2020 will be all about momentum at Sphera, especially when it comes to advancements in Integrated Risk Management technology. But 2019 was an extremely busy and productive year as well. With three acquisitions, multiple advancements in SpheraCloud and on-premise software capabilities, two successful inspire user conferences and an additional 39 events Sphera participated in, there were a lot of milestones to celebrate—but that should come as no surprise to anyone who follows Sphera.
Below we highlight three key events that took place in each month of 2019.
But first …
Curious what our top blog post, e-book and podcast was this year? Check out our holiday card to find out!
- Well that didn’t take long … In early January 2019, Sphera announced its first acquisition of the year: Petrotechnics, a U.K.-based software company that specialized in Operational Risk solutions through Digital Transformation technologies like Digital Twin. As Sphera’s CEO, Paul Marushka, wrote at the time, “Petrotechnics has cutting-edge technology, a strong management team and an impressive group of customers. Coupling Petrotechnics software solutions with our own offers a deep and extensive solution set for our combined customer base.” Additionally, independent research and consulting firm Verdantix wrote, “The deal puts Sphera’s 600 employees together with more than 80 employees at Petrotechnics creating by far the largest, standalone EHS and operational risk management (ORM) software vendor by employee numbers.”
Spoiler alert: Sphera has a lot more colleagues than that nowadays.
SpheraNOW Episode 14: Facilitating FONA’s Focus on Flavors
- In late 2018, Sphera visited flavor and fragrance company FONA International to learn more about how they use Sphera’s Product Stewardship solutions. It was an exciting and enlightening experience. Besides the podcast (see above), we also created a case study and video to document the experience as part of our Sphera Champion campaign. Check ’em out.
- Of course, preventing incidents from occurring is the goal, but finding out why an incident took place goes a long way toward figuring out how to prevent it from happening again. That’s why Sphera released the e-book “Incident Investigations: In Search of the Prime Root Cause of Major Incidents” in January. As the e-book says, “It’s easy to jump to conclusions when it comes to incidents, but what you perceive to be true isn’t always so. That’s why a thorough investigation is critical to figuring out the root cause of an incident or near-miss event.”
- In the European Union, the Poison Control Notification requirements are an important, complex topic that companies must wrestle with. There were two big updates this past year in April and October. The first of which was the publishing of version 1.1 of the PCN format for the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) portal and the second was version 2.0, which included the “last change” to the Classification, Labelling and Packaging regulation. To get people ready for PCN, Sphera hosted a webinar with Carrie Decatur, Sphera’s senior regulatory analyst, and Caroline Rainer, the regulatory business area manager for the National Chemical Emergency Centre, and published an e-book. As the e-book explains, “Given the detail and volume of information required in the new format, many companies are scrambling to meet the standard by the Jan. 1, 2020, effective date. But if you have already made a notification to a member state or plan to prior to in 2020, you qualify for a grace period that gives you until Jan. 1, 2025, to make another notification in the harmonized format.” Companies can familiarize themselves with the submission portal now, and they can learn more about the requirements from Sphera’s “EU Poison Control Center Reporting Changes Executive Summary” e-book, which was published this past February.
- Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed in the Sphera-EHS Daily Advisor report “Realizing Operational Excellence Through Safety Culture Leadership” said: “Our operations are adequate, and we are seeking ways to improve.” So what was the most important contributors to superior operational performance? Respondents said that “integrity and/or respect” and “engaged effort” (24% each, respectively).
- Change is constant; change is difficult. Change can also lead to incidents. According to the Chemical Engineering Transactions (CET) published data, 80% of all large-scale incidents are traced back to failures in the execution of management of change processes. The extent to which organizations execute the management of change holistically is directly correlated to their ability to achieve reliability in operations by reducing risk and uncertainty. Sphera’s webinar, “Management of Change for Complex Organizations,” was produced to help companies get it right the first time.
- With 170-plus Environmental Health & Safety professionals in attendance, the Verdantix Summit in London was a huge event in the industry. Sphera’s Fraser Goodey joined Richard Head, Trafigura’s global head of health, safety, environment, communities and security, to present a workshop titled, “Managing Contractor Risks to Drive Down Incident Rates and Improve Operational Performance.” The bottom line: Identify contractors who meet minimum EHS expectations and avoid using those that do not.
- Shortly after Sphera acquired Petrotechnics, the Operational Excellence Index report was released, which found that “digital insights will, in effect, become the feedstock of Operational Excellence of the future” with 54% of respondents saying digital insights deliver key performance indicators and metrics, 45% saying it improves prioritization and planning, and 44% saying it delivers predictive analytics that keep assets up and running. In March, Sphera hosted a webinar to explain these results and more. “The good news is the industry is on the brink of a major step forward when it comes to achieving OE through digitalization.” You can also read the full report here.
