New Construction Stormwater General Permit

November 24, 2015
By Brian Schefke

The Washington Department of Ecology has reissued the Construction Stormwater General Permit, which will take effect on January 1, 2016. If you’re a business engaged in construction activities like excavating or grading, your activities disturb one or more acres of land, and you discharge stormwater, you must be covered by the permit. In particular, construction site operators need to control sediment buildup and soil erosion in order to limit the discharge of sediments in stormwater, as such discharge can be harmful to aquatic plants and animals.

Freer Consulting Co. can assist you with all aspects of the regulatory process, from obtaining permit coverage to maintaining compliance with the provisions of the permit. To find out more, contact Freer Consulting at 206-285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com

ISO 9001:2015 and 14001:2015 Now Published

September 30, 2015
By Brian Schefke

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has now published the final versions of the ISO 9001:2015 and 14001:2015 standards. A quick summary of the changes is in our July blog post. For more information, please see the ISO website.

If you have questions about ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 or would like to know more about how to become certified in international and industry standards, contact Freer Consulting at (206) 285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com

Preparing for Fall Stormwater

August 26, 2015
By Brian Schefke

Although fall is still a few weeks away, it isn’t too early for Washington stormwater permittees to prepare for the rain to return. This is particularly important due to this year’s exceptionally dry summer in the Pacific Northwest. Dry conditions cause pollutants to build up, which creates the potential for a “first flush” effect—high concentrations of pollutants in stormwater discharge in the first storm event following a long dry period. The Industrial Stormwater General Permit requires permittees to collect stormwater samples during the first storm event on or after October 1. Because of this year’s conditions, it is likely that first flush effects will be observed in these samples. If permittees exceed their pollutant benchmarks, corrective actions are required.
Permittees can take a few steps to avoid or mitigate this risk:

• Implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) during the summer.
• Consider additional BMPs as needed, such as sweeping more frequently during dry periods. Sweeping just prior to October 1st can also reduce first flush effects.
• Quickly identify and address problem areas at their facilities.

It is possible that permittees will exceed their benchmarks in spite of their best efforts. Therefore, permittees should plan ahead for potential corrective actions, considering options that are appropriate to the level of corrective action needed. This helps to ensure that the corrective action is done in accordance with the ISGP and in a timely fashion.

If you need assistance with any aspects of stormwater management, contact Freer Consulting at (206) 285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com

ISO 9001 & 14001 Approaching Final Revisions for 2015

July 7, 2015
By Brian Schefke

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) plans to issue revisions to the 9001 and 14001 standards by the end of 2015. These standards relate to quality management systems (9001) and environmental management systems (14001). Organizations certified in either of these standards must attain compliance by the end of the transition period, which is three years from the revision’s issue date. It is imperative to prepare for the new versions as soon as practical—when the transition period is over, the old versions are no longer valid and registrars will begin auditing to the new standards. Certified organizations should check with their ISO registrar for more information regarding compliance.

Changes to ISO 9001 reflect three major themes:

• Integrating the process-based approach of ISO 9001 with the organization’s strategic direction.
• Applying Plan-Check-Do-Act on the management system as a whole, not just individual processes within the system. This includes how processes within the management system interact with one another.
• Reducing undesirable process outcomes by focusing on risk-based thinking.

Similarly, changes to ISO 14001 emphasize a holistic approach to environmental management and the interaction of processes within the system. The revision to ISO 14001 aims to improve the effectiveness of an organization’s environmental management system for the benefit of the organization, but also impacted communities.

The increased focus on a more holistic view of ISO 9001 and 14001 will serve to make those systems easier to integrate with one another and with other management systems.

If you have questions about ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 or would like to know more about how to become certified in international and industry standards, contact Freer Consulting at (206) 285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com.

EPA Issues the 2015 Multi-Sector General Permit and Clean Water Rule

June 22, 2015
By Brian Schefke

The EPA uses the 2015 Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP), a part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), to regulate pollutant levels in stormwater discharges from industrial facilities. The MSGP applies to areas of the United States where the EPA is the NPDES permitting authority; in most parts of the country however, state governments hold this authority. When seeking permit coverage, check with your state’s environmental regulatory agency to determine the correct permitting authority and how to obtain coverage. All MSGP applicants—both new and previously covered under the 2008 permit—must file a Notice of Intent (NOI) with the EPA in order to receive coverage under the 2015 MSGP.

