Sphera’s Year in Review: Looking Back at Highlights From 2018
December 12th, 2018
At Sphera we’ve always got our eyes on the road in front of us as we continue thinking about what lies beyond the horizon, so this time of year it’s nice to take a quick peek in the rear-view mirror to see the accomplishments and highlights from the past year.
Spoiler alert: There were a lot—too many to list in a blog post. For example, Sphera participated in 26 conferences, user forums and leadership roundtable events in 2018, so we literally could be found all around the world this year.
We look forward to continuing to create a safer, more sustainable and productive world together, and, as 2019 approaches, we at Sphera would like to wish you happy holidays and a safe—and incident-free—New Year. We also hope you’ll join us at the upcoming inspire user conferences in San Antonio (May 6-9, 2019) and Barcelona, Spain (June 3-6, 2019).
- Shortly after the new year began, Sphera was off and running. We announced the launch of the new Operational Risk solution for SpheraCloud, which was first showcased at the inspire user conference in Austin, Texas, the previous October. SpheraCloud is designed to help businesses improve decision-making and performance with an integrated view of their risk and compliance portfolio at all levels—from single-site deployments to global rollouts.
- Sphera also launched its first e-book of the year “Preparing for Stronger Refrigerant Regulations,” which was written by Mark Harbin, Sphera’s senior consultant for refrigerant compliance software and services. By the way, the biggest proposed refrigerant compliance changes are, at this writing, still slated to take place in 2019, so it’s probably wise to read up on all those requirements now to stay in compliance.
- The 2017-18 flu season was bad—really bad. How bad? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revealed that, according to preliminary data, some 80,000 people died in the United States of the flu during that time frame. If that number holds true, that would be 42 percent higher than the previous high of 56,000 in the 2012-13 season. With that high death total and thousands more who were sidelined because of the virus, it was a tragic and scary year for illnesses for sure, but the Operational Risk that companies experienced cannot be dismissed either. As Sphera wrote at the time, “The deadly flu viruses currently making their way across most of the United States in particular could have serious implications for your workers—not to mention the well-being of the organization as well. While sickness isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one considers Operational Risk, the truth is that if many people are out because they are sick, it could significantly affect production, which is a huge risk.”
- Sphera held its first Leadership Roundtable of the year in Houston with industry experts Sammy Lakshmanan of ERM, Bob Tippee of Oil & Gas Journal and Barry Smitherman of the University of Texas School of Law discussing “Environmental Compliance as a Competitive Edge.” Future roundtable events in 2018 would take place in Denver; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Washington, D.C., to name a few.
- Sometimes things don’t fit perfectly in any category. You can’t shove a square peg in a round hole after all, so why should hazards be any different? That’s why there’s a whole category of “none of the aboves” known as Hazards Not Otherwise Classified, or HNOCs. As Carrie Decatur, Sphera’s senior regulatory analyst wrote at the time: “HNOCs are an area where you, as an author, need to really evaluate your products for hazards that don’t fit into the GHS framework. The UN continues to update the GHS and additional hazards, but they will never be able to cover everything; it is your responsibility to understand your product line.
- Don’t stop making sense, please. As the Verdantix report “Buyer’s Guide: Why Cloud Deployment Makes Sense for EHS Software,” which was released in March points out: “An increasing proportion of firms are moving from on-premise to cloud-deployed software, and this is reflected in vendor strategies such as the recent launch of SpheraCloud by Sphera Solutions.” Us strategize? Why yes, yes we do. All the time.
- Contractor safety is not a new topic, but it is one that is under increased scrutiny and one that companies need to take seriously. Sphera tackled the issue by looking at contractor issues from the heart of Africa in “Cobalt, the Congo and Choosing Contractors to Drive Down Incident Rates.”
- Sphera was definitely out and about in March. Spherions could be found at the NAEM EHS Sustainability Software Conference and EUEC (the Energy, Utility & Environment Conference) that month. We were there; were you?
- It’s always nice to be able to dish out some thought leadership, so Sphera was proud to have Jeff Ladner, our vice president of Environmental Performance solutions, pen an article on environmental accounting for Safety Decisions magazine.