Sphera Quality Day 2019
- Sphera Quality Day 2019 brought Spherions around the globe out and about to learn more about Operational Excellence best practices. Warwick Spherions, for instance, took a tour at their local brewery, Church Farm Brewery, where they learned how the owners transitioned from a dairy farm to a micro-brewery, while Teddington Spherions took a tour of Fullers Brewery for a warehouse and production tour with a focus on quality control and maintenance in their products, and—not to be outdone—Houston Spherions took a tour of their local brewery, Saint Arnold Brewery, which has a large operation of 100,000-barrel capacity. Chicago Spherions toured Argonne National Laboratories where we learned about the Advanced Photon Source facility and how its work helps build a better world.
Sphera’s New HQ
- Sphera opened up its new headquarters in style with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 4, 2019. The new digs include 120 workstations, 29 private offices, four conference rooms, an Innovation Center and even a fun town-hall/cafeteria area with giant Jenga blocks just waiting to be toppled over (preferably after business hours). “I love how the office was designed to be a collaborative space,” said Christina Mcintyre, Sphera’s senior collections specialist. “It really feels like we’re part of a big family here.”
- Live, learn, code: If you wanted to get insight from Stephen Rylander, Sphera’s vice president of engineering, on shifting tech trends, all you’d have to do is check out Built In Chicago. As Rylander explained, “Don’t worry about the curve—that’s part of the journey when working in software and technology. Embrace it. We are investigating moving to a primarily serverless, function-based architecture because it promotes a ‘code first, code last’ pattern. Second, we are investigating how to use drones and IoT to help our customers working in the field in sometimes hazardous situations.” To paraphrase what Baby Yoda would say if, indeed, he knows how to talk: Embrace it, we shall.
- Incidents and near-misses are constant reminders that risk can emerge almost anywhere and at almost any time, especially if companies are not prepared for it. The one variable that can change everything at a moment’s notice is human behavior. Humans make mistakes; that’s inevitable. To help companies prepare, Narenderpal Marwaha, Sphera’s principal solutions architect, led a webinar titled, “Human Behaviors as Root Causes of Industry Incidents” to address the matter and help organizations understand how certain patterns of causal behavior affect occupational health and safety.
- We all could use some inspiration, right? Well, there’s no better place than inspire to learn, to connect and to experience innovations firsthand. Inspire 2019 officially kicked off on May 7 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, and more than 450 attendees interested in Environmental Health & Safety topics got to hear from Paul Marushka, Sphera’s president and CEO, about how Integrated Risk Management 4.0 is the future of mitigating risk. By employing sensors and high-powered analytics tools, IRM 4.0 is designed to help companies learn more about their risk exposure with predictive and prescriptive tools to help prevent incidents before they happen. After lunch, it was time to hear from keynote speaker Dr. Robert Ballard who offered attendees some serious food for thought on the oceanic world, sustainability for the planet and even life beyond our solar system. Ballard entered the stage to a familiar theme: “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie “Titanic.” Of course, Ballard is credited with locating the actual Titanic as part of a mission to investigate two Navy subs back in 1985. “I know that song,” Ballard quipped. There was so much going on at inspire that we can’t list it all, but you can read more about it here.
Spoiler alert: Here’s how you can be the first—OK, among the first—to know about the next inspire user conference in 2021.
- At inspire, Sphera made a big announcement—the acquisition of SiteHawk, a leading chemical data management software company, which was a game-changer for Product Stewardship. As Sphera’s president and CEO, Paul Marushka, said at the time: “The acquisition of SiteHawk not only expands Sphera’s cloud-based solutions, but also extends Sphera’s Product Stewardship content, services and markets while reasserting our leadership position in the Product Stewardship space. As the industry leader, we believe it is critical to continue innovating our portfolio of cloud-based and content solutions while also enhancing our world-class, on-premise products.”
- May was clearly a busy month. Sphera also launched the second edition of Spark magazine at inspire. The issue took a deep dive into augmented, virtual and mixed reality for safety purposes—and took an even deeper dive into the world of nautical exploration with an interview of Dr. Robert Ballard, the man who led the mission to find the Titanic back in 1985. Building on the momentum from the first issue that came out in 2018, the second issue explored new areas of risk, including in the world of magic as well as climate change and more. As Spark editor James Tehrani wrote, Spark “is not your typical Environmental Health & Safety magazine. Spark tackles compelling safety-related topics that go beyond our regular focus and combine that information with thought leadership from Sphera’s plethora of experts. We pair all that with fun and engaging feature articles.”
Happy Birthday, Sphera!
- June 1, 2019, marked the company’s third anniversary under the Sphera moniker. So much has changed in the past three years, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look back at some milestones. As part of a three-part series, we explored three great highlights from each of Sphera’s first three years.