There are a number of differences between the 2008 and 2015 MSGPs. If you are an existing permit holder, make sure to review the new MSGP to ensure continued compliance. A fact sheet summarizing the changes can be found here.

In addition to the new permit requirements, the EPA collaborated with the U.S. Army to issue a new Clean Water Rule. This rule defines the water protected under the Clean Water Act and clarifies federal protections for water and wetlands. To find out more about the Clean Water Rule and if it applies to you, consult the EPA’s Clean Water Rule Fact Sheet here.

Freer Consulting has extensive experience in the field of stormwater management. If you would like to know more about how Freer Consulting can help you obtain stormwater permit coverage or comply with stormwater discharge regulations, contact us at 206-285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com.

Standard Operating Procedures

May 19, 2015
By Brian Schefke

Customers expect consistent delivery of high quality products and services—an ongoing challenge for every business. It is important that each employee, from management to the front line, understands their duties, and the proper way to accomplish them. For this reason, many businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). SOPs ensure consistent quality of products and services, employee safety, regulatory compliance, and continuous improvement of business processes.

An SOP is a process document that describes the steps of a business operation and how to perform them. For example, a firm’s customer service department might have an SOP on handling customer inquiries and/or complaints. This SOP might include the following steps:

• How to address the customer.
• How to determine what information is needed from the customer.
• How to determine what problems can be resolved during the initial customer contact and what problems require elevation to a higher level of customer support.
• Where elevated problems should be sent and how to track them.
• How to follow up with the customer if needed.

There are several advantages to SOPs:

• Employees know how to perform their tasks and do so more effectively and efficiently.
• New employees receive consistent training, so that staff changes do not compromise the quality of the firm’s product.
• The firm adheres to regulations and has some protection from liability.
• Employees can support one another on tasks that they normally do not perform.
• The firm can identify processes that need improvement.

SOPs are also an integral part of implementing industrial and international standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and API Spec Q1.

Creating an SOP requires a team effort and good attention to detail. It is especially important that employees who actually perform a task are allowed to provide input when creating an SOP. The SOP, once written, should be tested to ensure that it works as intended. If it does not, it should be revised to address any problems identified during testing. SOPs are living documents—as new knowledge or technology becomes available that is relevant to the SOP, it should be revised to incorporate these new developments.

If you would like to know more about SOPs and how Freer Consulting’s expertise can help you implement them, contact us at (206) 285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com.

Low Input Viticulture and Enology

April 1, 2015
By Brian Schefke

Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) is a non-profit organization that promotes environmentally friendly practices for vineyards and wineries through education and certification using international standards in sustainable viticulture and enology practices. Nearly 300 vineyards and 40 wineries in Oregon and Washington are enrolled in LIVE. The program recently expanded to include Idaho and British Columbia.
To be LIVE certified, vineyards must join the program and undergo inspections in each of the first two years of membership. Vineyards must also annually report their agricultural inputs such as:

• Pesticides
• Irrigation
• Fertilizers

Similarly, wineries that join LIVE must undergo an inspection in the first year of membership to obtain certification. Wineries must also annually submit the following documentation:

• Compliance checklist (provided by LIVE)
• Grounds plan of the winery
• Energy usage
• Materials used in making wine, e.g., additives

LIVE certified wineries are required to keep records on site regarding maintenance, cleaning, shipping and receiving, purchasing, and any applicable regulatory documents.

LIVE applies the standards set by the International Organization for Biological and Integrated Control (IOBC).

Freer Consulting has extensive experience implementing a wide variety of industry standards. If you would like to know more about how Freer Consulting can help you achieve LIVE certification for your vineyard or winery, contact Freer Consulting at (206) 285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com.

