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Digitization can shape a company’s safety culture (with video)

‘The data was so rich and so meaningful. It allowed us to look at all the data coming from our talent management programs and splice it and dice it and use the analytics and insights in different ways,’ says PepsiCo’s Cormac Gilligan during FreightWaves summit

KINETIC CEO Haytham Elhawary (left) chats with PepsiCo’s Cormac Gilligan. (Photo: FreightWaves)

Using data collected from innovative technology such as wearables not only supports safety measures and productivity, according to Cormac Gilligan, global vice president of environment, health and safety for PepsiCo Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP). It can also provide employees with a sense of ownership because of the data’s real-life applications.

Gilligan pointed to PepsiCo’s adoption of employees using wearables during certain work shifts or manufacturing plants and distribution centers. The wearables allowed employees to see how they moved, collecting data on “high-risk postures” such as twisting and turning one’s body. PepsiCo then used that data to identify and fix work design issues or process problems, Gilligan said during a virtual fireside chat on the roles of digitization and automation in frontline safety during FreightWaves’ The Future of Logistics Real Estate summit Tuesday. 

“What you have going on … is something that starts out as a digitalized analytics tool which fundamentally starts driving culture change for you. And that’s incredibly powerful and that’s something we’ve never had before with our ergo[nomics] program,” Gilligan told Haytham Elhawary, the CEO of KINETIC, a company that builds wearable devices to reduce workplace injuries.

Gilligan said the wearables program was empowering for employees because it felt less like a supervisory type of intervention but as a technology that enables employees to act differently. Employees could ask questions and help redesign work processes in such a way that prevented high-risk postures.  

“We’ve always done a lot of the traditional ergonomics work and trying to do as much as we can, but there was always something missing. It was always that behavioral element that we never really tapped right into to create a sense of ownership … and help [individual employees] behave posturally in a different way,” Gilligan said.

Before the wearables program, PepsiCo undertook a telematics program in which it collected data from devices that it had put on company vehicles to ensure safe practices. The goal was not only to achieve zero injuries but also to develop programs that influenced driver behavior and added value to employees’ wellness agendas, Gilligan said. 

“The data was so rich and so meaningful. It allowed us to look at all the data coming from our talent management programs and splice it and dice it and use the analytics and insights in different ways,” Gilligan said.

The ability to capture and correlate that data and analyze it quickly helped supervisors have more meaningful and productive conversations with truck drivers, he said. 

“It step-changed completely our overall view of safety performance,” Gilligan said.

As the freight transportation industry moves into automation, Gilligan finds that automation doesn’t necessarily mean driverless fleets. That technology might be five or more years away, he said. But rather, the industry will use automation by layering technology to solve a particular problem or augment the existing workforce in areas such as warehousing and storage.

“Solutions like what we’re talking about, integrating wearable technology with your workforce, is going to be a fundamental part of that future kind of space of automation,” Gilligan said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.