6 Hazards for Construction Firms
The Risk List is presented by:
2018 is shaping up to be a year of historic shift for U.S. manufacturing. Tax reform, favorable regulatory changes, advances in industrial technology, and an improving economy and unemployment rate all present opportunities for organic growth.
“Many manufacturers expect to increase sales in 2018, both domestically and abroad,” said Stacie Graham, Senior Vice President and General Manager, National Insurance, Central Division, for Liberty Mutual Insurance. “Recent tax and regulatory changes in particular present opportunities to increase exports to international markets.”
But there are persistent operational challenges that could block manufacturers from seizing these opportunities. An industry-wide talent shortage and skills gap hinder growth potential for U.S manufacturers. To overcome them, apprenticeships and efficiency tools like co-bots could be the way forward.
According to a 2017 report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. manufacturing industry could be short by about two million workers over the 2015–2025 period.
“The labor participation rate will continue to drop through 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This shift is largely driven by aging workers who are retiring—and there isn’t enough new talent in the pipeline to replace them,” Graham said.
The manufacturing sector — like many others– needs to invest more in attracting and training talent. Some of the difficulty could stem from what Graham called an “image problem.”
“There’s a perception that manufacturing is not a viable career path, because automation is taking over, or because it’s dangerous, or simply because many jobs on the factory floor seem repetitive,” she said. Less than five in 10 Americans surveyed by Deloitte believe manufacturing jobs are interesting, rewarding, clean, safe, stable, or secure.
The increasingly technical nature of manufacturing work may also present challenges, as potential job candidates may not have the right skills.
Manufacturers are feeling the pinch. In a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, companies indicated that attracting and maintaining a quality workforce is a top challenge.
Now is the time for manufacturers to address these operational challenges so they can be successful in the long term.
When it comes to training new skills, earlier is better for both employees and businesses. Manufacturers that invest in apprenticeship programs targeting younger applicants can help to teach the necessary skills to a pool of talent early in their career journeys.
For example, Germany adopted an apprenticeship model in the mid-2000s, which helped decrease the youth unemployment rate from a high of 15.9 percent in 2005 to 6.6 percent in 2017. In the U.S., the youth unemployment rate reached 10.1 percent in 2017.
“There is a big opportunity to tap into that pool,” Graham said. “And if apprentices have good experiences, they’ll spread the word among their peers, helping to cultivate a continuing pipeline of talent.”
Talent development and training may not completely bridge the gap created by a mass exodus of retirees, and that’s where collaborative robots —or co-bots — come into play.
As the name suggests, co-bots work alongside human workers, not replace them entirely.
By performing tasks that pose ergonomic or other safety risks to employees, co-bots can free up employees for higher-level thinking tasks like quality control or the actual programming of co-bots.
“Co-bots boost worker efficiency and can reduce the total number of employees on the floor,” Graham said, but they don’t come without their own challenges.
Brokers can play a key role in helping their clients take advantage of the efficiency gains promised by co-bots while mitigating the risks. Here are five areas brokers should address with their clients to help them effectively implement co-bot technology:
The right insurer can help brokers address these areas and help their clients take advantage of the business opportunities ahead.
Liberty Mutual’s team of risk control consultants can help create company-specific safety checklists to help ensure that co-bots don’t present a bigger threat than opportunity.
“Members of our risk control team specialize in manufacturing. They sit on health and safety committees and take part in discussions about standards for industrial robots and co-bots,” Graham said. “They help ensure we’re keeping up with industry changes so we can provide the right guidance.”
Industry-specific expertise is complemented by broad range of coverages, from standard to E&S lines, offered by Liberty Mutual and Ironshore, now a Liberty Mutual company.
“We have such a wide breadth of products available for manufacturers, from small and mid-size to very large. Whether it’s a guaranteed cost policy or a loss responsive policy, we can build a program that makes the most sense for that company,” Graham said.
Liberty Mutual also offers specific endorsements for industrial equipment, metal, plastics, and food manufacturers, including commercial general liability enhancements and E&O coverage claims-made and defense within limits.
“Our job is to make it easy for brokers to find the right mix of coverage and services their clients need to be successful. “We’re able to do that with our risk control resources and flexibility in building program structures that work.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.
In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.
But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.
“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.
“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.
“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”
Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.
“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”
Yin and Yang
Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.
She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.
In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.
In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.
She was hooked.
Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.
She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.
As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.
She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”
“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin
Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.
After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.
“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”
She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.
“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”
She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.
After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.
In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.
“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”
Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.
“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.
“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”
Building a K&R Program
When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.
She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.
“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.
“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”
“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin
Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.
“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”
But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.
“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.
After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.
“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”
“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”
Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.
“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &