Marsh powers up during the pandemic and beyond with Assisted Reality by RealWear


Marsh McLennan is a global professional services firm, headquartered in New York City with businesses in insurance brokerage, risk management, reinsurance services, talent management, investment advisory, and management consulting.

Its four main operating businesses are Marsh, Guy Carpenter, Mercer, and OliverWyman. Marsh is the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor, helping clients with data-driven risk solutions and advisory services to better understand and better manage the risks they face, advising on emerging risks and endeavouring to ensure they have the resiliency to withstand the unexpected.

Marsh works on behalf of clients of all sizes and in every industry, including businesses, government entities, multinational organisations and individuals around the world. Services span risk management, risk consulting, insurance broking, alternative risk financing and insurance program management services.

Within the energy and power sector, around 50% of Marsh’s client portfolio is in the downstream and midstream segments. It also operates in upstream space, which is experiencing a major growth in renewable energy sources. When undertaking risk surveys, Marsh typically visits a petrochemical site, refining complex or manufacturing facility for a period of three or four days in order to undertake a full risk profile of the site.

This information is then incorporated within the risk rating that goes into the insurance placement and helps the brokers negotiate the right level of insurance premium. Marsh also works with client management teams to help them to identify where any risk management improve areas are versus the industry benchmark. They then work to close these gaps with the aim of reducing a company’s risk profile over a period of years, which can also help to prevent costly incidents.

Historically, Marsh has visited the sites in person together with two or three members of the insurance market. “These facilities range from hundreds of millions to billions in terms of sums insured, so there is no one company that can insure all of this by themselves and take on that kind of risk,” explains Zaid A. Laftah, vice president – risk engineering at Marsh. “So, a refinery or petrochemical complex typically will have around 30 insurance markets/companies, all of which take a small line on the insurance programme.”

Pandemic challenges

However, for the past year the pandemic has meant Marsh hasn’t been able to make in-person visits in the way it had been used to doing. “The first quarter of last year will be remembered for a number of strict lockdowns across the globe, and this understandably caused issues from a business continuity perspective,” continues Laftah. “And in the absence of good quality underwriting information the insurers will price in an uncertainty factor into the insurance premiums as a matter of policy. This is because they don't know precisely how the site is operating under a pandemic. For example, are they deferring critical maintenance activities? Nevertheless, our job first and foremost is to continue to represent the client's interest, setting out to differentiate their risk and provide good information to allow underwriters to assess the risk with reduced uncertainty.”

Marsh considered four different scenarios that could come about in terms of business continuity. “The first one was the scenario whereby if COVID-19 passed quicker than anticipated how could a Marsh engineer and insurance underwriting engineer visit the site as normal,” explains Laftah. “Scenario two considered travel restrictions resulting in only one person being permitted to visit the site rather than the usual team of 4 or 5 to reduce risk. Scenario three anticipated the possibility that there would be no site access for anybody. Indeed, this is the current scenario in a number of countries. Scenario four considered the possibility of having no site access but being able to provide the site with a device that would allow us to undertake surveys remotely.”

With this scenario in mind, Marsh made two fundamental changes to the way it operated, as Laftah explains. “First, we developed a virtual survey approach that utilised conferencing facilities in order for us to speak with key personnel and ascertain their current modus operandi under the new circumstances. The second phase was to get virtual boots on the ground, to have somebody with the right technology that can enable them to walk round the site and digitally beam the video and audio data back to us remotely.”

Search for the right solution

The next stage was to determine what the best device would be for this purpose. “When we set out to source the best solution for our needs we first came up with some key criteria that we then used to guide our hardware search,” Laftah points out. “First, we wanted a solution that had a live video feed with a two-way microphone for conference calls so that we could guide individuals round the site and see what they are seeing and ensure that they can also see us. Secondly, we needed the device to have the highest possible rating in terms of an intrinsically safe design, including ATEX certification for use in hydrocarbon environments. 

“Thirdly, we wanted a device that offered hands-free operability and for it to be able to securely and easily connect to a user’s helmet without compromising any personal protective equipment worn by the operator. Fourthly, we needed the device’s battery to provide at least four hours of continuous use before charging intervals. The fifth criterion was that the headset needed to be comfortable to wear, easy to use in order for us to be able to train users within a short timeframe; typically, 45 minutes to an hour. We knew we didn’t need lots of bells and whistles on the device; we just needed to be able to log in, connect to a call and be able to see what users are seeing and for them to hear what we are saying. Finally, we wanted to have a collaborative partnership with the provider of the device because we wanted to have ongoing support at hand to make sure that our best interests are being met going forwards.”

RealWear HMT-1 Assisted Reality Wearable Solution

After much investigation and surveying of the market, the search ultimately led Marsh to sourcing the RealWear HMT-1 assisted reality wearable solution for industrial workers. The fully rugged head mounted RealWear device optionally snaps into safety helmets or attaches to bump caps and can be used with safety glasses or corrective eyewear. The high-resolution micro display fits just below the user’s line of sight and views like a 7” tablet. It is an industrial dashboard: there when you need it and out of your way when you don’t. The device is optimised for completely hands-free voice control. That means no scrolling, swiping, or tapping – just simple voice commands. It can be used for remote mentor video calling, document navigation, guided workflow, mobile forms and industrial IoT data visualisation.

“RealWear has more than met our expectations,” says Laftah. “We believe RealWear is here to stay, which is important for us as we don't want to invest in this type of mission-critical device and then watch the provider disappear from the market after a couple of years. We are confident we definitely made the right solutions choice.”

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