Mechanical Insights

Facility Contingency Planning Tips

Sep 2, 2020 8:30:00 AM / by Tate Engineering

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Downtime happens. Loss of productivity is never a good thing and you never know when it’s going to occur. However, you can still be prepared, even though you can’t put unexpected downtime on the calendar. Having a contingency plan will help minimize disruption at your facility the next time downtime strikes.

“It’ll Never Happen”

Optimism is a good thing, but assuming disaster will never strike your facility is the wrong approach. Most busy manufacturers don’t want to spend time and money preparing for something that isn’t an immediate problem. Even though this is often the case, catastrophe can strike anywhere at any time. Asking yourself “What if?” style questions before there’s a problem helps to ensure that there is a plan in place and critical actions have been thought through.

Perform a business risk analysis to think about the potential disasters that could affect your business. Facilities along the Gulf South would certainly want to consider hurricane plans, while facilities in the Midwest may be more concerned with tornadoes. Knowing what disasters you can reasonably expect will help ensure your contingency plan is both accurate and useful.

Not all disasters have the same disaster response. Some disasters will require contingency plans to be enacted immediately while others can be reviewed in a more controlled manner. Contingency plans for hurricanes provide more time for preparation than wildfire plans. Your contingency plan should take into account how much time you’ll have to prepare your facility, relocate equipment, and evacuate personnel.

If disaster does strike, who’s in charge? A clear chain of command will help make sure that everything gets done properly, even when everything is going poorly. Having a contingency location is also a good idea in case your whole facility is rendered unusable. Also make sure that any important documents or files are backed up and stored at a separate location.

Water and Power

Two of the most critical elements of a contingency plan are water and power. If water is consumed as part of the manufacturing process, your facility may want to have water stored on site so that operation can continue even during a disruption of water service to the building. Having a water filtration system also ensures that people will have access to clean, drinkable water during an emergency.

We often don’t realize how dependent we are on electricity until the lights quit working. Don’t get caught in the dark - be sure to have backup power onsite. Backup generators can be used to supply power to a facility during a disruption of service. Make sure that the building’s generators will be powerful enough to meet all of the manufacturing facility’s electrical requirements, and also ensure that they can be disconnected from the main power supply. Backfeeding electricity to the grid is not only illegal, but often dangerous - it can hurt workers trying to restore power after a storm.

Dependence on Others

Even if your facility is prepared to continue operating if a disaster occurs, can your suppliers and customers continue operating as well? Supply chains are often more easily broken than they would seem. Think about how your facility could use a secondary supply chain or revert to alternative suppliers if needed. Communicating with customers and suppliers about your contingency plans can also encourage them to work on contingency plans of their own. Contingency plans help to strengthen the entire supply chain, which will aid in recovering from unexpected downtime.

Keep Your Contingency Plans Updated

When manufacturers do decide to invest the time and energy required to build a contingency plan, it is important that the process is not forgotten. Facilities and their needs change over time and contingency plans should reflect that. Regular testing (some recommend as much as twice a year) will help ensure that the contingency plan is accurate and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

Even the best contingency plans can’t account for unexpected equipment failure. Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance keeps equipment running as designed and also sheds light on problems early before failure occurs. When the power goes out and the generator kicks on, the last thing you want to worry about is when you last checked up on your equipment. Ensuring that your facility maintains a preventative maintenance schedule is the best way to help eliminate that unexpected downtime and make sure your contingency plans can be executed properly.

Don’t let any more time pass by with your company unprotected. Have an accurate and regularly tested contingency plan on hand and ready to deploy should the need arise. Disaster won’t wait, so make sure you’re ready! If you need help planning for any emergency, or want help getting downtime minimized, give us a call. The experts at Tate are happy to help.

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Tags: Maintenance

Written by Tate Engineering