This Manufacturing Risk Manager Tells Us How Technology Is Changing Her Job

The manufacturing industry has unique cyber exposures, and this risk manager knows it’s important to stay on top of the sector’s rapidly changing use of technology. 
By: | March 5, 2019 • 4 min read

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I was fortunate to have an internship after my junior year with Rockwell International in pension assets. That led to an opportunity upon graduation to accept a position with them in benefits administration. A few years later a position in risk management was offered. I was very fortunate, because it fit exactly what I liked to do. It turned out to be a perfect fit for me. Since then, I have had jobs on all sides of insurance, risk management, underwriting and even brokerage to round out my experience.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Cyber security risk. Access to connected equipment could lead to a network security failure in either our business or operational systems. It’s a concern.


R&I: What are some trends or changes you’re watching specific to cyber?

Specific to manufacturing, it is an interesting time to be seriously looking at cyber insurance. The insurance carriers are better understanding the risk. They have developed insurance policies that work best for manufacturing; previously the terms and conditions were geared more toward risks for financial institutions.

A couple of years ago, it wasn’t a good cyber marketplace for manufacturing, but it’s all coming together now. I’d say today there are good options available. I think the insurance markets are identifying tools to help them better understand our exposures compared to other industries.

R&I: What kinds of tools are insurers using to better understand the risk?

Carriers are refining their application process, moving away from a paper process and bringing it online. They’ve been able to refine the questions to better understand what risks we face and/or what companies like us have been doing to be proactive to prevent unauthorized access to business or operational systems, as well as what we avoid.

R&I:  How do you think technology will continue to shape the industry?

Technology is always evolving. Today it’s very important that the risk manager is involved in the discussion as we procure new equipment that includes automation and other IT-related exposures. We need to understand the scope of services, how the technology is tied to either the operation or business systems, and how we can best mitigate and/or transfer that risk contractually in agreements or use outside services to help us manage.


R&I: How are you leveraging partners to help mitigate your cyber risks?

From the insurance perspective, ATI has utilized our insurance broker Aon to help keep us abreast of the marketplace, expectations, regulatory and compliance concerns. We have partnered with their subsidiary, Stroz Friedberg, for incident response services. Our insurance coverage counsel, K&L, provides valuable insight by their experience, and now that we have purchased coverage, we anticipate working more with our insurance carriers.

“Technology is always evolving. Today it’s very important that the risk manager is involved in the discussion as we procure new equipment that includes automation and other IT-related exposures.”

R&I: Were there any particularly unique or difficult challenges you’ve overcome in your career?

Educating a new group to the value of risk management in the review and decision-making process. Whether it was avoidance, acceptance, safety practices, financial controls, contractual risk transfer or gathering better insurance exposure information. Anything that could better protect the financial interests of the company by ultimately eliminating or reducing claims, litigation and premiums.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I get to work with every department within the corporate office as well as at the business unit level — all the way from the shop floor up to the board of directors. I never have a dull day. I feel as though what we do is value added to help others make better-informed business decisions and protect the people, assets and reputation of the company.

R&I: What do you find most interesting about the industry you work in?

The cyclical nature of supply and demand. There’s a constant evolution and improvement in advancing technology. We must stay ahead of it and adapt accordingly.

I try to stay informed. I listen to our management communications by keeping an ear open to what’s happening within the various disciplines of the company and then thinking about how it may change us in terms of our exposures and the potential impact. Whether it’s new suppliers, new customers, changes in the way we deliver products, regulatory, compliance or political issues that may impact us.


R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?

For students, I think it is important to take diverse coursework that involves project management, accounting, business law, strategic marketing, communications and quantitative analysis. What’s key in risk management is how well you deliver on interpersonal relationships — you need to work within all levels of an organization. And you need to have the negotiation skills to represent the company you work for and what makes them unique and different to the marketplace.

R&I:  What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

I asked my husband what he thought my answer should be. Of course he said the riskiest thing I’ve ever done was marry him. And the reason is, I tend to be a rule-follower, which helps me be a good risk manager, and he is much more of a risk-taker. So he helps push me to do new activities.

I’ve never jumped out of an airplane or bungee-jumped, but we’re boaters, we’re skiers, we’re hikers, and recently became rowers. We once rode our bikes from Pittsburgh to D.C. He encourages me try new adventures. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]