The road journey between Inverness and Bucharest is a little more than 2,000 miles (3,500 kilometres). Even with a sevenhour flight, organising business over these distances can be a challenge. It is a problem faced every day by Innogy, a Frankfurt-listed company 77% owned by German electricity generation and distribution business RWE.
While some management can be devolved to a local level, the European energy giant also needs to share knowledge across its operations. When it comes to working in difficult locations, as is required when servicing offshore wind farms or maintaining remote power lines, health and safety knowledge is paramount.
But Innogy does not have direct managerial control over huge numbers of people charged with servicing its infrastructure and maintaining its building and facilities.
Instead, it is procurement’s responsibility to source and contract out the supply of a temporary workforce: anything from highly skilled field-service engineers to office cleaners. The difficulty is, across Innogy’s geographies, procurement professionals need access to detailed information of the health and safety requirements to which their suppliers must adhere.
“We have 550 buyers, but only two in Scotland, for example. We need to make sure all buyers have a good understanding of best practice,” says Innogy CPO Dr Ulrich Piepel.
“Not every buyer can have an understanding of everything in all markets, so we have dedicated internal experts to teach others: there is someone they know they can ask questions about a topic. We also offer health and safety advice using internal web video.”
Innogy is among a growing number of international businesses that understand that their responsibilities for health and safety do not end once a contract has been signed. Although commercial arrangements may set out the supplier’s legal responsibilities, that can be of little comfort should the supplier’s behaviour lead to a serious health and safety incident.