Process Mapping Enables Good Enterprise Resource Planning

February 27, 2015
By Brian Schefke

Wise businesses think carefully before going through the effort and expense to procure and/or upgrade an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system.  In this blog post, we incorporate lessons from management systems implementation to make the case that businesses should map their business processes out prior to selecting an ERP system.  There are two key points to consider if your business is considering an ERP system purchase.  First, how can you accurately plan for an ERP implementation if you do not know the scope and boundaries of your business processes?  Business process mapping provides the answer to the scope and boundary question.  Second, do you wish to have better control over the cost and timeline of the ERP implementation?  If your answer is yes, consider that accurate and professionally generated business process maps can assist your company to gain control over the ERP implementation thereby driving value towards your intended outcomes.

All businesses aim to be as efficient and cost effective as possible. Yet, achieving this goal is a significant challenge that many businesses face. Both large and small businesses perform a number of different functions (for example, purchasing, marketing, HR, etc.) that often work independently of each other. When knowledge of these functions is “siloed” or limited only to those who perform them, this can be an impediment to determining if the function is being performed in a manner consistent with a business’s capabilities and objectives and hence if the function can be improved.

One way to address this challenge is through process mapping. Business functions can be thought of as processes: a series of actions and decisions directed toward a specific goal (such as a product or service). Process mapping, therefore, is a technique whereby a business process is broken down into its component steps and typically visualized through a flowchart. Business processes fall into a few different categories:

  • Management processes (governance, planning, etc.)
  • Operational processes (the core functions of a business)
  • Supporting processes (which aid the execution of the core functions)

By mapping out its processes, a business can get a more complete and accurate view of what it actually does and hence make improvements that increase efficiency, reduce errors, and improve customer satisfaction. Process mapping is also crucial for implementing and adhering to international standards, such as ISO. It is, therefore, important for a business to map its processes before considering how it will make needed changes.

Consider, for example, that business processes (for example, purchasing, marketing, HR, etc.) that work independently of each other tend to limit data and software to their specific functions. When a business fails to coordinate their processes and share relevant data across functions, efficiency and costs are compromised. A healthy business consolidates relevant data in an accessible format, which allows for meaningful analysis and measurable improvement.

 

Once the business model baseline has been established by mapping out processes, companies are then in an advantageous position to begin seriously considering ERP solutions.  ERP software systems provide an integrated set of software tools that allow a business to collect and manage data generated from different functions, such as:

  • Finance & Accounting
  • Purchasing
  • Inventory
  • Manufacturing
  • Delivery of Services
  • Human Resources

A business can use ERP to track vital information such as expenditures, sales, and production across multiple processes, which provides a more complete picture of how the business is functioning. This in turn enables the business to identify and make needed improvements. By consolidating data into shared databases, ERP facilitates the flow of information within a business and utilizes integrated software to ensure compatibility between business functions. Furthermore, ERP allows for process automation, thereby freeing up resources and enhancing productivity.

ERP is customizable, and can be scaled to meet the needs of both large and small businesses.

Freer Consulting has considerable experience customizing and implementing process mapping to facilitate your selection and implementation of ERP solutions. If you would like to know more about process mapping, ERP and if they are right for your business, contact Freer Consulting at info@freerconsulting.com or (206) 285-9044.

New ISGP Takes Effect January 2015

January 6, 2015
By Brian Schefke

A reminder to Washington Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP) holders: a new ISGP was issued on December 3, 2014 and went into effect on January 2, 2015. We encourage you to review the new permit, as it contains changes that may affect your business. A summary of the most significant changes can be found here. They include:

• Additional SWPPP requirements.
• Continuation of consistent attainment from the previous permit. Once consistent attainment for a parameter is achieved, the permit holder may suspend testing for that parameter for up to three years.
• Additional sampling requirements for specific industries.
• Additional sampling requirements and effluent limits for stormwater discharges to impaired water bodies.
• Additional best management practices (BMPs) for stormwater discharges to Puget Sound sediment cleanup sites.
• Additional sampling documentation.

Once you identify the ISGP changes that apply to your business, make any necessary modifications (for example, add new BMPs or update your SWPPP) to ensure compliance.

Freer Consulting is available to assist you with ISGP coverage and compliance. For more information, contact us at 206-285-9044 or info@freerconsulting.com.