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Employee health and well-being at center of Deloitte’s ‘Reboot’ offering for business recovery

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Deloitte is introducing an approach for organizations to achieve a safe, secure and productive “Reboot” of operations, including both physical and virtual workplaces, as they transition from response mode and move toward increased productivity and recovery.

Deloitte’s Reboot model is employee-centric to help organizations manage between health, safety and financial concerns. Empathy and listening are at the core of Deloitte’s Reboot approach for employers, designed to build confidence and trust among their employees and to give them choices to opt-in and be heard.

In a May 18, 2020, Deloitte online poll of more than 1,100 business professionals, half of respondents noted that their definition of “reboot” was either getting their workforce back onsite or enhancing the productivity of virtual work. More than 40% of these same respondents noted “safety” as their primary objective over other such priorities spanning sales delivery, operational execution and financial stability.

“In the ‘next normal,’ there is no silver bullet for recovery,” said Jonathan Pearce, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and leader of Deloitte’s workforce strategy practice. ”Because every organization is different and the path forward will not be linear, employers need a flexible reboot approach that lets them dial components up and down at various moments along the journey. New information about public health risks and employee concerns will require employers to adjust their plans while staying the course to recovery.”

Deloitte’s approach evaluates each organization’s distinct circumstances, ranging from macro conditions such as health, industry and regulatory mandates, to micro conditions like facilities, infrastructure and individual worker preferences and requirements. The plan then establishes phases and work scenarios for individual teams and employees, along with monitoring and safety protocols tailored to each of those scenarios.

Deloitte’s Reboot catalog of tools helps companies create a personalized journey for employees as organizations navigate timing, readiness and how to reboot, and, ultimately spur recovery.

Deloitte’s extensive set of assets includes a command center; data and insights; a comprehensive back-to-work platform; and regulatory and compliance applications. These resources span risk prediction and mitigation; crisis response management and recalibration; supply chain disruption sensing and intelligence; and monitoring and insights into regulatory requirements.

Three key components in Deloitte’s Reboot approach that are tailored to an organization’s workforce, team and individual requirements include:

Workforce Reboot Analytics: When to reopen physical sites, what functions to prioritize; workforce readiness; workplace suitability, capacity and reconfiguration; and predicting health and infection risks are among the factors employers will have to assess in the reboot phase. Deloitte’s Workforce Reboot Analytics tools deliver the sensing and modeling capabilities to build a strategic plan for the workplace and recalibrate it to changing conditions.

MyPath™ to Work: A comprehensive, modular technology solution, MyPath™ to Work prepares organizations to manage new health risks to confidently reboot their workplaces. With a combination of tightly-integrated Deloitte and third-party technology and services, MyPath™ to Work is designed to enable enhanced workplace safety protocols such as screening and testing; visibility into risk factors; efficient and targeted interventions; and employee support, going well beyond standard contact tracing. MyPath™ to Work supports, engages, and empowers employees, contractors and customers throughout the reboot journey – all configured to the specific needs of each organization.

GovConnect: For government clients, Deloitte’s GovConnect offers a range of capabilities – contact tracing; interactive business engagement; CRM; case management, call center infrastructure, testing strategy, PPE inventory management; disease surveillance; immunization and vaccine management; and advanced analytics – also in a modular solution. GovConnect also includes mobile capabilities to allow for integration across employers, employees, visitors, contractors and campuses.

“An organization’s path to resilient recovery largely depends on how effectively it prioritizes and responds to the health and safety of its people,” said Asif Dhar, M.D., principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP and chief health informatics officer. “Tools like MyPath™ to Work and GovConnect enable employers to manage health risks specific to different job requirements, physical environments and geographical locations. Further, MyPath™ to Work and GovConnect take the technical capabilities required for precision and agility and personalize them for both the individual and organization’s journeys.”

Why this matters

“Reboot does not assume that plans are a ‘return to the way things were.’ With this in mind, employers should embrace a human-centric and ‘opt-in’ approach whenever possible vs. one that leads with corporate mandates,” said Gopi Billa, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and leader of Deloitte’s market sensing and scenario planning offering. “Employee health and safety are paramount to any plan to return an organization to operational effectiveness. Empowered employees reside at the heart of any return-to-work initiative.”

