Partners in Building Safer Cultures
"Look for a strengthening of the relationships with our customers in distribution. We'll create relationships that are even smarter, more efficient, and more mutually beneficial," Sach Sankpal, Honeywell Safety Products' president, says in this exclusive interview.
You were just appointed as president for Honeywell Safety Products. How has your background prepared you for your new position?
I have been fortunate to acquire a broad range of experiences throughout my career at different businesses and in different geographies--from Europe, the Middle East, and India to Japan.
When I first came to Honeywell, as vice president of strategy & marketing in Honeywell Life Safety, I was able to gain a thorough understanding of Honeywell and its wide range of businesses, and their go-to-market strategies with partners around the world. I’ve acquired a deep appreciation of our R&D abilities and the exciting new technology that we are introducing throughout our business units. I am looking forward to leveraging Honeywell’s global strengths--and technological applications--in the form of new PPE innovations and improved business practices for the benefit of our customers and end users.
I've had the opportunity to cooperate closely with local and regional distributors, learn of their challenges, and work with them so that we could better support their efforts and help them and our end users succeed.
What is the role of Honeywell Safety Products in the safety industry?
Honeywell Safety Products is one of the largest players in the industry. We are number one in many major markets. We are backed by truly global R&D, manufacturing, and distribution centers, plus an amazing array of state-of-the-science technologies and services. Last year, we unveiled our new 10,000-square-foot training facility in Houston, which features nine simulators for real-life-experience training.
It is our goal to be recognized as the undisputed expert on building cultures of safety by partnering with our distributors in the implementation of successful programs and by sharing our vision of the solutions needed to enhance cultures of safety around the world.
What will be your focus as president of Honeywell Safety Products?
To continue our legacy mission--our noble cause--of keeping workers everywhere safe. We will build on our premier position in the global safety industry by expanding our total safety solutions, which combine leading-edge personal protective equipment, training, services, and value-added programs that support enduring cultures of safety.
We'll utilize new technology to advance our PPE solutions as well as to improve their availability, implementation, and support. Digital technologies--online, mobile, smart apps--will enable our customers and end users to further improve the management, analysis, and support of the safety programs in which our PPE is used.
What do you foresee as the upcoming trends and issues for the safety industry itself during the remainder of 2014 and for 2015 and beyond?
We see continued economic improvements in the U.S. and other markets around the world. We also see some of the high-growth regions adopting more stringent safety policies and regulations. But the world is still not where we would like it to be in terms of a "zero-injury safety culture." However, it is extremely encouraging to witness a continually increasing emphasis worldwide on safety consciousness in the workplace. As a result, I expect government regulations and workplace practices to continue evolving in support of increased worker safety.
Technology is a major and exciting trend: Smart apps, advanced materials, real-time reporting and analysis on the product front, plus advancements in ordering, inventory, service, support, and management in the way we in the safety industry do business.
Workers, meanwhile, are increasingly realizing the importance of safety as part of their personal work culture. In a recent survey we conducted with ASSE, 64 percent of respondents stated that safety, health, and environmental practices are an essential part of their work.
That said, behavior-based safety training--relating to product usage and best safety practices--will continue as a critical need across industries and geographies.
Before becoming president of HSP, you had the advantage of leading Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India (EMEAI) operations for the company. Talk to us about the global nature of the safety industry.
Being a global company gives us a wider perspective of customer needs across cultures and geographies. And because we are global, we are also able to tap into innovation in different regions and benefit from sourcing resources, talent, technology, best practices, and experience on a worldwide basis. We do live the cliché "think global, act local." It is very much a business requirement for our distribution, sales, and service functions because EMEAI is not a homogenous region. We worked closely with our distributors to respect the nuanced complexities of the multiple countries, languages, cultures, and regulations that make up the region and improved our practices, products, and services to better serve both them and their customers.
How would you characterize the culture of safety? What is its impact on the success of the safety industry as a whole and on safety programs at individual work sites?
We believe that safety cultures are not separate from, but are an integral part of the manufacturing or business process--just like quality assurance, human resources management, or financial management. A culture of safety exists when workers want to wear or use PPE, not because they are under threat or penalty to keep safe, but because they want to be safe.
There are four cornerstones to a successful culture of safety: superior PPE, leadership, education, and analytical systems. We are integrating all these elements into our customer and end user interactions. We've launched and are expanding our extensive online portal of resources and expertise--for use by distributors and safety managers--at www.honeywellsafety.com/Culture.
Such services, in conjunction with quality PPE, are critical to nurturing the growing adoption of safety cultures. Workers themselves realize this. In another result from our ASSE survey, 52 percent of respondents stated that their own risk assessment programs required better support, training, or other improvements.
What is the role of distributors in promoting and supporting a culture of safety?
Manufacturers may have the expertise, the knowledge of their products and solutions--but it is our customers, our distributors, who are the key connections to our end users. On a day-to-day basis, it is ultimately their responsibility to carry their own expertise and the manufacturers' solutions to their end users, based on their up-close understanding of the users' needs. As manufacturers, we share with the distributors the goal of promoting a culture of safety. Ultimately, we're all working for the same boss: our end users.
Going forward, what challenges do you see for distributors in the safety industry, in the U.S. and also in Canada?
What we hear from distributors is familiar to many of us in the industry, including manufacturers, customers, and end users: that they are being pressed to do more, faster, while at the same time cutting costs. Distributors are being called upon to deliver quality products quicker; to support them; to provide additional value-added services, expertise, or training; to manage inventories; to reduce unit and total costs; to anticipate end users’ needs; and to respond proactively. It is toward meeting these challenges that I have worked with distributors in EMEAI and will continue to do so with our customers around the world.
I know we can't ask about specifics, but perhaps you could provide a general overview. What can we look forward to from Honeywell Safety Products in the near future?
Look forward to best-in-class products, services, and customer relationships.
More broadly, you should anticipate an emphasis on technology and on innovation across all our brands. These efforts will make our PPE smarter, as well as easier to track, manage, service--even to communicate with. PPE as a category is evolving, and watch for Honeywell to lead here, as well. Expect our products to be more comfortable and easier to use and to provide more protection, yet are fashionable and stylish, thus enticing workers to want to wear them.
We realize that, more and more, safety performance affects the bottom line for everyone. In fact, according to more than three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents in our ASSE survey, it has a "big impact on operational and financial performance."
Realizing this, look for a strengthening of the relationships with our customers in distribution. We'll create relationships that are even smarter, more efficient, and more mutually beneficial. We are confident in our support of cultures of safety and will continue to connect the worker to the right PPE and the safety director to the systems and services that help him or her manage that PPE. We will continue to refresh the safety culture to ensure more than simple compliance. Instead, we'll build a true spirit of partnership and collaboration among all the parties whose responsibility it is to keep workers safe.
Sach Sankpal is president of Honeywell Safety Products (www.honeywellsafetyproducts.com), a part of the Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions' Life Safety business. Sankpal, who was appointed president of HSP in April 2014, joined Honeywell in 2010 as vice president of strategy & marketing in Honeywell Life Safety. He most recently led Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India (EMEAI) for HSP. Prior to joining Honeywell, Sankpal worked at Avaya, Inc.; Trimble Navigation, Ltd.; and Navigant Consulting.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.