2012 Railroad Environmental Conference: Environmental Management in the Cloud

Posted by Neno Duplan

I recently travelled to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to attend and present at the 2012 Railroad Environmental Conference. Held on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the conference was a great opportunity to both learn more about the railroad industry’s environmental programs, and to share my knowledge with this industry on managing environmental, energy, emissions and air quality information in the Cloud.

For the railroad industry, as well as many others, information management is the key driver behind all aspects of environmental management, costs and performance. The larger railroads in particular already own millions of analytical, geological, and other types of records across a portfolio of sites. However, because these records are scattered across various silo systems that neither the companies nor their consultants can easily access, this data cannot be effectively mined for actionable information, and what can’t be measured can’t be managed.

As opposed to numerous silo systems that can cause redundancy, general usability confusion, and errors in your data, the use of a centralized, web-based software application can bring about a variety of benefits. Some quantitative benefits can include about 40 to 60% of total environmental reporting and laboratory program management cost savings, determining trends and identifying sites that can be monitored less frequently and wells that can be decommissioned earlier than first expected, and identifying inefficiencies in sampling programs that can be optimized to save money. In addition, management in the Cloud allows you to pay for only what you use with no hardware to procure, no costly up-front license fee, and no complex set-up.

Although a bit harder to grasp, the qualitative benefits of organizing environmental information in the cloud are eminent, and should not be underestimated. Because every decision you make about your sites is dependent on the quality of your data, it’s essential that you have full ownership of it. The use of a centralized, web-based system instills uniform processes across your organization and its consultants, reduces the cycle time for data loading, validation, management, and reporting, and assures that your data will be error free. It also opens up various windows of opportunities to improve other processes like lab management, EDD loading, data validation, automated reporting, and long term archiving.

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