Cutting Tool Engineering
August 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 8

Have a business continuity plan

By Keith Jennings

While at a restaurant, my wife and I ran into the local police chief and his wife, with whom we are acquainted. Before departing, he invited me to a free, city-sponsored “business continuity of operations workshop.” He offered a brief explanation and even though I wasn’t totally clear about the 6-hour event’s purpose, I decided it was a good idea to honor the chief’s invitation. Thankfully, the purpose was clarified at the workshop and it was obviously an important matter for a machine shop to consider and for which to plan.

The personnel leading the event were part of a Texas A&M University department called the Texas Engineering Extension Service. They work with private businesses and federal, state and local officials, providing extensive training and technical expertise regarding issues like public safety, emergency response, emergency communication techniques and company property protection.

The workshop focused on developing a formal “quick recovery” plan for any disruption in operations. Incidents like a natural disaster or fire that damages equipment or injures people, theft or vandalism, loss of records or information-technology equipment, utility disruptions and, in my shop’s case, a plane crashing from a nearby airport are among the many possibilities. This organization teaches that, should the unexpected occur, cooperation among companies and government agencies can be critical in the recovery of your operation.

I initially assumed the event was about emergency response and preparedness. However, much of the content covered a different and equally important type of business preparedness: a “continuity” plan to ensure your business recovers, resumes customer services, minimizes financial losses and regains access to records and information as quickly as possible. Once we started discussing the many scenarios that could disrupt shop operations or bring them to a standstill, I realized the subject was worth more thought than I had given it.

At our shop, we’ve always had procedures for an emergency, even if unrehearsed. However, an actual continuity plan wasn’t given much thought. Who would have access to our facility if the owners couldn’t make it to the office? Who would have the authority to sign checks and handle company business in our absence? How would we get back to making parts if communication and power sources were unavailable? All the questions asked were important, but I didn’t have answers for at least half of them.

Thankfully, such a drastic scenario hasn’t occurred, but it could. If your shop was shut down and couldn’t operate as normal, or the owners and managers weren’t able to correct the situation, could you survive? And if so, how long could your shop suspend production? Who would oversee things if you couldn’t? Do you have a backup option for producing parts? Do you have a good contact with local law enforcement and local officials if you need them?

It’s likely that sooner or later something unexpected and negative is going to happen to your facility, your operations, your personnel or all of the above. A little forethought and planning can minimize the impact.

A machine shop’s success depends on continuous uptime and its ability to make parts. Any disruption to this requires effective management and preparation for the worst, while hoping it never happens. Maybe it’s time for your company to consider a worst-case scenario and how to handle and—hopefully—correct it quickly.

Is your staff trained what to do, who to call and where to find important records if you can’t? If not, follow the advice of Texas Engineering Extension Service (teexweb.tamu.edu) and establish a business continuity plan. It could ensure your shop’s survival. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, metal fabrication and metal stamping. He can be e-mailed at kjennings@jwr.com.
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