How a Hard Hat Maker Turned To Software

I recently talked to Saikat Dey, who about a decade ago founded Detroit-based Guardhat, a company that made high-end hard hats wired with technology designed to help keep frontline workers safe.

During the pandemic, millions of people suddenly realized just how important frontline workers are to the basics of living – from making the products we need, getting us the food we eat, and saving our lives if we get sick — to name just a few. And there was no work-from-home debate. While Guardhat was already up to speed, like many companies, Covid-19 caused Dey to rethink his business.

The increased focus on frontline workers was an opportunity for Guardhat, which has a big backer: Its first major investor was billionaire Dan Gilbert, who founded residential mortgage lender Rocket Mortgage. But the smart helmets weren’t resonating because they cost $300-$500. Home Depot sells a generic hard hat for $12.

So, the company ditched the hardware to focus exclusively on the software inside it, which it says can give companies a real-time assessment of risks, such as proximity to moving equipment or toxic fumes, high-speed driving, and interaction with COVID-19-positive workers.

As of Tuesday, its new name is Aatmunn, which means “soul” or “spirit” in Hindu from Dey’s native India, he said. Its clients include Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., Ford Motor Co., as well as rocket companies SpaceX and Blue Origin LLC, Dey said.

The former North American CEO for steel maker Severstal said he got the idea for the company after seeing first-hand fatal industrial accidents that might have been prevented with better technology. Almost 3 million workers die globally in work-related incidents, the company estimates.

It’s also hoping to tap into a trend of so-called human capital management. Since the pandemic, companies, regulators, and investors have been more focused on demonstrating that they value their workforce.

Sure, such intense surveillance can sound a bit spooky. But for Dey, a US workforce skewing younger means that staff is more familiar with technology and more used to their movements being tracked.

“I was thinking I should be able to save at least one life, and we know we have saved multiples of that so far,” he said.

Source: Crist Kolder Associates

Note: Group of companies analyzed are the roughly 670 in either the S&P 500 or Fortune 500

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post