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Avoid Downtime with this Manufacturing Disaster Recovery Plan Template

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Tracy Rock

Director of Marketing @ Invenio IT

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It’s stressful for any business owner to consider the potential effects when a disaster strikes, but doing so is a critical component of running a successful enterprise. Following a manufacturing disaster recovery plan template can help alleviate the anxiety of a task that could mean the difference between your business’s ability to reopen its doors following a disaster.

Unfortunately, many businesses fail to plan for the worst-case scenarios that they might someday face. A survey by Nationwide found that 68% of small-business owners did not have a written disaster recovery plan, putting their business continuity at significant risk.

Although creating a disaster recovery plan can be intimidating, the process is ultimately well worth the time and effort. Although there is no standard plan that will properly convey the needs of your business, the template described below is an excellent place to start.

Why Is a Disaster Recovery Plan Important?

Disasters can have long-lasting repercussions for a manufacturing business. For example, imagine that a tornado strikes your facility, causing structural damage, injuring employees, and taking out the power for days. These are only a few of the ways that you could be impacted:

  • Staffing shortage as employees recover from their injuries
  • Time-consuming and expensive structural repairs
  • Data loss due to power loss
  • Damaged or destroyed paper files or backup devices
  • Loss of clients or customers due to extended downtime

While a disaster recovery plan will not prevent a disaster from happening, it allows your business to manage its response in an efficient and measured way, ensuring that you resume operations as quickly as possible and minimize financial losses.

Who Needs a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Creating a comprehensive disaster recovery plan is important for manufacturing businesses of every size. Even if you operate a small-to-medium-sized business (SMB), it’s critical to protect yourself. According to FEMA, around 25% of businesses permanently close following a disaster, and this number is even higher for small businesses with less financial capital. Choosing to develop a disaster recovery plan is simply good business sense.

What Should a Disaster Recovery Plan Include?

The disaster recovery plan that you create should be carefully tailored and customized. It isn’t wise to simply copy and paste a plan from another organization because it will not meet your needs or account for the unique features of your business. There are, however, some sections that should generally appear in every disaster recovery plan.

Goals

Identify the goals that your plan is meant to accomplish. This provides clarity to management, stakeholders, and employees and reassures them that you have carefully considered their well-being, both physically and financially.

As you describe the goals of your plan, consider explaining:

  • Why the plan is needed
  • Which systems, divisions, and units it covers
  • How exactly it will aid in disaster recovery
  • Who created it and how often it is updated

Offering a straightforward assessment of your goals can also help stakeholders understand why greater financial investment in business continuity and disaster recovery measures is necessary.

Risk Assessment

When you speak about a “disaster” in vague terms, it might sound ominous, but it is too vague to create a sense of genuine urgency or concern. Unless you specifically define the disasters that could occur, people are unlikely to take the possibility seriously.

Depending on the location, nature, and structure of your manufacturing business, there are many disasters that could arise, including:

  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Tornadoes
  • Hurricanes
  • Earthquakes
  • Cyberattacks
  • Active shooter
  • On-site accidents
  • Widespread and serious illness

It’s important to identify which threats your business might face and offer details as to how your response to each one would differ.

Personnel

Personnel is a key component of your recovery plan. Identify the roles and responsibilities of key personnel during and after a disaster. This includes stakeholders, executives, and employees.

To ensure that you can resume normal business operations as quickly as possible, develop a disaster recovery team and identify the members in your plan. This team will offer guidance and direct important decision-making processes. Appoint a team leader who thoroughly understands every aspect of your company’s disaster recovery. Depending on the size of your business, it may also be helpful to select a leader for different divisions or departments within your organization.

Including this information in the form of an organizational chart can make it clearer and more digestible for your employees. This allows everyone within your business to quickly identify who is in charge of each recovery process.

Medical Response

In the event that a disaster does occur, the safety and health of your employees should be a primary concern. As you craft your plan, consider how you would respond to injuries, some of which might be life-threatening.

While nearly every business has, or should have, a basic first aid kit on hand, it could prove woefully insufficient in the face of a disaster. Important questions to address regarding your business’s medical response include:

  • How much and what kind of care can be provided on-site?
  • Who will be responsible for providing urgent care?
  • What kind of training should be provided in preparation for a potential disaster?
  • How will you obtain and where will you store emergency medical supplies?
  • Where can injured staff be sheltered and receive care until emergency services arrive?

Having a strong plan for employee care and safety helps prevent panic in the event of a disaster. It also demonstrates to employees that you value them and are dedicated to keeping them safe.

Contingency Locations

Certain disasters have such a significant impact that a manufacturing business must find a temporary site to operate, or, at the very least, keep essential data secure. Your disaster recovery plan should include information about where you could resume operations and how long it would take to get running.

In addition to other operational procedures, your plan should specifically identify whether you have any contingency locations for IT departments and data centers. You can divide these sites into three classifications:

  • Hot sites are fully functional data centers with the necessary equipment, personnel, and data for a business to operate.
  • Warm sites are also functional data centers, but they only have access to critical systems and do not have current customer data.
  • Cold sites are used only for system or data backups and offer no operational functionality.

While it may not be possible for your business to resume production immediately following a disaster, ideally your data center would not experience any extended downtime. This is particularly important because data center operations are vital to compliance with privacy and data regulations.

IT Business Continuity

In addition to natural disasters, cybercrime has become an alarming risk to businesses. Experts project that the worldwide cost of cybercrime will reach $10.5 trillion by 2025.

This risk should come into play when developing your disaster recovery plan. Consider the example of Norsk Hydro, a global aluminum producer that was crippled by a ransomware attack in 2019. Despite efforts to contain the damage, the attack ultimately cost the company approximately $75 million.

