It is generally agreed that there are three main types of disaster: the familiar natural disasters, accidents and economic.
What we seem to have this time is a natural disaster with a dramatic short-term labour consequence that is causing an economic shock event from which we know, collectively at least, we will recover.
I read on ABCSupplychain.com that “if we look at the crises over the last 64 years, we have had 9 economic crises, an average of one crisis every 7 years” so with the last one being 2008/9 this is actually about 2 years later than could quite reasonably have been ‘expected’ and did we plan?
In the UK there is already talk of this chaos going on into Spring 2021. So, what can we do with this precious time?
Keeping the lights on …. some things we can do RIGHT NOW…
We need to help office workers to keep working from home as close to business as usual:
- Effective online meetings, communication & Mobile working capability:
– In response to Covid-19 Microsoft have offered 6 months free trial licenses of Microsoft TEAMs you should try it – get yours here:
- Email and office products – No excuses here, we should all be able to access emails and office products from anywhere these days. If not, fix it quickly.
- Business systems access – Give all your staff this capability from home, if they are not easily accessible remotely then I guess you will just have to wait for the next time they come into the office … when you get through this crisis, replace those systems or upgrade them in the next 7 years.
My brother, is a lecturer at Plymouth University with specific experience in Disaster Management and he recently emailed us, his family and colleagues, to share some of his experience.
“The initial response is to resist change imposed by the disaster, but when resistance fails adaptation is the only way to ensure survival. We must decide what critical features of our lives and work need to be kept safe, by resisting change, and what we can adapt to ensure continuity (that may include abandoning certain practices and starting new ones).”
- Dr Andrew Fox MEng CEng PhD MICE MPMI MAPM
A new way of thinking
Clearly “keeping the lights on” is the No.1 priority, Governments are doing what they can to help us get through this and manage our costs, but we can also use this time to adapt, plan and be ready for the inevitable recovery, by getting ourselves into a stronger position to react quickly when it arrives.
That may mean some new thinking, “abandoning certain practices and starting new ones”. These don’t need to be costly or complicated, some small low-cost pilot programmes can prepare and prove your new plans and get them ready for rapid deployment when the time comes.
Getting your house in order for recovery
I was reading an article entitled “5 Lessons for Supply Chains from the Financial Crisis” on www.supplychain247.com and they observed that “In the crisis of 2008/9 industries such as machinery, metals, and transportation equipment observed drops in customer orders by up to 42 percent within a single year.”
For all professionals related to supply chain, inventory management or even professional services, you will surely be hearing the call to stop everything and cut all your costs.
No matter the cause, companies that react quickly will be able to continue operating their business with the least amount of disruption. But that requires planning and to have a plan in place. Those of us who lived through the last Financial crisis ‘should’ have a plan already. This saves Stakeholders precious time, effort and can minimize the chaos by immediately turning to the plan ‘handbook’ and communicating with those affected. Major companies are doing this type of advanced preparation already but small and medium businesses … I very much doubt it.
Whether you call it a continuity plan, a disaster recovery plan (DRP) or something else, it’s important to gather various stakeholders together to talk through possible crisis scenarios. Leadership plays a huge role in this, as back-end support is mandatory.
Gather together company representatives from every team for the planning. That includes entry level warehouse, drivers, operations supervisors and managers.
In the now ‘virtual’ meeting, walk through what happens in each step of your supply chain process, and document it. Talk about what happens if a certain system goes down, if the product isn’t accessible, if a warehouse has a fire or if you lose internet.
Come up with a plan for each scenario, so that the business can continue to operate in a crisis. After the planning session, create a flow chart and then do risk analysis.
The last step is to perform table-top exercises to make sure the plans will actually work. These sessions can be eye-opening, with stakeholders coming into the meeting with one idea, and then realizing what details are missing. They discuss which department should be up and running first. A lot of people don’t think of IT as a department, but we need internet. We need email, and we need our business systems to help us.
If your business systems are not giving you what you need, now is a good time to review what to do about that. Clearly ERP is too big and invasive a task to tackle now, but the way you address your customer management systems (CRM) or Analytics and Business Intelligence (A&BI) is not.
With as little as 1 or just a handful of cloud user licenses you can kick off a project to streamline your Sales processes, Account Management and even your core customer service can all be trialled with minimal external guidance and it can all be done remotely!
Within 12 weeks you could have an effective pilot ready to ramp up deployment or maybe even deployed ready to expand for the recovery! Analytics and BI can look across your existing estate and provide valuable unified insights for the Leadership team.
We all know that this extraordinary challenge will come to an end, let’s make the most of the time to better strengthen our recovery.