- Survey time: How do you measure the safety culture at your organization? In an exclusive survey Sphera conducted with EHS Daily Advisor, we learned that just 43 percent of respondents thought their companies used Environmental Health & Safety data effectively to demonstrate the return on investment. The rest either said their EHS team was not successful in demonstrating ROI or did not know. So how would you rank your organization?
- Sphera hosted the Excellence in Government user conference for Hazardous Material Management System clients in beautiful San Diego. In fact, the conference was so successful that we decided to add an HMMS track to the 2019 inspire conference in San Antonio. It’s those things that make you go HMMS.
- According to recent research from PodcastInsights.com, 44 percent of the U.S. population “has listened to a podcast” and “80 percent listen to all or most of each podcast episode.” Sphera wanted in on the fun, so in May we launched the SpheraNOW podcast. Available on Google Play, iTunes and Stitcher, in just the first year the podcast has covered topics ranging from moving from lagging to leading indicators to improve safety to action management best practices to risk benchmarking and much more. Have an idea for what EHS topics we should chitchat about in 2019? Hit us up; we’d love to hear from you.
- For true Operational Excellence, quality must be part of the equation. That’s why Sphera Quality Day is such a sweet tradition at Sphera. This year, the Chicago office paid a visit to a chocolate manufacturer in nearby Long Grove, Illinois, to learn about some rich quality control techniques. Our Bangalore, India, office on the other hand focused on mindfulness because, after all, quality of life leads to quality of work in the office. The Houston Spherions visited the local Budweiser plant to learn more about how they maintain quality standards while brewing up 32 million barrels per year.
- Sphera was cranking out the e-books in June with the launch of “Managing Health & Safety for Global Business SpheraCloud,” “Bottom’s Up: SUMI Offers Substantive Changes on Dealing With Mixtures” and “A Benchmark Process for Management of Change.” Having thought leaders with decades of collective experience in-house is more than just a luxury—it’s the best way to help companies keep their workers safe, their products sustainable and their operations productive.
- Over the course of the year, Sphera participated in roughly 40 webinars! One of those webinars, which was held in June, was an EHS Daily Advisor webinar titled, “Developing the Business Case for EHS.” Mike Zamis, Sphera’s chief product officer, and David Metcalfe, Verdantix’s CEO, were the featured speakers.
- Since 2012, cloud companies in the United Kingdom have been able to apply for G-Cloud 10 status. If selected, it means the company can sell cloud-based services on its Digital Marketplace. In 2018, Sphera was awarded G-Cloud 10 Status. As Fraser Goodey, Sphera’s vice president of customer success and solution consulting for EMEA said at the time: “Sphera is thrilled to be so closely aligned to the U.K. public sector via the Digital Marketplace in order help keep their people safe, their services sustainable and their operations productive.”
- In 2017, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration held its first Safe + Sound Week. Since “safety” and “Sphera” go hand-in-hand, it was a natural fit for Sphera to announce we would take part in Safe + Sound Week in 2018 with a safety scavenger hunt in our offices as well as other risk-related activities. Laura Hanson, Sphera’s chief human resources officer, stated at the time: “Sphera has a long history of following safety-first practices, and this year’s OSHA event gives us a great opportunity to renew our commitment to keeping people safe, products sustainable and operations productive.”
- Without a doubt, Sphera made headlines in August with the acquisition of Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) software company sparesFinder. The deal allowed Sphera to bring MRO solutions to SpheraCloud. As part of the deal, sparesFinder’s CEO, David Stroud, joined Sphera as vice president of MRO product management. “Since 1998, sparesFinder’s software solutions have helped companies reduce MRO costs, improve operational effectiveness and increase revenue by leveraging their MRO and material master data,” Stroud said at the time. “Our products and company are a natural fit for Sphera’s already robust portfolio of Integrated Risk Management solutions, and we couldn’t be happier to be joining the Sphera family.”
- As we previously noted, contractor safety can be a huge problem, so how should companies deal with it? Learning everything you can is a good start. Sphera’s e-book, “How to Overcome the Contractor Safety Challenge” explains that: “Capital-intensive industries that involve high-risk activities, such as chemicals, construction, and Oil & Gas industries, tend to hire a particularly large number of contractors due to the higher level of specialization and to minimize the number of more expensive full-time employees. With the recent rebound in oil prices, many Oil & Gas firms now have more contractors working on projects than employees, and these numbers can run into tens of thousands of workers, indicating the scale of the safety issues.”
