Fri, Sep 23, 2022
The World of Damstra — Why We Exist (Part 2)
By David M. Williams
Head of Engineering – Data and Business Intelligence,
Nobody – no manager, no employee, no contractor, nobody – wants people to die in the workplace.
That’s a confronting statement. It could be rephrased to be softer, but it’s this seriousness, this gravity that drives Katja Voegele, our Chief Product Officer, as she thinks about the Damstra Technology product portfolio.
We spoke last time about the Damstra mission of connecting and protecting your world. “We want to make sure, first and foremost, people go home safe every day,” Katja says, and that’s why we do what we do.
However, to find out what we do I caught up with Katja to understand her vision and strategy. Well … as Katja is a keen runner, I say “caught up” by webcam – certainly not on foot where she left me streets behind.
Katja came to Damstra Technology during the acquisition of Velpic – now eLearning – where she was the General Manager. Katja’s background spans a raft of executive roles in multinational organisations, even including running entertainment for Foxtel from Telstra. She’s tri-lingual and studied at the University of Tübingen in southwest Germany. The University boasts centuries of learning, opening in 1477. It counts astronomer Johannes Kepler among its alumni - as well as Katja and numerous other leaders who have transformed the world as we know it.
And when it comes to transforming the world, Katja’s aim is for Damstra’s product portfolio to drive the planet towards zero-fatality environments. “People die in construction, mining, shipyards, and the other industries we are in,” Katja notes. It is this sombre reality that focuses all Katja’s drive, energy, thinking, and time to building a product portfolio with purpose – a product that not only reduces fatalities, but has a hand in eradicating them entirely.
This is the Damstra EPP, the Enterprise Protection Platform, and this is what Damstra does.
The EPP is the core of what Damstra does and it embodies the mission and values of protection and safety. In a nutshell, the EPP is a modular risk management safety system that does not simply solve one issue or provide a single point solution, but is an all-encompassing platform that protects people on sites around the world. It deals with all the issues and reasons why people get hurt at work to provide proactive protection along with actionable insights. Sure, the EPP solves inspection planning, controls site access, provides training and forms, and ensures assets are compliant – but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The EPP has been deliberately named to position itself with terminology familiar to organisations of all sizes. Just as a company uses its Enterprise Resource Planning – or ERP system – to manage financials and operations, so too we want the C-level world to view and use the EPP as their risk management platform.
This is the stratosphere where the EPP sits – in the league of such luminaries as Oracle in the ERP world, or Salesforce in the CRM world, or WorkDay for HR, AWS for cloud … so too, there is an enterprise-grade risk management platform at this level, and that is the Damstra Enterprise Protection Platform.
Risk is the heart of the EPP; “protection is the inverse of risk,” Katja says. “If we decrease risk, we increase protection.” And not only risks the EPP user is aware of but risks they don’t even know they have. It’s these unforeseen risks that occupy a large part of Katja’s mind.
For example, the industry-wide benchmark for safety and compliance is LTI or lost-time injury. Safety officers, executives, and boards worldwide pore over LTI spreadsheets to slice and dice them every way they can. What body part? How long was the worker away? How was it treated?
Yet, as valuable as LTI is as a standard safety measure, it’s fundamentally not helpful in reducing fatalities because it measures other things.
The incidents where fatalities happen are those that do not happen often, by nature. So, while companies can, in all earnestness, measure all kinds of safety statistics about routine items, the sober reality is these may not ultimately prevent a workplace death.
There’s a story about Abraham Wald and the Statistical Research Group, a classified program during World War II where Americans applied statisticians to the war effort. Think Manhattan Project but with equations instead of explosions. One challenge put to the group was how to best protect military fighter planes. If the planes had too much armour, they were less manoeuvrable and less fuel-efficient. Yet, if they had too little armour, they were defenceless against hostile fire.
The group was tasked with finding the most efficient use of armour. The United States Military provided data it felt may be helpful; when planes came back from engaging with the enemy, they were covered in bullet holes – but these were not evenly distributed. There were far more bullet holes over the fuselage than the engine. Initial military logic suggested bolstering the parts of the plane with more bullet holes – namely, the fuselage. Yet, Wald said no – “the armour doesn’t go where the bullet holes are; it goes where the bullet holes aren’t – the engines.”
Why? Because the planes returning from combat demonstrated the fuselage already had tolerance for being shot at. The reason the bullet holes weren’t uniformly distributed on surviving planes, Wald said, was because the planes being shot in the engine weren’t returning at all, for the most part. So, the armour should go where the surviving planes weren’t showing as much damage.
