Bula Signs with Software Startup Making Steel Safer

Written by Tim Triplett

Mark Bula is well known in steel circles for his role in a past startup now known as Big River Steel. Bula recently joined a new startup whose mission is not making steel, but rather making steel more safely.

Bula recently accepted a position as chief strategy officer and general manager of steel for, an Irvine, Calif.-based safety software company that hopes to bring artificial intelligence to the shop floor at steel mills, steel processors and other industrial environments. Bula is the former chief commercial officer for Big River Steel in Osceola, Ark., in addition to past positions with the Steel Tube Institute and Union Partners.

“We talk about safety first in everything we do in steel. Our goal is to apply the Internet of Things to make sure our biggest asset, our people, remain safe,” said Bula in an interview with Steel Market Update.

Everguard has released its first product, Sentri360, which is designed to prevent accidents before they happen by merging AI with computer vision, IoT and sensor fusion. Sentri360 uses various types of sensors to alert workers and management to potential safety hazards in real time. The software offers PPE detection, safety zone compliance, fall detection and proximity warnings, among other features. While the first release is geared to the steel industry, is developing solutions for construction, oil and gas and other industries. 

The system is designed to promote “situational awareness,” Bula explained, to help keep workers aware of their surroundings. It employs cameras, for example, that can recognize if a worker is not wearing a hardhat or other personal protective gear. It uses “wearables,” sensors such as watches or badges, that track workers’ locations and can warn them of an approaching hazard. Location services also include fall detection should a worker fall and need assistance.

Management can monitor the shop floor and be notified, for example, if an unauthorized person enters a hazardous area. The software has a dashboard that allows safety managers and supervisors to easily monitor employee behavior, to see which team members are complying and which may need further training.

Future releases of the software may use the wearable sensors to monitor worker health parameters, warning if a worker is dangerously dehydrated, for instance. “Dehydration and exhaustion are huge problems in steel mills. You don’t realize you are dehydrated until it is too late. Your mind can become fuzzy and you can start to make unsafe decisions that affect you and your team,” Bula said.

Everguard’s software engineers are looking into potential applications that could help stop the spread of the coronavirus. One possibility, a sensor could buzz or chime when workers venture too close to each other. The system might also be designed to help with contact tracing by identifying other workers who have gotten within six feet of an infected individual, Bula said.

Cost of the current Sentri360 system, which is based on an annual subscription fee, varies widely depending on the size and number of each customer’s plants. has been in business in the United States for about seven months and hopes to announce its first U.S. installation soon, said Bula. The startup was incubated by Boston Consulting Group’s Digital Venture and SeAH Global Inc. (SGI), a steel conglomerate in South Korea. The company has raised $5.8 million in seed funding, but is seeking additional investors.

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