1660240248891 Sheila

New personnel management tools to help you counter today's workforce challenges

June 2, 2020
Sheila Kennedy says the coronavirus is one of many challenges faced by those overseeing industrial workforce teams.

Managing industrial workers is an increasingly complex and demanding task, fraught with health and safety risks, heightened productivity goals, evolving technologies and regulations, and even the unexpected – think COVID-19 pandemic. Solution providers are continually coming up with new ways to counter the challenges.

About the Author: Sheila Kennedy

Health and safety


Integrated environmental, health, safety, and sustainability (EHS&S) management solutions help to manage risks and regulatory compliance using mitigation plans and best practices. The SpheraCloud SaaS platform from Sphera includes a series of health and safety offerings that are configurable to an organization’s needs and provide enterprise-level visibility and control over risks.

“COVID-19 is a prime example of the multi-faceted challenges faced by EHS&S professionals,” observes Mike Zamis, chief product officer at Sphera. “We have offered our SpheraCloud customers a free, COVID-19 Workforce Assessment tool to gauge their employees’ physical, emotional, and workplace safety, and their remote technology status, thus providing an enterprise-wide view of potential workforce safety and productivity risks.”

To help avoid workplace incidents and injuries, new safety-as-a-service wearables and software from MākuSafe provide real-time, quality data evidence about what workers are experiencing to EHS&S experts, allowing more informed decisions. “We believe saving lives starts with high-quality data,” says Mark Frederick, the company’s co-founder and CTO.

MākuSafe’s wearable armband technology provides insight into environmental conditions and how the worker is physically moving as they do their job. “We use machine learning (ML) to identify trends and can alert a safety leader so they can focus their energy on what matters most. Further, we enable voice reporting of near-misses and observations which often have a significant impact on safety, process improvement, and quality,” adds Frederick.

The new MobileDefender 4 (MD4) personnel tracking device from SecuraTrac supports remote monitoring and emergency response for mobile workers. It gives mobile and lone workers an added layer of security when they work at potentially dangerous job sites or in hazardous conditions.

MD4 provides one-touch access to professionally trained emergency response operators who can send help to those who are injured or in danger, no matter where they are, says Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac. “Most settings can be adjusted over-the-air and there are many features that can be set to covert mode, allowing for emergency response operators to dispatch help inconspicuously,” he adds.

Industrial ergonomics software from VelocityEHS uses motion-capture artificial intelligence (AI) assessment capabilities to address musculoskeletal disorder risks and reduce injury. “By utilizing AI and sensorless motion-capture technology, Humantech Advanced Industrial Ergonomics provides a faster, more accurate and efficient method over manual, observation-based assessments,” says James Mallon, president of VelocityEHS | Humantech.

The all-in-one industrial ergonomics system blends online training, a job improvement process, data, and reporting. The combination “makes it easier to efficiently deploy an ergonomics program across one or hundreds of locations without the need of costly, in-person consultants,” explains Mallon.

Supervisory support


Digital workforce technologies enable supervisors to remotely monitor and manage field activities. Using DataGlance’s eReview solution coupled with its eMaintain electronic work packages, supervisors in the energy industry can approve and assign work and then – in near-real time – track work progress, answer questions, resolve issues, clear hold points, and closeout work packages, says Nathan Ives, a vice president at DataGlance.

Supervisors can also join their field workers from anywhere through DataGlance’s eCollaborate mixed reality (MR) video solution. It enables live video, two-way merged video, audio, image, text, and whiteboarding for immediate job site collaboration and assistance, as well as recorded video for disconnected mode.

Culture changes


To learn how AI is changing work relationships, the Oracle and Future Workplace research entitled AI @Work polled 8,370 employees, managers, and HR leaders from 10 countries. Among the findings were that 64% of people would trust a robot more than their own manager, and 65% of workers are “optimistic, excited, and grateful” about having robot co-workers.

The research is “particularly applicable to the industrial sector as robots are being used in manufacturing for a range of applications like predictive maintenance or improving the safety and efficiency of employees working on a production line,” says Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, a research partner of Oracle. “I believe we’ll continue to see AI being implemented in day-to-day work to automate administrative or repetitive tasks, so workers can focus on more strategic activities that drive business value.”

Technology Toolbox

This article is part of our monthly Technology Toolbox column. Read more from Sheila Kennedy.

About the Author

Sheila Kennedy | CMRP

Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected] or www.linkedin.com/in/kennedysheila.

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