This highlights the problems with routine safety inspections, and where the Enterprise Protection Platform stands up. Companies worldwide may well be performing audits, but without a strong application and information system to record and analyse and interpret results, companies can spend too much effort in auditing the things which result in fewer serious incidents and not auditing the things that result in infrequent but severe events.
Currently, the EPP provides a rich suite of modules like Workforce Management, Safety, Solo, Asset Management, eLearning, and Digital Forms, and the next piece of the journey is to harness the value of data to truly highlight to our clients the things they don’t know about – where the bullet holes aren’t.
Right now, there are three major activities on the EPP roadmap. This journey on unlocking the data for prediction and insights is one of them. The other two are continuing the current journey of integration and delivering workflow rules.
Integrating the EPP modules is what makes the EPP greater than the sum of its individual parts. Damstra has brought together great products – the original Damstra TWMS – now Workforce Management, Velpic – now eLearning, SAMM – now Digital Forms, Vault Enterprise – now Safety, Vault Solo – now Solo, SmartAsset – now Asset Management, and others such as EIFY and Scenario. However, making them work together seamlessly and leverage each individual module to contribute overall to protection is our competitive advantage.
Sure, any individual one of these modules may well have hundreds of competitors. Perhaps some even do specific things better than we do – at least, for now. The difference is nobody else has brought these discrete components together to the all-encompassing degree Damstra has in the form of the EPP, and this is our value proposition to enterprises.
For example, incidents happen onsite for many reasons, but one major cause is issues with heavy equipment. It’s only the Damstra EPP that integrates asset management, safety observations, and access control together - ensuring heavy equipment operation is limited to only those who are rostered and qualified to operate them and are not impaired in any way by alcohol or illicit drugs.
This integration is key to the EPP, but it’s important to understand the depth of what we mean by “integration.”
Yes, integration means we can set up a user in one system and they are a user in another. Single sign-on, or SSO, is helpful and efficient, but it’s not actually the true purpose of integration. What is, is “to create linkages that increase protection or reduce risk,” Katja says.
As an example, if an employee must be assessed in the field, it’s important the assessment is only taken by qualified people and if the assessment deems the person is not competent then the qualification is removed from their profile until they are re-assessed as competent. In this scenario, Digital Forms works together with Workforce Management to create protection. We ensure a trainee, for example, is not permitted to drive a forklift until they have sufficient experience and training and have been assessed as competent.
Another example is vehicle inspections being performed in Digital Forms with the results written back into Safety. And another is using Solo to identify workers entering a confined space without a license, as identified by Workforce Management, and alert it. Confined spaces are a key hazard onsite, and in this way the EPP provides a mechanism to protect people from themselves.
Katja can cite many examples of where EPP modules interact and it is these very linkages, this integration, which stands the EPP above and beyond a multitude of disparate and disconnected safety systems that our customers would otherwise have to manage themselves. This is Damstra’s competitive advantage, and it allows our customers to reduce risk, or at the least manage risk better, and to protect their world.
The third EPP stream of work, along with predictions and integration, is creating a workflow engine to allow customers to adjust processes to suit their own evolving site-specific requirements. Perhaps one client would like a single approver on specific items while another client requires multiple approvers.
Or the workflow engine could contain a series of scriptable actions and options. Let’s say a fall detection alert is trigged in Solo. The workflow steps would analyse how big the fall was and if the worker is moving or not. If not, dispatch an ambulance, or, if they can pick themselves up let’s automatically schedule a review with a nurse.
These things are powerful, and these things can be possible with a workflow engine.
To recap – the EPP is our product, and this product is the combination of a rich suite of safety-specific tools that all combine to maximise a company’s investment in its people and resources by protecting them. Ongoing work will drive greater integration between our modules, provide greater flexibility in customer-specific procedures through workflows, and will deliver intelligent insights via predictions.
From here, and looking to the future, the next step on the roadmap will join these together and integrate data science with workflows. To illustrate, all clients perform supervised observations in the field, but the supervisor must identify who requires an observation. Katja sees a future where the EPP combines smart algorithms with scheduling that – much like when Amazon says “people like you also like this book” – will recommend supervised observations that ought to be prioritised. Let’s say a company has activities coming up that require a forklift but there is only one person qualified and able to drive the forklift. Here, the algorithm would identify and surface people who have completed their forklift certification and practice and, for the lack of a safety observation, are ready to go – over other potentials who have more items pending.
There is so much more to say; right now, the EPP is already connecting and protecting the world for clients and workers across the globe and across many industries. The pillars are in place with a comprehensive risk management enterprise-grade platform. The roadmap promises more – more integration, more prediction and insights, and more customisation and flexibility.
This isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking. It's happening now. This is Damstra Technology. We connect and protect your world. That’s what we do. Everything we do is focused on creating and implementing the EPP and having a hand in a zero-fatality worksite world.