Deloitte’s pandemic response plan helps organizations prepare for a resilient recovery and incorporates a three-phased approach: Respond, Recover and Thrive. Reboot is the critical gateway between the Respond and Recover phases.

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Scholz and Macron threaten trade retaliation against Biden

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Image source: International Affairs

After publicly falling out, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron have found something they agree on: mounting alarm over unfair competition from the U.S. and the potential need for Europe to hit back, – writes POLITICO.

The German chancellor and the French president discussed their joint concerns during nearly three-and-a-half hours of talks over a lunch of fish, wine and Champagne in Paris.

They agreed that recent American state subsidy plans represent market-distorting measures that aim to convince companies to shift their production to the U.S., according to people familiar with their discussions. And that is a problem they want the European Union to address.

Both leaders agreed that the EU cannot remain idle if Washington pushes ahead with its Inflation Reduction Act, which offers tax cuts and energy benefits for companies investing on U.S. soil, in its current form. Specifically, the recently signed U.S. legislation encourages consumers to “Buy American” when it comes to choosing an electric vehicle — a move particularly galling for major car industries in the likes of France and Germany.

The message from the Paris lunch is: ‘If the U.S. doesn’t scale back, then the EU will have to strike back. That move would risk plunging transatlantic relations into a new trade war.’

Crucially, Berlin — which has traditionally been more reluctant when it comes to confronting the U.S. in trade disputes — is indeed backing the French push. Scholz agrees that the EU will need to roll out countermeasures similar to the U.S. scheme if Washington refuses to address key concerns voiced by Berlin and Paris, according to people familiar with the chancellor’s thinking.

Before bringing out the big guns, though, Scholz and Macron want to try to reach a negotiated solution with Washington. This should be done via a new “EU-U.S. Taskforce on the Inflation Reduction Act” that was established during a meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Pyle.

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Futuristic fields: Europe’s farm industry on cusp of robot revolution

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By Sofia Strodt

In the Dutch province of Zeeland, a robot moves swiftly through a field of crops including sunflowers, shallots and onions. The machine weeds autonomously – and tirelessly – day in, day out.

“Farmdroid” has made life a lot easier for Mark Buijze, who runs a biological farm with 50 cows and 15 hectares of land. Buijze is one of the very few owners of robots in European agriculture.

Robots to the rescue

His electronic field worker uses GPS and is multifunctional, switching between weeding and seeding. With the push of a button, all Buijze has to do is enter coordinates and Farmdroid takes it from there.

‘With the robot, the weeding can be finished within one to two days – a task that would normally take weeks and roughly four to five workers if done by hand,’ he said. ‘By using GPS, the machine can identify the exact location of where it has to go in the field.’

About 12 000 years ago, the end of foraging and start of agriculture heralded big improvements in people’s quality of life. Few sectors have a history as rich as that of farming, which has evolved over the centuries in step with technological advancements.

In the current era, however, agriculture has been slower than other industries to follow one tech trend: artificial intelligence (AI). While already commonly used in forms ranging from automated chatbots and face recognition to car braking and warehouse controls, AI for agriculture is still in the early stages of development.

Now, advances in research are spurring farmers to embrace robots by showing how they can do everything from meeting field-hand needs to detecting crop diseases early.

Lean and green

For French agronomist Bertrand Pinel, farming in Europe will require far greater use of robots to be productive, competitive and green – three top EU goals for a sector whose output is worth around €190 billion a year.

One reason for using robots is the need to forgo the use of herbicides by eliminating weeds the old-fashioned way: mechanical weeding, a task that is not just mundane but also arduous and time consuming. Another is the frequent shortage of workers to prune grapevines.

‘In both cases, robots would help,’ said Pinel, who is research and development project manager at France-based Terrena Innovation. ‘That is our idea of the future for European agriculture.’

Pinel is part of the EU-funded ROBS4CROPS project. With some 50 experts and 16 institutional partners involved, it is pioneering a robot technology on participating farms in the Netherlands, Greece, Spain and France.

‘This initiative is quite innovative,’ said Frits van Evert, coordinator of the project. ‘It has not been done before.’

In the weeds

AI in agriculture looks promising for tasks that need to be repeated throughout the year such as weeding, according to van Evert, a senior researcher in precision agriculture at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

‘If you grow a crop like potatoes, typically you plant the crop once per year in the spring and you harvest in the fall, but the weeding has to be done somewhere between six and 10 times per year,’ he said.

