Manufacturing group uses AI for EHS safety compliance

To pinpoint risky and dangerous incidents in workplace environments without having to sift through thousands of data points, a manufacturing group turned to Benchmark Gensuite.

The Heico Companies has found help in the form of AI technology to identify risky situations.

As a group of different construction and manufacturing companies with a significant amount of data flagging incidents that could potentially lead to a fatality, the Heico Companies wanted a way to sort out the most concerning incidents from the least.

Looking to comply with environment, health and safety (EHS) standards without manually analyzing a large quantity of incident data, the Heico Companies began searching for a company or technology that could take the manual labor out of searching for potentially serious incidents (PSIs).

"Our goal is to prevent big events or a fatality or a significant injury to somebody," said David Roberts, vice president of environment, health and safety for the holding group, which owns four manufacturing companies.

Finding the right tool

While the Heico Companies was searching for this technology, Benchmark Gensuite, a vendor specializing in EHS compliance software, was looking to use AI technology to build a tool that would generate insights about EHS risks and use those insights to mitigate risks more effectively.

The vendor started working with some of its longstanding customers, including the Heico Companies, to gain access to data that could be used to create an AI tool that identifies PSIs.

"The Benchmark Gensuite folks approached me and said, 'Hey, we know you're looking at this. We're trying out this new AI advisor to help you find those things,'" Roberts said. "I was like, 'Let's try it. Let's go for it.'"

To build a tool that helps flag PSIs, Benchmark Gensuite created PSI AI Advisor. It used publicly available data to create the AI "brain."

"This is a pretty powerful decision-making AI that needs to be taught about all the different risks and scenarios that have existed across all different industries," said Natasha Porter, chief customer officer at Benchmark Gensuite. "There's a lot of work that really went into having to train the AI brain on how to do this and provide feedback so it became more accurate in its determinations."

After creating PSI AI Advisor, Benchmark Gensuite developed a tool called Risk AI Advisor that alerts EHS leaders and their staff to potentially serious incidents, or precursors, so that managers can take action.

PSI AI Advisor and Risk AI Advisor outputs are generated with multilayer natural language processing models with a custom large language model, according to Benchmark Gensuite.

Screenshot of a demo dashboard in Risk AI Advisor.
The Heico Companies uses Benchmark Gensuite's Risk AI Advisor to determine potentially serious incidents within its work environment.

Risk AI and the Heico Companies

When Benchmark Gensuite approached the Heico Companies with the AI tools, the holding company provided the vendor with two and a half years' worth of incident report data, beginning in 2020.

The Risk AI Advisor tool then compared the data points provided by the Heico Companies with publicly available data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to find reports of incidents that could cause serious injuries or a fatality.

Out of about 22,000 data points, the AI tool identified about 700 data points that showed incidents that could cause serious harm or death, Roberts said.

It's very attractive to our leadership team as well because you can easily get bogged down with a lot of data.
David RobertsVice president of environment, health and safety, The Heico Companies

"It takes all the human analysis out of that," he said. "It's very attractive to our leadership team as well because you can easily get bogged down with a lot of data. This gets right to the heart of 'here's the ones that maybe you should be paying closer attention to.'"

Since being one of the first users of Risk AI Advisor, the Heico Companies has been able to feed the technology real-time data so that it easily identifies potentially harmful incidents. This allows the Heico Companies to solve a problem before it actually occurs, Roberts said.

It also enables the manufacturing and construction group to analyze trends that help it with its EHS continuous improvement plan, he added.

Room for improvement

However, while the tool is fairly accurate, it's not perfect, Roberts said.

"I would say it's conservative," he said. For example, if a user reports a dropped object at a construction site, the AI tool doesn't understand how far the object dropped. "With no other context, it's probably going to flag it as a potentially severe event because it just doesn't know. Now, that said, that's where we want to train it to get smarter."

Benchmark Gensuite has worked to improve that aspect of the AI brain, Porter said.

The vendor incorporated an AI tool called Describe-It AI Advisor that can help users in their description of different incidents or reports so that the incidents analyzed by PSI AI Advisor or Risk AI Advisor can be as accurate as possible. Describe-It AI does this by providing suggestions for a user writing an incident report using a generative AI function called Genny AI.

But even with that tool, about 4% of data points from the Heico Companies get falsely identified as PSIs, Roberts said. For the Heico Companies' leaders, the upside of this is it gives them a chance to provide the tool with feedback for training, which then gets sent to Benchmark Gensuite.

Other than working with Benchmark Gensuite, the Heico Companies is experimenting with other AI technologies to help with compliance with EHS standards, Roberts said.

For example, the group is experimenting with ways that video analytics could help with risk. A video could find a risky situation before a human does. While the technology exists, putting it to work is challenging, he said.

While other vendors such as AuditBoard or Workiva provide similar risk assessments, the Heico Companies has found a better match with Benchmark Gensuite, according to Roberts.

"The tool is good because it can be customizable," Roberts said. "They can adapt to the size and risks of your companies, and they're very innovative."

Current Benchmark Gensuite customers pay between $25,000 to $50,000 at an annual recurring rate for the Risk AI Advisor application, while new customers pay a higher price.

Esther Ajao is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering artificial intelligence software and systems.

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