Expanding internationally opens up great new opportunities, but especially in the field of engineering, it can also come with a set of new challenges. Many industries are controlled by massive amounts of operating and safety regulations, and being accustomed to a certain set of rules in your home country, does not mean you are covered everywhere else and you could be in for a nasty surprise during your expansion.
This is because every country is different. They all have their own laws and regulations, and failure to comply could cost your company a fortune. Finding yourself halfway through a project, when the authorities come knocking, is an awful position to be in. If the penalties do not kill the project, it could be too expensive to rectify the issues and comply with the government’s demands.
This might effectively be a death sentence, that causes enormous losses for the company. That’s why it’s important to make sure you understand local regulations as well as possible before you begin, but how can you do that?
What should you look out for when taking your company international?
When it comes to complying with international regulations for your engineering company there are a few key areas that you should look out for. Before making the jump to new territories it is important that you research each location thoroughly to make sure your practices will be up to their standards. You may also need to hire a legal aid within the country who is familiar with the regulations in these areas.
Many safety critical industries are often heavily regulated, and the level of regulation can go deep into the local level. Often an international body tries to harmonise this as much as possible, but we often see differences in country specific regulation due to political, cultural and environmental differences.
Be also sure to check for little nuances in language.
Some regulations approach the end goal by telling the companies exactly how they should do things, while others focus on what the result needs to be, allowing the companies more freedom to decide how to get there.
Many countries have extremely difficult environmental standards. This is particularly true if your project will be completed in an area with sensitive and endangered flora and fauna or near protected water sources.
Be sure to pour over the documentation in this area and if it’s not provided make sure to get with someone who can provide this information for you. Ask about protected areas and regulations involved when working within these locations.
If you’ll be hiring labour within the country, make sure you are adhering to all health, safety and wage standards. What’s required here varies greatly by country, but if you’re shown to be a bad actor here, even if you don’t mean to be, you’ll be found out quickly.
Make sure to find out about regulations regarding hours, breaks, time off, etc and make sure that any temporary help you hire is being treated appropriately.
If you’re working on a public project, then the standards for them are often times even higher than what is required for private work. Trying to get the facts on these kinds of jobs can be a headache, but when you apply for licensing you should be able to find out what to do here.
Whoever is in charge of this office will likely be able to point you in the correct direction, or you can hire a legal aid with more experience in the country to consult you on these regulations.
Dealing with an information overload
A study by A.T Kearney reported that nearly 80% of companies in highly regulated markets struggle with knowledge management.
That’s a huge number, and they identified that sorting through the information they’ve collected as their biggest struggle.
International regulations produce an enormous amount of paperwork that needs to be completed and documents that need to be sorted through. In fact, there’s so much paperwork that it could actually take your entire team weeks or months to cover all of it to make sure you’re in compliance.
This is not only soul-crushing, but it’s also a huge time drain. To make matters worse, you may also be getting contradicting information from various offices. Large scale engineering projects often require the approval of multiple government entities and it’s foolish to assume that one of them knows what the other is doing.
Assumptions like this will only end up creating trouble for you as they shift the blame to someone else. However, there is a way that you can sort through this information faster and look for inconsistencies.
Modern technologies such as machine learning can be a real lifesaver when it comes to dealing with paperwork in an international expansion.
Help from machine learning?
Machine learning, if you’re not familiar with it, is a type of computer algorithm. It allows you to automate processes and make predictions based on examples it has seen before.
These algorithms can be used for sorting through massive text documents. They can analyse data much faster than humans, find interesting topics and spot risk factors. That means that you can use an algorithm to quickly weed out problems in your plans that could have disastrous consequences.
It can help you check whether you have missed a vital piece of regulatory information in a new country, or if anything has changed in those regulations since last time.
It can also help you find contradicting bits of information coming from different branches and allow you to hammer out these details before the project starts. You can employ the help of your in-country consultant to get concrete answers from officials before proceeding and wasting project funds.
While it does take some time to train an algorithm to perform these tasks for you, once that initial setup is done, you can use that algorithm forever. It will continue to work for you, monitoring important changes, and as you expand you can continue to feed it new data to dissect, sort and manage. It makes managing your international expansion a lot less frustrating.