As complex, advanced technologies, systems, and networks become ingrained in industrial operations and processes, the potential impacts from even minor disruptions increases. Industrial companies that prepare for a large variety of disruptions can limit its impact on business processes and accelerate the return to normal operations. For those not prepared, a targeted incident can become an escalated situation, negatively affecting profitability, customer relationships, and overall business performance. Business continuity plans (BCP) are crucial to ensure long-term viability, yet many industrial companies do not prioritize them.
Many business continuity issues can start as minor, isolated instances or aggravating inconveniences. However, if not addressed in a timely manner, incidents can escalate, potentially spreading to other key processes. With an effective BCP, mitigation measures, and proper employee training, potential disruptions and operational impacting events can be prevented.
Regardless of the size of your enterprise or scope of facility operations, industrial locations should have the following continuity elements in place.
- Standard procedures and assigned responsibilities regarding risk management, restoration, and IT recovery for each critical business area.
- A BIA (Business Impact Analysis)
- A risk assessment that identifies and prioritizes operational imposing scenarios
- Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) based on cost-benefit analyses and BIAs
- Documented BCP with response, recovery, and restoration procedures
- BCP exercises aimed at improving RTOs and strategies by ensuring plans are accurate, actionable, and thorough
- Audits that test corporate-level standardization and policy implementations
- BCP training for managers and employees
The process of developing a BCP can identify continuity weaknesses within an enterprise and at specific facilities, as well as lapses within individual responsibility and operational processes. To strengthen the prospects of corporate viability, planning and training should include detailed standard operating procedures for BCP activation and address RTOs for each key business process. The BCP should offer procedural flexibility based on real-time situational assessment, as well as procedural variations for each scenario. Precise, site-specific, and accurate BCPs in conjunction with effective training and carefully planned exercises can often counteract a lack of general continuity awareness.
Many industrial facilities managers typically have expertise in proper hazard communications and emergency response techniques. However, industrial facility managers and their employees may lack business continuity experience and necessary expertise. If establishing BCPs or initiating continuity efforts are beyond the scope of managers, companies should consider hiring consultants who specialize in business continuity planning.
Employees who are trained in daily continuity procedures, in addition to response and restorative continuity methods will be better prepared in the event of a business-interrupting incident. By incorporating business continuity training, companies can expand their resilience strategies while minimizing risks to their employees, operations, reputation, and the financial bottom line.
BCP training should include a detailed account of specific roles and responsibilities. This will ensure continuity of knowledge among participants, enterprise-wide standard operating procedures, and site-specific business continuity processes. Companies should also be vigilant in training new hires, as well as be receptive to unique business continuity lesson learned that can be used to strengthen the BCP.
Although all companies should prepared for inevitable business disruptions, industrial facilities typically have heightened levels of vulnerabilities. In an industrial setting, hazards are often identified in order for potential impacts to be fully analyzed and countermeasures to be implemented. For business continuity strategies, a business impact analysis (BIA) can identify, quantify, and qualify the impacts in time of a loss, interruption or disruption of business activities on an organization, and provides the data from which appropriate continuity strategies can be determined.
Whether business disruptions stem from technological, man-made, or natural disasters, business continuity plans can be a valuable tool for protecting viability, securing resources, and maintaining customer relationships.