against environmental, health and safety (EHS) regulations. Each CAV site assessment typically involves multiple visits over a series of days or even weeks.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, site visits were no longer safe or feasible given travel restrictions; however, these site visits are key to maintaining ongoing safe and compliant operations and reducing risk – and stopping was not an option. Cogentrix needed to find another way to continue the CAVs in order to continue to advance their program to keep workers and facilities operating safely and in compliance.
During a project status and review meeting to discuss their broader compliance program, the EHS Director asked for ERM’s insights on how they could continue to advance their audit program with new limitations. Members of our Digital Services team were brought into the discussion based on their track record of helping other companies leverage technology and digital solutions to solve problems.
Remote Auditing Pilot with data streamed in real-time to off-site experts
Cogentrix partnered with ERM and Mira Reality to reimagine its approach to site audits and explore different strategies and solutions. As well as evaluating potential technologies and vendors, ERM helped to assess the potential impact of remote assist audits on people and processes and embark on a pilot project with Mira Reality at one of the Cogentrix cogeneration facilities in Maine. After performing a few Design Thinking sessions to map out the “as is” and “future states” with people and processes, ERM designed and implemented a digital solution using the Mira Connect, a virtual audit technology to enable remote subject-matter experts to effectively guide frontline workers in real-time, from anywhere, without having to travel.
An example of the type of equipment used by Cogentrix, provided by Mira Reality
The Mira Connect headset enables on-site technicians to stream audio and video content to remote subject matter experts in real time, who can perform a complete audit without the need to visit a facility. The off-site auditors can communicate with technicians through a live feed and share media, such as facility photos, live video and procedures. The Mira Flow tool can also be used to capture and analyse audit data, such inspection results, compliance status and supporting photos to generate pre-populated reports, saving time.
This was a very exciting project that had the “cool tech” factor. ERM was able to guide us through the process from vision to implementation and now scaling this across other parts of our business. As a result of upfront planning, which prioritized engagement and training, we were able to maximize collaboration with our operations team, whose time can be very precious. Having input from them and others during the process not only secured buy-in but has helped fuse boundaries between teams.
Cogentrix maximizes efficiency and minimizes costs
By working with ERM to transform its approach to its compliance visits, Cogentrix has been able to continue these essential site visits with no harm / risk to their staff. Cogentrix can also now make better use of its internal EHS and Engineering experts, who are valuable and limited resources. By eliminating their need to travel, these specialists can devote more time to other activities, such as environmental and safety best practices and operational excellence.
Along with assuring that everyone remains safe, this solution also saves time and money. Each site audit used to cost at least $10,000 in travel and expenses alone; once the new solution is deployed across all 27 sites, the company will be able to save more than $270,000 per year – particularly important in the current economic climate when every dollar matters.
By leveraging this technology, other subject matter experts can now participate in the visits, ask questions, share observations increasing the impact and learnings of these visits and our compliance program. Based on the success of this program, we’re looking at leveraging this technology across other parts of our operations.
By adopting remote assist audits, Cogentrix can not only maximize efficiency and agility but also quality and transparency. Data captured during the audit can be exported into other systems of record and analyzed to identify trends and drive continuous improvement.
Taking the next steps
Moving forward, Cogentrix will continue to work with ERM and use the Mira Connect platform to conduct all of their Health & Safety audits. Additionally, they are piloting the technology within their engineering and operations teams can use a similar approach when making site assessments as part of the due diligence process for mergers and acquisitions.