- If you couldn’t make it to inspire in San Antonio, hopefully you joined us in beautiful Barcelona, Spain, for our EMEA conference. “There is so much for attendees to get out of inspire,” said Francis Trudeau, Sphera’s solutions manager for Product Stewardship who also was the master of ceremonies. “From visions and insights to practical guidance and training, there is something for everyone. Inspire always feels like a big family reunion and a celebration because so many longtime customers and industry experts get together to share their knowledge and passion for our industry. As I said on the stage, inspire is a highlight of my year as a Spherion.” The keynote speaker was David Metcalfe, Verdantix’s CEO, who spoke about Product Stewardship at the event and addressed three important topics:
- Why is managing Product Stewardship data such a huge challenge?
- How does business context affect your approach to Product Stewardship?
- Which digital innovations should you focus on to conquer Product Stewardship complexity?
- Sphera released the list of winners for the 2019 Embracing Excellence Awards. As Sphera CEO Paul Marushka said: “It is with great pride that Sphera is able to acknowledge these leading companies’ contributions to Environmental Health & Safety and the evolution of Integrated Risk Management 4.0. Whether its Operational Risk Management, Environmental Performance or Product Stewardship, Sphera works with our clients to mitigate risks as true partners, and these award winners exemplify a commitment to true Operational Excellence.”
- What’s the ROI on ORM? Glad you asked. In July Sphera launched the new ROI calculator for Operational Risk Management. By plugging in a few numbers, companies can get a sense of how a digitalized approach to mitigating risk can save them money in the long run by improving their organization’s Operational Excellence through reductions in lost-time injuries, leaks, emissions, near-misses and actual incidents.
- While the Sphera brand turned 3 this year, the company actually traces its roots back decades. To get you up to speed on our past and future, Sphera compiled a chronological history of the companies that combined over the years before and after Sphera was born. It all started in 1974 when EIS International Corp. created crisis management systems, and the rest as they—and we—say is history.
- You heard it here first. At the end of July, Sphera announced that it had signed an agreement to buy sustainability software company thinkstep for an undisclosed amount. The deal would not be completed until September following regulatory approval.
- Stuck in the status quo? Well, you’re not alone. In August, Sphera released the first part of its highly anticipated Process Safety and Operational Risk Management survey, which was appropriately titled, “Stuck in the Status Quo.” Some key takeaways:
- 49% say loss of experienced personnel due to downsizing, turnover and retirement inhibit the ability to make meaningful changes to mitigate risk.
- 41% cite aging facilities as a risk factor.
- 39% say they’ve seen a deterioration in the effectiveness of process safety barriers.
Sphera Sustainability Day 2019
- Spherions clean up nicely all over the world as part of Sphera Sustainability Day 2019. In the Chicago office, Spherions participated in a beach/park cleanup while Aberdeen, Scotland, Spherions planted flowers and Toronto Spherions planted trees and flowers, among other activities. “It felt great knowing we were making a positive impact on the environment and preserving nature’s beauty,” said Reid Liegeois, Sphera’s financial analyst, who found an empty bottle of cognac among other things. “I hope that we inspired other beachgoers to think about the environmental impact of littering and to make small steps into living more sustainably.” By the way, if you’d like to help clean up the environment, consider taking the #SpheraLitterChallenge.
- A little less than a year after Sphera’s Spark magazine was launched, the publication won its first accolade: the Best New Print Publication award from the Content Marketing Institute. “We are so excited and honored to receive this recognition so early on in the publication’s history,” said James Tehrani, Spark’s editor-in-chief. “This has been a true team effort, and every Spherion can be proud of what we have achieved. Spark was created to ‘spark’ a conversation, and I think this proves that message is coming through loud and clear—and that our idea to start a magazine was a great decision.”
- Done deal. As of Sept. 16, there was no longer a need to think about thinkstep being a part of Sphera; by that time it was officially a part of Sphera. The deal advanced Sphera’s sustainability capabilities and its expertise exponentially. There are more than two dozen people with Ph.D.s among thinkstep’s ranks and many more have master’s degrees.
- Sphera’s end-of-summer plans included a return to the Product Stewardship Society conference in Columbus, Ohio, as a Platinum Sponsor—and we were quite busy thank you very much. Carrie Decatur, for example, Sphera’s senior regulatory analyst, participated in a workshop titled, “Distinguishing Hazard From Risk: Application of the Product Exposure Modeling Toolbox” as well as a session called “The Regulators’ Unquenchable Thirst for Information (Beyond the SDS).”