- In September, SpheraCloud had been making headlines in the Environmental Health & Safety space for almost a year, so fall seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch the first SpheraCloud User Forum in our Warwickshire, United Kingdom, office. Customers were invited to come out and learn more about the technology and how it could help their business—and they learned not only from Sphera’s experts but also from other customers, too. One attendee said, “Not only were the presentations good but the networking chats were very interesting. It was great to share experiences between customers.”
- Maturity matters—especially when it comes to Product Stewardship and the complex chemical compliance requirements companies deal with in a global economy. To help customers assess the maturity level of their initiatives, Sphera launched the Product Stewardship Maturity Model Self-Assessment Tool. By answering a series of questions and hovering over various analysis points, companies can learn more about where there organization stands and what they can do to improve their Product Stewardship initiatives.
- Sphera has been growing at an unprecedented pace over the past couple of years, and people are taking notice. In early October, Built-In Chicago featured Sphera as one of the 10 fastest-growing tech companies in the Chicagoland area. Perry Marchant, Sphera’s chief technology officer, was quoted in the article as saying: “Engineers who are looking for a company with a strong mission and purpose, and who are willing to dig into gritty technical challenges to advance our cloud technology, will enjoy their experience here.” The story also noted that Sphera offers pet insurance so the owners of dogs and cats everywhere should rejoice!
- Later in the month, Crain’s Chicago Business broke the story that Sphera has outgrown our current headquarters and is moving on up 10 floors to a much bigger space in One Two Pru (formerly One Prudential Plaza). As the article stated, Sphera plans on more than doubling in size in the Chicago office to 150 colleagues by the end of 2019. As Paul Marushka, Sphera’s CEO, said in the article: “We have so much demand that we don’t have enough people to staff.” That’ll change in the coming months.
- Sparks were flying in November as Sphera launched our new publication Spark magazine. Spark is a unique Environmental Health & Safety periodical that takes an in-depth look at safety topics to “spark” a conversation about it. The first cover story focuses on the emergence of robotics in the workforce and what’s to come when people and robots work side by side on a greater scale. A mixture of expert thought leadership articles, timely features and fun columns, Spark has something for everyone. You can even watch a documentary video about the making of Spark at the bottom of this blog post. Sparks will definitely continue to fly in 2019 and beyond!
- Built-In Chicago reached out to Sphera for some thoughts on tech trends for 2019 and beyond. Perry Marchant, Sphera’s chief technology officer, served up some timely prognostications: “We see serverless computing as a strengthening trend in 2019 for two reasons. First, engineers like serverless computing because it allows them to focus on writing code instead of thinking about infrastructure deployment and operation. Second, the benefits are becoming increasingly interesting from a business perspective—you’re only paying for the resources you use, and you get managed services so you avoid any administrative overhead.” Oh, server … !
- Yowza! Sphera signed a deal to partner with Yokogawa Electric Co. in Japan on a go-to-market agreement for risk assessment and consulting services, which increases Sphera’s international footprint as well. In a news release, Masatoshi Nakahara, a Yokogawa director, stated that: “The results of the assessments facilitated by Sphera will be compiled in a database for use in designing SISs [Safety Instrumented Systems] and evaluating their performance. This approach will be useful not only for maintaining and improving the safety of customers’ plants but also for speeding up the engineering of systems and improving their performance.”
- If you were in Denver this past May, we hope you were able to catch our CEO, Paul Marushka, speak at the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference, better known as ELEMCON. Paul’s well-received presentation discussed “How Integrated Risk Management Advances Operational Excellence.” If you weren’t there, don’t worry you’ll have more chances to hear Paul speak in 2019! It was recently announced that Paul will be the keynote speaker at next year’s ELEMCON, which will be held May 13-15, 2019, at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. But, of course, Paul will also be speaking at inspire, so you won’t want to miss it!
There’s so much more in store. Follow our 2019 announcements on this blog as well as our news page, and keep up with Spark magazine for additional thought leadership articles. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to learn about all the latest developments. Here’s to a great 2019!