Expert Risk Articles

Learning from Damages

The Allianz Center for Technology celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2012. In that time, the AZT has supported claims handling through expert damage analysis and loss prevention.

Learning from Damages

Eighty years of forensic investigation: Allianz Center for Technology provides expertise for claims handling and loss prevention – and aims to globalize its services.

Johannes Stoiber and Stefan Thumm, co-heads of the Allianz Center for Technology (Allianz Zentrum für Technik, or AZT), are remarkably soft-spoken and relaxed considering that their work often impacts how multimillion-dollar claims are handled. Stoiber and Thumm, along with their team of 14 AZT loss-assessment and prevention-engineering experts, are a type of impartial jury when it comes to determining the root cause of a claim. Through scrupulous applied science and engineering research, AZT produces hard evidence used in damage analysis reports for clients and Allianz, and in certain cases, for third parties.

AZT Damage Analysis

AZT expertise is critical not only for claims but also in terms of loss prevention. Often, research findings lead to valuable insight into engineering processes and designs that can help avoid costly repairs or total losses. Claims analysis, and repair and operational processes are areas that carry major implications in loss prevention. AZT conducts extensive work in all of these segments and has used its research to help across various industries.

The center has an established track record of providing answers to many difficult questions, which can range from determining the source behind the failure of a large gas turbine engine to figuring out the cause for damage to windmill components. Answers to such questions are many times found on a microscopic level. The lab near Munich, which is jointly operated with the Organization for Materials Testing (Gesellschaft für Werkstoffprüfung, or GWP), could easily be mistaken for a forensic investigation lab from a television drama. Hightech gadgets manipulated carefully by employees in lab coats signal the importance and sensitivity of the research being conducted.

AZT Microscopic Damage Analysis

Rich past, future opportunities

AZT is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The center has undergone a number of changes over the decades and has worked on many intriguing cases, ranging from the Hindenburg airship disaster in 1937 to the Irsching explosion in 1989, to the T24 material issue affecting power plant boilers today. Despite its rich past, however, the AZT team is looking ahead on this special occasion. Stoiber explains that, at the moment, a clear path is being carved for AZT’s future. “There is a significant opportunity for AZT to become more and more involved in the international claims handling process,” notes Stoiber. “We want to continue exploring the potential in mature markets but we also want to place a focus on growth markets, like Brazil, Asia, and Eastern Europe.” However, it is not just new regions AZT wants to take on. Emerging technologies in renewable energies, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, also offer exciting new possibilities for the center. “Our expertise is far-reaching, and as industries adapt to new technol ogies, so do we,” says Stoiber.

1989 Irsching Turbine Accident

Globalizing AZT services fits neatly into Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty’s (AGCS) overall objective of building on its worldwide network, though there are challenges. Operating outside of Germany means understanding local and regional requirements, conditions, and processes. “Claims are handled differently in different countries, and so there is a real need to have someone on the ground in each of these areas who knows how to deal with such situations and how AZT can fit into that picture,” says Stoiber.

Risks of new technologies

Claims are an important aspect of the center’s work; however, it contributes much more than claims investigation reports. AZT’s technical support is arguably one of the most notable benefits for clients. Through workshops and presentations, the center acts as a consultant that assesses potential risks of prototypes and new technologies. For instance, a development audit by the center can help produce tailor-made coverage solutions. Also, AZT’s vast case history has made it an important “lessons learned” source within AGCS. The wealth of insight the center has acquired over the years makes this team of engineering specialists an asset for the entire insurance industry.

Since the center’s full integration into AGCS in 2007, its workload for AGCS clients has increased by around 45 percent – a number that is certain to continue to climb given AZT’s global ambitions for the future. The next 80 years undoubtedly hold much promise.