- And the winner goes to … In September, FLIR Integrated Imaging Solutions Inc. was awarded an Environmental Health & Safety Innovation Award from independent research firm Verdantix. FLIR won in the Technology and Communications category for implementing Sphera’s EC4P web-based system to manage product registration, sales reporting and recycling fee payments for complying with WEEE, Batteries and Packaging regulations in 25 European Union member states.
- If you’re looking for chemical management, you’ve come to the right place. In October, Sphera was named a Green Quadrant leader by independent research firm Verdantix in the “EHS Software Benchmark: Chemicals Management” report. As the report states, “Sphera is currently the only vendor among the 23 EHS software providers to provide end-to-end functionality for EHS, chemicals compliance and product life cycle assessment analysis.”
- And if you’re looking for how to innovate, you’ve come to the right place. In the SpheraNOW podcast “Itching to Innovate,” Jerry Shaughnessy, Sphera’s chief architect, discusses his background, where companies go wrong with their innovation strategies and how technology will continue to change the game for risk mitigation strategies.
- Sphera’s second hackathon took place in October, and teams competed for the judges’ votes as well as their fellow colleagues’ by showcasing innovative ideas about the future of Sphera tech. It was an exciting 48-hour sprint, and it was amazing to see how far these teams got with conceptualizing their projects in such a short period of time. We are excited to see what innovations will come from future hackathons; we definitely know these teams can hack it.
- Sphera launched the second part of its “State of Process Safety and Operational Risk Management” survey in November. What respondents told us is that despite positive signs coming from investments in regulatory compliance and corporate safety standards, only 40% of respondents say organizations proactively manage process safety. What’s more, a surprising 73% say companies are not actively managing risk or driving PSM through the planning process. That’s because more than half (55%) said there is resource tension between safety-related projects and other capital project allocation. And limited resources, conflicting priorities and tight budgets could be the reason why, in a typical month, only 66% of scheduled safety-critical maintenance and 69% of scheduled asset integrity inspections are achieved.
- It’s clearly crunch time for sustainability matters, so Sphera’s CEO, Paul Marushka, decided to crunch some numbers. Earlier in the year, his column, “Get C-level Executives to Understand It’s ‘Crunch Time’ for Sustainability Initiatives,” appeared in the United Nations’ 2019 Global Goals Yearbook, and the post was picked up in November by The Energy Industry Times. As Marushka wrote, “A sustainability focus is a sound business strategy. Forward-thinking organizations understand the importance of being good stewards for their organizations, their neighbors, the environment and future generations as well.”
- Chemical Engineering was “twinning” in the recent article “The Changing Face of Simulation.” Scott Lehmann, Sphera’s vice president of Operational Risk Management, was featured in the article. As he explained in the magazine, “The Digital Twin starts to pull it together with dynamic visualization so users can see the geography view—here’s the status of the plant, here are the various impairments, here are the activities that are happening. By pulling all this together, it provides a richer view, making it easier to make informed decisions.”
Sparking Conversation Since 2018
- Sparks are still flying. In December, Sphera launched the third edition of the award-winning Spark magazine. The new issue, which features an in-depth look at Integrated Risk Management 4.0 (IRM 4.0), an interview with celebrity chef Robert Irvine on restaurant safety and much more, has an exciting new home on issuu, which offers significantly more functionality. With a plethora of expert columns and engaging features, this jam-packed issue of Spark offers something for anyone interested in workplace safety and risk mitigation.
- Sphera Safety Day 2019 brought a good perspective on the goods. You see, Sphera’s Chicago office toured the Amazon fulfillment center in Monee, Illinois, to learn how Item A gets to Point B via X, Y and Z. It was fascinating to learn how items are moved along throughout the large warehouse, especially when the robots came into play. But the Aberdeen, Scotland, Spherions might have gone on an even-more-fulfilling adventure. They visited the Petrofac Training Services center in Montrose, Scotland, to learn about fire safety. Not only did the Spherions on hand learn how to put out fires with actual fire hoses, they also experienced a search-and-rescue demonstration in a smoke-filled building.
- As the year comes to a close, Sphera was excited to learn that independent research firm Verdantix published a new report titled, “Sphera Delivers Sustainability and Product Stewardship Excellence.” According to the report: “Sphera has demonstrated that its focus is tackling risk management from the combined lens of EHS, operational risk, product stewardship and sustainability. Within the EHS information management market segment, Sphera’s acquisitions of SiteHawk and thinkstep have significantly enhanced its portfolio of solutions.” The report goes on to say, “Given Sphera’s breadth and depth of sector-specific capabilities across chemicals compliance, product compliance and sustainability, the vendor’s platform can best benefit executives at multinational firms seeking end-to-end platforms for integrated risk management.” What does this all mean? 2020 is going to be another very exciting year at Sphera.
We would like to wish you a happy—and safe—New Year. Now, cue “Auld Lang Syne.” See you soon everybody!