Plus, there is the question of speed. Often machines work faster than any human being can.

Francisco Javier Nieto De Santos, coordinator of the EU-funded FLEXIGROBOTS project, is particularly impressed by a model robot that takes soil samples. When done by hand, this practice requires special care to avoid contamination, delivery to a laboratory and days of analysis.

‘With this robot everything is done in the field,’ De Santos said. ‘It can take several samples per hour, providing results within a matter of minutes.’

Eventually, he said, the benefits of such technologies will extend beyond the farm industry to reach the general public by increasing the overall supply of food.

Unloved labour

Meanwhile, agricultural robots may be in demand not because they can work faster than any person but simply because no people are available for the job.

Even before inflation rates and fertiliser prices began to surge in 2021 amid an energy squeeze made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year, farmers across Europe were struggling on another front: finding enough field hands including seasonal workers.

‘Labour is one of the biggest obstacles in agriculture,’ said van Evert. ‘It’s costly and hard to get these days because fewer and fewer people are willing to work in agriculture. We think that robots, such as self-driving tractors, can take away this obstacle.’

The idea behind ROBS4CROPS is to create a robotic system where existing agricultural machinery is upgraded so it can work in tandem with farm robots.

For the system to work, raw data such as images or videos must first be labelled by researchers in ways than can later be read by the AI.

Driverless tractors

The system then uses these large amounts of information to make “smart” decisions as well as predictions – think about the autocorrect feature on laptop computers and mobile phones, for example.

A farming controller comparable to the “brain” of the whole operation decides what needs to happen next or how much work remains to be done and where – based on information from maps or instructions provided by the farmer.

The machinery – self-driving tractors and smart implements like weeders equipped with sensors and cameras – gathers and stores more information as it works, becoming “smarter”.

Crop protection

FLEXIGROBOTS, based in Spain, aims to help farmers use existing robots for multiple tasks including disease detection.

Take drones, for example. Because they can spot a diseased plant from the air, drones can help farmers detect sick crops early and prevent a wider infestation.

‘If you can’t detect diseases in an early stage, you may lose the produce of an entire field, the production of an entire year,’ said De Santos. ‘The only option is to remove the infected plant.’

For example, there is no treatment for the fungus known as mildew, so identifying and removing diseased plants early on is crucial.

Pooling information is key to making the whole system smarter, De Santos said. Sharing data gathered by drones with robots or feeding the information into models expands the “intelligence” of the machines.

Although agronomist Pinel doesn’t believe that agriculture will ever be solely reliant on robotics, he’s certain about their revolutionary impact.

‘In the future, we hope that the farmers can just put a couple of small robots in the field and let them work all day,’ he said.

Research in this article was funded by the EU. This material was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.   

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Energy News

Greek shipowners do not care about the boycott of Russian oil

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European sanctions against Russian oil will only lead to higher prices, it will hit the pocket of the end consumer, says Nicolas A. Vernicos, the largest Greek ship owner and president of the International Chamber of Commerce. He made this statement in connection with the decision of the European Union to impose a price cap on Russian oil.

The French ‘Liberation’ published an interview with N. Vernicos under the title “Russian oil: Greek shipowners, in whose hands half of the world’s  tankers, do not care about the boycott.”

Vernicos says: “Transportation costs, which are already skyrocketing, will rise even faster, but the embargo on the transportation of Russian oil by sea will have a positive effect on shipowners, because we will become richer.”

At the same time, he warns that Greece will comply with the new conditions. The European decision on sanctions will bring a net benefit only to maritime carriers. Nicolas A. Vernicos recalls: “The Greek shipping community is the strongest in the world… Nothing can be done without it, and the Greeks will definitely find a way around the sanctions.”

And on the fact that prices will rise, Russia will also earn.

‘Liberation’ writes that in the hands of the Greeks 21% of the world’s shipping tonnage and 40% of the world’s tonnage in the transportation of oil, their trade cooperation with Russia has existed since the 19th century, and they do not intend to stop it.

The EU countries have already agreed on the issue. An agreement was reached to set the price limit at $60 per barrel. The decision came into force on 5 December.

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