Working and conducting surveys during the pandemic

Risk Engineers spend a great deal of time meeting with customers, conducting on-site surveys and engaging with external stakeholders. During the pandemic, this type of work, which includes extensive international travel and face-to-face meetings with clients has been impacted heavily.

How are we supporting our customers during the covid-19 outbreak?

In Finland, there have been very few customer site visits during the crisis, and the number of international surveys has stopped completely. Generally, preparing and writing customer reports at home has gone smoothly as it is easier to focus on the work at hand. For many, it did not take long to get used to the new ways of working.

“When you learn to work remotely at the right rhythm, the work goes just fine,” says Ari Santavuori, Risk Engineer.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, on-site surveys did not end completely during the crisis. Still, Risk Engineers  Stefan Nyberg and Kristofer Gimlegård have also seen changes in their daily work.

According to Stefan Nyberg, “After the COVID-19 outbreak, of course, the work that previously included significant travel decreased to a large extent. Despite this, my clients within the Pulp and Paper industry have been able to organise physical meetings, with restrictions. With other clients, we have had contact and follow-up meetings online, which has worked better than expected.”

Kristofer Gimlegård explains that “Through active follow up and regular updates via remote surveys, we have continued to support our clients’ risk improvements and mitigation processes. During these strange times, it is important to work closely with our customers and support them.”

What are some of the big changes that have occurred since the outbreak?

“As soon as the state of emergency started in Finland, we had to cancel the agreed survey visits, while some of these were postponed. Also, many customers were happy to agree on conducting remote surveys,” says Veli-Matti Kortelainen, Risk Engineer.

Remote surveys have proven to be quite efficient in some cases. Generally, the surveys have proceeded as follows: meetings are held online or by phone, during these discussions the previous survey report is reviewed, along with recommendations, and photos taken by the customer in advance are examined.

Although not all clients have been able to take advantage of remote surveys, there are some who welcomed the opportunity. “Our experience has been that clients are very motivated and active in this regard. We have been able to access the agreed material in advance, as needed. Overall, these remote surveys have been very successful,” states Veli-Matti Kortelainen.

Stefan Nyberg comments, “Changes since the COVID-19 outbreak mainly consist of uncertainty as to whether or not planned visits will be made. For my part, there are many physical visits planned and ongoing in Sweden. Instead of flying however, I am travelling by car to these client locations around the country.”

Kristofer Gimlegård comments, “Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic timeline, planning physical surveys is challenging. As a risk engineer, the biggest change has been collecting risk information from sites remotely. However, support from both brokers and our clients has resulted in many successful remote surveys, ensuring risk quality on our accounts until we again can perform physical surveys.”

Working through the virus outbreak, new ways of working have emerged, introducing opportunities to improve efficiency.

What are some of the learnings from new ways of working during the pandemic?

Laura Rastas Jansson, Head of Property Risk Management Services, explains that in a normal year, “our property risk engineers spend more than 1,300 days providing risk management services on-site to our corporate clients globally. The pandemic situation naturally has caused a disturbance to the normal way of working. However, with a rather short notice, we have managed to find good alternative ways to do our work.”

“Our experiences about the remote survey work during the crisis have been positive.” Laura Rastas-Jansson states, “In many cases remote surveys work well, provided that these are carefully planned, remote connections work properly, and all the participants – there should not be too many at once – are well prepared for the survey session.

Of course, remote survey is not an optimal solution for all kinds of sites, for example new facilities which have not been visited by our risk engineers previously, or sites where significant changes in production process have taken place after the previous visit”.

During the coronavirus outbreak, global partners play a valuable role. “In addition to our own risk engineers conducting surveys – on-site and remote – we have well established cooperation with selected external risk engineering partners. These relationships are based on solid foundations, which allows us to visit faraway sites also during the crisis, provided that the local situation allows on-site visits.”

Laura Rastas Jansson concludes that “We also see clearly that our clients’ positive approach towards remote surveys and other alternative ways of working during the COVID-19 crisis opens new opportunities for the ways of doing risk engineering work when we return to normal times.”

What are some of the notable highlights and experiences that have emerged?

Good experiences so far include:

  • Benefits of working from home includes having more time to really delve deeper into discussions with the client and provide comprehensive recommendations.
  • When conducting a remote survey, our preparations must be thorough to ensure efficiency, thus we have requested and received more comprehensive pre-materials from clients.
  • Many clients also have more time to complete in-depth work, which has allowed for shorter meetings than during normal factory visits.
  • In some cases, surveys have been split into multiple sessions, which has made it easier to organize discussions in smaller groups.

Article by: Carita Hämäläinen-Tallgren

Contributors: Veli-Matti Kortelainen, Ari Santavuori, Stefan Nyberg, Kristofer Gimlegård, Laura Rastas Jansson