Supporting HSE in ERP... is that an option?

Supporting HSE in an ERP system or specialist HSE software: which is better? This is a frequently heard discussion in the plants we work with. For example, it may have been decided to change over to SAP, into which HSE processes like work Permit to Work, LoToTo and MoC have to be accommodated. It is certainly logical to want as much functionality as possible in one system, but it is also important to make HSE software effective, relevant to the work situation, and efficient. In other words, it has to be attractive enough for employees not to circumvent HSE procedures.

ERP systems like SAP, Maximo, JD Edwards and Avantis have options for supporting work permits, for example. However, many plants find these options to be too limited and consider building in extra functionality, in order to be able to add extra data for example, or integrate Excel forms. More or less anything can be built with software and the first additions can be made very quickly. But what if you want to go further because you would like to attain your safety objectives? You are then faced with an entirely different level of building and managing.

We are aware of a number of plants who originally decided to support the work permit process in their ERP solution, but who have since chosen another solution to support their growth in HSE. The basic features can be built but when more complex functionality is needed, it costs much more than anticipated and is hard to manage. Often it causes tension, because everyone in the plant prefers a different design. And by carrying out the development work themselves, organizations do not learn from the experiences, solutions and best practices of other companies.

There are four distinct fields in the IT landscape in a plant (see diagram):

  • ERP & MMS: Enterprise Resources Planning with Maintenance Management Systems
  • MES: Manufacturing Execution Systems
  • PA: Process Automation
  • HPM: Human Process Management – that is, supporting human interaction.

The question is, how do you support your people with an ERP, PA or MES system...

  • when the working method needs to be flexible and, depending on the situation (level of risk) has a higher or lower level of complexity?
  • when information has to be recorded continuously (in shift reports or safety rounds)?
  • when different people work together in different formations?
  • when complex forms, checklists, drawings and lists are expected (licences, LoTo, MoC-forms)?

In these cases, a specialist Human Process Management system is needed with appropriate, user-friendly graphic tools and flexible workflows; you have to replace simple tools like Word, Excel and e-mail. And a few simple and well-placed interfaces can prevent work being duplicated.

This means you allow every application to do what it does well, and that you are able to guarantee the best possible quality in every area.