With the coronavirus crisis ushering in a new world, businesses – including insurance companies – have had to change accordingly, transforming how they operate under the current circumstances. For FM Global Australia, whose office-based employees have all worked from home since March, the pandemic has altered the firm’s risk engineering approach.
“While we prefer for our consultant engineers to visit our clients’ locations to get a full perspective of the risk, it hasn’t been possible due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19,” FM Global Australia operations manager Lynette Schultheis (pictured) told Insurance Business. “Instead, we’ve developed something we call remote engineering where our engineers and clients use a proprietary app to communicate and conduct a virtual visit.
“We have a video call with a client (just like with Teams or Zoom), but by using technology the client can walk through their facility and our engineers can see what the client sees via their mobile phone. We can take videos, photographs and collaborate ‘on the fly’ to help solve engineering challenges and get a good feel for the risks and exposures without going on to their site.”
Meanwhile, as restrictions begin to lift, Schultheis said FM Global’s engineers in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Queensland can now start conducting in-person site assessments.
She, however, added: “We’re not forcing them to do that; it’s still voluntary and based on whether the client is happy to have a third party onsite. Of course, we use personal protective equipment and social distancing to make sure it’s as safe as it can be.”
In the operations manager’s view, a positive outcome from the crisis is how “it has made us think outside the way we’ve traditionally approached things.”
Schultheis believes that many organisations, not just FM Global, have learned to be more efficient and innovative as a result of COVID-19, with the lessons having the potential to be taken and applied well into the future.
“For example,” she illustrated, “while our preference will always be to have our engineers onsite with our clients, because you can’t grasp everything you need to from afar, I do think we will keep a version of remote engineering, perhaps more so for the less hazardous industries.
“We wouldn’t necessarily continue to do remote engineering because people want to work remotely, but more so because it adds some efficiencies to the process. We’ve learnt how we can gain so much information before we ever go onsite.”
Also, FM Global is likely to continue using technologies such as drones, reducing the need for risk engineers to climb on to roofs during site checks.
On a personal level, Schultheis thinks among the key takeaways is the story of resilience amid one of the worst events in history.
“Of course, there are many people who are struggling, which is incredibly unfortunate, but by and large, a lot of people have adapted remarkably well,” she said. “I think it’s also made us appreciative of our office environments and the collaboration they supported.
“It’s also encouraged people to make more of an effort to stay in touch with people, employees, family, and friends. It’s reinforced the need to reach out. It’s also highlighted the fact that everyone has a personal life, not just a work life.”