Magazine Article | January 25, 2007

Improve Safety, Reduce Insurance Costs

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

The Schwan Food Company saved approximately $10 million in fewer losses and reduced insurance costs by improving its safety record and electronically tracking proof of training and inspection.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2007

No matter what type of company you are, you need to comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) regulations. If you have employees that physically transport your products around the country, you have DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements to obey, as well. Demonstrating compliance can be difficult when documents are kept in paper form in disparate locations. The Schwan Food Company, which sells frozen food via delivery trucks, grocery store freezers, online, and food service locations, encountered this difficulty. Employee training, particularly on safety, is of utmost importance at Schwan, so its safety department sought a solution to efficiently track training awareness initiatives (i.e. documents proving participation/compliance, knowledge retention).

With 22,000 employees, the company needed a way to electronically track safety training information and report results. Safety training is conducted at nearly 500 sales and distribution centers throughout the United States that act as home bases for employees who deliver products to consumers' homes, grocers, and schools. "Previously, after safety training was conducted, we filed handwritten documents at each location," says Melissa Gile, safety specialist with The Schwan Food Company's corporate risk management department. "When the corporate office needed proof of safety information for OSHA, DOT, auditing, or insurance purposes, we contacted the depot to have documents sent to us." As a result, the risk management department faced large gaps in time waiting to obtain paper documents proving the completion of safety meetings, driver training, and safety policy adherence. "We also spent hours following up on deficiencies that were found by Schwan's corporate auditors," says Gile. "Ensuring compliant practice was not easy when documents weren't readily available."

Gile's boss met Creative Options representatives at a conference and was impressed with the software developer's products, since Schwan's internal IT department was unable to devote the time to create a training management solution internally. Gile worked with Creative Options to implement a solution. At the same time, Schwan developed additional safety techniques  to coincide with the solution implementation, which was coined Safe@Schwan's. Gile deployed the Employee Awareness and Training, as well as the COMPAS mobile audit software from Creative Options.

Electronically Monitor Employee KPIs
"The Employee Awareness and Training solution provides information on monthly key safety topics and employee quizzes," states Gile. "Additionally, new hire and annually conducted driver training, safety news, an electronic document library, and KPI (key performance indicator) safety score cards for all levels of management are contained within this system." The COMPAS mobile audit software is a Web-based system that enables several areas within Schwan to electronically capture self-inspections conducted at the sales and distribution centers, in addition to safety, corporate, and plant facility inspections. The solution includes security levels that allow access to safety results by district, region, and sales and distribution center. "Corporate departments no longer need to contact the sales and distribution centers for safety and training records," states Gile. "Furthermore, depots within a specified district can view one another's safety percentages, so a bit of healthy competition now exists between locations." Schwan provides quarterly recognition rewards to depots that have minimal losses and to those that have completed all inspections, awareness quizzes, and driver training.

Reap Savings By Integrating With Risk Management
Schwan interfaced the Creative Options system with its Driver Check System (the system that holds all information gathered from the "how is my driving" decals on the back of trucks) and its workers' compensation and auto liability loss data systems (currently residing in the AON Risk Management Console System). It deployed several other company safety programs and enhanced the system since implementation. As a result, in the last five years, the company experienced direct savings of approximately $10 million from fewer losses and reduced insurance premiums. This savings doesn't even account for the streamlined efficiency Schwan has experienced or the time savings in fewer auditing discrepancies.

Gile and the safety team intend to continue enhancing the company's safety solution. "We will expand the features on the Safe@Schwan's Web reporting site to create a driver profile area," states Gile. "This will enable all levels of management to view the drivers' risk levels and assign specific training to individuals to make them safer drivers. We also plan to tie the KPI safety scorecard results into managers' performance reviews. Through this process, the safety scores will directly impact managers' salaries to ensure all managers are aligned with the company's safety initiatives."

When the solution was initially installed, drivers and material-handling employees were tested via the IVR (interactive voice response) telephone system, which provided instant results of their testing. By the time this article is published, Schwan will have begun to eliminate the IVR testing process. Instead, those employees will have access to personal safety training information through the Web. Gile hopes to eliminate the IVR processing by mid-2007.

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