Maintenance management is all about keeping assets and equipment up and running by finding and fixing small issues before they have a chance to grow into big problems. At its core, it’s disaster avoidance.
Maintenance is also about how well you react when unavoidable situations out of your control interrupt your operations .
So, there’s always been a natural connection between business continuity planning and maintenance. Both focus on avoiding problems when you can and then dealing with them efficiently when you can’t.
And there’s more than just a high-level, philosophical connection. In practical, on-the-ground ways, you can leverage the maintenance department and its enterprise asset management (EAM) software for better continuity planning.
What is business continuity planning?
Business continuity is an organization’s ability to deliver a product or service at some predetermined level following a disruption. Business continuity planning is the process of establishing the required systems for avoiding and recovering from disruptions.
Why both avoidance and recovery?
Here’s some terrible advice for boxers from arguably one of the most famous fictional boxers of all time, Rocky Balboa: “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”
But when you’re in the ring, it is a lot about how hard you can hit. And even more importantly, it’s also a lot about how well you can avoid getting hit.
Endurance, by itself, is a weak maintenance and risk management strategy.
It’s the same with a company. Your best bet is always to avoid problems. That said, there are times when things are out of your control. So, you need to be prepared.
What do these threats tend to look like? On top of natural disasters, there are also man-made ones, where someone’s actions, either accidental or malicious, create a problem.
Types of disasters
Depending on your industry, location, and sometimes just plain luck, you could face a variety of disruptive events, including:
- Hurricanes and tornadoes
- Power outages
- Water supply interruptions or contaminations
- Supply chain failures
- Internal and industrial sabotage
- Epidemics and pandemics
It’s unlikely that any one organization would have to worry about all these potential threats. But part of good planning is making sure your list of possible disasters is as complete as possible. You should also consider how disasters can cascade.
For example, an earthquake ruptures an underground gas line, quickly leading to a fire. Or floods and power outages follow a hurricane.
What is a business continuity plan?
Business continuity planning is the process of developing and implementing two sets of systems: one for prevention and one for recovery, so you can deal with potential threats.
The result of business continuity planning is a business continuity plan (BCP), where you define potential risks, look at how each would affect the organization, set up systems to best mitigate the associated risks, and outline ways to test your systems.
According to ISO 22310 “Security and Resilience — Business Continuity Management Systems — Requirements,” your BCP should lay out what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and how they should communicate with one another. Among the many documents, you need:
- Lists of legal and regulatory requirements
- Main responsibilities across departments
- Measurable business continuity objectives
- List of required competencies, knowledge, and skill sets
- Plans and procedures for response and recovery
Another important part of the BCP is an established system for capturing new data on how the organization dealt with the disruption, including steps taken and results.
What are the benefits of continuity planning?
Insert all those old maxims about the value of being prepared, from the Boy Scouts’ motto to all those rousing locker-room speeches in movies. It pays to be prepared.
With a solid BCP, you can get your organization back up and running more quickly after a disruption. By reducing the duration of a disruption, you are likely to cut its cost. You’re also building customer confidence while also protecting your organization’s reputation.
A quicker recovery may also helps you meet regulatory compliance and legal obligations, preventing potential exposure to civil, and criminal liability.
Internally, a BCP helps you build confidence with employees. And in extreme situations, having a comprehensive BCP can save lives. For example, a BCP can include safety evacuation procedures for a facility in cases of fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
According to the UN, “economic losses [from natural disasters] have increased sevenfold from the 1970s to the 2010s, going from an average of $49 million to a whopping $383 million per day globally.”
Because the trend is expected to increase, continuity planning will become even more of a strategic advantage for organizations.
As the climate becomes less predictable, there is more value in preparing for the worst.
What are the differences between disaster recovery and business continuity planning?
It can be a bit confusing. People sometimes use the terms interchangeably, but they are more distinct than you might think.
While they’re both part of risk management, each has a different focus. Disaster recovery is often related to information technology, so plans involve different ways to safeguard data and ensure accessibility after a disaster.
For example, a company might have backups of all its core data and software offsite, so in the case of a flood or fire, the data is still safe.
Business continuity planning is often more holistic, so the plans need to account for many different aspects of the organization, including supply chains, manufacturing capacity, and customer service.
Another way to understand the difference is by looking at their respective goals. With a BCP, you are trying to keep the company producing products or delivering services, even though it’s below your normal rates or standards. With disaster recovery, you’re trying to get the company’s output back to normal.
How does an enterprise asset management solution help with business continuity planning?
If you could make a wish list of things to have in a disaster, you would want to include:
- Comprehensive explanations of roles and responsibilities
- Sharable facility data, including site maps and floor plans
- Reliable data on all assets and equipment, including locations
- Step-by-step instructions and customizable checklists
The good news is that your modern EAM solution already has all these features. It has a lot more too, because it wasn’t designed to be limited to disaster recovery.
Your EAM can help in many ways, especially when it comes to involving and managing the facilities and maintenance teams in the overall efforts.
Cloud-based EAMs are unaffected by local conditions
A good EAM is cloud based, which means everything is safely stored in the cloud. Unlike older on-prem platforms, where all your data is sitting on a local server, cloud solutions are offsite, which means they’re safe from local floods, fires, storms, and any of the other natural or man-made disasters that can affect your facility.
If you have Internet access and mobile devices, and thanks to satellites and smartphones, you can leverage the EAM as a communications platform and a reliable way to capture and track data on quickly changing on-the-ground conditions.
In terms of liability, being able to accurately track the steps the organization took to mitigate risk could have positive legal implications.
Maintenance data is valuable for more than just maintenance
Inside your EAM, you already have site maps and floor plans as part of your regular maintenance management, which, in the worst-case scenarios, you can share internally to help with damage control or externally to facilitate rescue operations.
Plotted on the maps are all your critical assets and equipment, and knowing where they are can help you direct resources more efficiently.
In the EAM, you’ll also have an asset registry, so you know what you have and everything’s relative criticality, which is important when deciding what to get back online first.
If a disruption later leads to insurance claims, having a detailed list of all your assets and equipment, including up-to-date data on maintenance and repairs, can help the organization get everything it deserves.
Business continuity is an organization’s ability to continue some preset level of “business as usual” after a major disruption. Business continuity planning is the process of setting up programs to identify possible problems, actively avoid them, and recover if they happen.
There are many types of disruptions, from natural and man-made disasters to industrial sabotage.
According to the ISO 22310 standard, a comprehensive business continuity plan has everything from descriptions of roles and responsibilities and clear objectives to lists of required competencies and skill sets and plans and procedures for response and recovery.
The benefits of business continuity planning are that you can recover faster from disruptions, helping you protect your company’s reputation, avoid legal liabilities, and in the most extreme cases, safeguard lives.
Although not a complete replacement for a dedicated business continuity solution, a modern EAM delivers a lot of immediate value when disaster strikes, including sharable facility data, including site maps and floor plans, reliable data on all assets and equipment, and a reliable way to remotely share step-by-step instructions and customizable checklists.