Within this section of your plan, you should describe the backup processes that you have implemented for your systems and data, as well as what technology is needed to restore data and networks to full functionality in the shortest possible timeframe.

Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective

Recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) are two key parameters that should be included within this part of your recovery plan. They offer guidelines so that your team knows how quickly they must act in response to a cyber disaster.

RTO refers to the maximum amount of time that an organization has to recover a system or application without interrupting business operations. This quantifies how much downtime a business can reasonably tolerate. You may have multiple RTOs for various applications and systems within your business.

Similarly, RPO is the amount of data that an organization can afford to lose before operations are affected. This data is measured in time, such as 30 minutes, 6 hours, or 12 hours.

Determining these metrics in advance of a disaster helps you more properly prepare for data loss and downtime. It also improves your ability to determine how frequently data should be backed up.

Data Redundancy

Modern manufacturing businesses process enormous amounts of data, including customer information, credit card numbers, and confidential business documents. This data can be put at great risk by a disaster, so it is important to discuss storage, backup, and recovery options within your disaster recovery plan.

All business data, but particularly sensitive information, should be kept in multiple locations, such as internal servers and cloud services. This not only helps you resume operations more quickly but also protects you from compliance violations.

If you do not already have a secure system of data backups in place, carefully research the available options and implement the one that is most suited to your needs.

For example, if you operate an SMB, seek out an affordable solution with limited storage capacity but high levels of security and regular backups. In contrast, if you run a large business, look for a comprehensive product with hardware, software, and cloud services that allow for the instant restoration of massive amounts of data.

No matter which kind of service you choose, you should identify it in your disaster recovery plan and make note of the frequency of data backups and any necessary steps to initiate restoration.

Asset Management

Your disaster recovery plan should include a complete list of all of your business’s assets, which might include machinery that is used in production, furniture, hardware, and software. It’s important for this list to be current, so it should be updated regularly.

It is also helpful to separate assets into categories based on their importance and value to the company. You might label them as follows:

  • Critical if they are essential to business operations
  • Important if they are used frequently but are not imperative to continued operations
  • Unimportant if they are used infrequently and have little or no effect on operations

When listing items that are categorized as important or critical, you should consider how they can be replaced so that operations can resume as quickly as possible following a disaster.

Communication

Clear, direct communication is crucial at every level of your business’s interactions. This includes communication with:

  • Management
  • Customers or clients
  • Employees
  • Vendors and suppliers
  • Regulatory agencies
  • The media

Your disaster recovery plan should indicate how you will convey information to each of these groups. For example, you might include a call tree in your plan that specifies which individuals within the company are responsible for notifying others.

In addition, you should consider the possibility that communications will be impeded by the situation on the ground. For that reason, you may want to provide managers or key members of the disaster recovery team with secondary devices to use during emergencies.

Describe, in detail, how important information will be communicated to the workforce. This might include notifications about canceled shifts, new safety precautions, or a temporary change in work locations.

While internal communication is the first priority, you should also develop a public relations strategy. Which individuals will be responsible for contacting the media, and what kind of information will they be asked to share?

Your company’s website and social media accounts are excellent forums for disseminating information to the public and your customer base. Sharing information in multiple ways helps ensure that you reach the broadest audience possible. For instance, you might issue a press release, create social media posts, and send a message to email subscribers.

No matter what methods of communication you select, they should be fully articulated within your disaster recovery plan. This enables your business to release information in a timely fashion and avoid leaving interested parties in the dark.

Physical Device and Document Storage

Many businesses have a trove of critical information in the form of physical documents or on storage media like DVDs, external hard drives, and backup tapes. If you keep all of these materials on-site, a disaster can wipe out data that is fundamental to your business’s ability to function.

To avoid the risk of losing data and needing to take on the time-consuming and tedious process of reproducing paper files, you should store additional copies of all critical documents, including those on storage devices, in a remote location. This information should then be conveyed within your disaster recovery plan so that documents can be easily recovered.

Drills and Evaluations

Even after putting in extensive effort and research to produce a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, there is little assurance that it is effective until it is actually put to the test. You can accomplish this before a disaster by running disaster recovery drills.

A drill allows you to test your plan in a scenario that could realistically occur within your business. It allows you to determine what information could be clarified and whether there are holes or weaknesses.

Keep in mind that disaster recovery plans are not fixed documents because circumstances change over time, both within your company and in the world at large. For this reason, your plan should be updated at least once a year, and you may need to do additional updates if your business undergoes a significant change in structure or management.

Coordinating plan updates with disaster recovery drills is an excellent strategy because it allows you to closely examine any changes that need to be made. These may include expanding particular sections or updating information to reflect changes in personnel.

Finally, indicate who was responsible for conducting drills and evaluating and updating the plan. In addition, explain when the next evaluation will be conducted.

Conclusion

A natural disaster can strike unexpectedly at any time, and a 2019 report found that half of all manufacturing businesseshad experienced a cyberattack or data breach in the past 12 months. A detailed recovery plan is critical to your business’s ability to resume operations following a disaster of any kind. Without one, you run the risk of making your business one of the many that never reopen their doors.

Creating an effective plan may seem daunting, so do not hesitate to use a template that identifies the central information that you should include. In doing so, you will protect your business’s financial security, offer clarity to stakeholders, and provide reassurance to employees. Most importantly, you will design a system that helps to avoid lengthy and expensive downtimes that could ultimately hinder your business’s long-term success.

Learn More

Contact the experts at Invenio IT to learn more about the services and products that can simplify and accelerate your business’s ability to resume operations. We specialize in business continuity and disaster recovery and can offer guidance on building a strong recovery plan that meets your company’s needs.

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