These 4 Smart Technologies Will Change Product Recall in 2020

By: | April 25, 2019

Mark LeBlanc joined Swiss Re Corporate Solutions in 2016 and runs Crisis Management for North America. With over 20 years' experience in the market, he has been a key contributor in developing product contamination and product recall coverages for the food, cosmetics, component and consumer products industries.

2019 is here which means 2020 is just around the corner. The rapid-fire advances and increased adoption of smart technology will change the way manufacturers detect and respond to product recalls. Here are some of the new technologies on the horizon.

1) Vision Inspection Systems

Vision inspection systems use optical character recognition (OCR) to let robots “see.” The systems can inspect, identify, count and measure products in a wide range of sectors from food to pharmaceuticals. The systems can reduce labeling mistakes because their intelligent image recognition systems match labels to products, check “use by” dates and ensure that the packaging has the right product at the right levels. Additionally, many machine vision systems can be incorporated with other line technologies, streamlining the entire process.

2) Warehouse Execution Systems

The “Holy Grail” for all manufacturers is a system that prevents contaminated products from ever leaving the facility, and recent advances in “smart” software systems show tremendous potential.

A warehouse execution system (WES) is software that combines a warehouse management system (WMS) and a warehouse control system (WCS) into a single application. The WES helps manufacturers and distributors discover and respond to recalls quickly and efficiently because it can determine what specific products need to be recalled and help identify the affected inventory.

WES solutions can also provide automatic alerts when products are contaminated, so manufacturers can prevent bad products from ever leaving the facility. WES systems support track-and-trace from origin to point of sale and easily allow companies to provide their customers with all of the information they need to identify and return recalled products efficiently, saving time and money.

3) Recall Alert Apps

Finally, there’s an app for that!

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) integrated recall information into its FoodKeeper app. A growing number of industries now use apps to alert consumers of recalls. Some retailers even incorporate recall information into their apps, promoting the feature as a public service. There is also a growing use of personalized direct notifications. For example, a consumer with a severe peanut allergy would be able to request real time alerts only for peanut products.

4) Automated Automobile Software Updates

Using over the air fixes to prevent recall fatigue

Automatic over the air (OTA) software updates have been used for laptops and cell phones, and are increasingly being used by the auto industry. Instead of asking drivers to go to the dealer for repairs and replacements, automakers will be able to push OTA updates directly to owners. Ford and General Motors recently announced that some of their 2020 models will have OTA capability that will upgrade vehicles with new features or even remotely fix faulty software.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only 62% percent of recalled cars ever get repaired–even after owners have been sent multiple notices. OTA may eliminate the compliance problems, and save millions of dollars in maintenance work.

From the assembly lines to robotic operations, manufacturing companies have seen once-thought impossible achievements become reality. Smart technologies promise a bright future with fewer recalls.

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]