Even in ordinary circumstances, distributors face many changes and risks in their businesses that require planning and systems to safeguard continuing operations. In the age of COVID-19, these challenges have come to the forefront of most distribution companies.
This article is no substitution for a fully-fledged disaster recovery and business continuity plan; however, it can get you quickly pointed in the right directions for immediate focus during COVID-19. Specifically, you should take a look at:
- Taking all immediate and necessary actions
- Analyzing and bolstering your infrastructure
- Accessing your security threats
- Preparing for employee unavailability
The most important thing you can do right now is to ensure the safety and health of your family, employees and customers.
- If you are facing any emergencies or outbreaks in your organization, work to remedy those first
- Implement all national, state and local requirements for your type of company given guidelines for social distancing, sanitation, provision of masks and more
- Now is the time to put away competitive considerations and find other distributors with whom you can share information, best practices, potentially work to serve each other’s customers with inventory and service differences and more. The community of Tridex Systems clients is already a robust source of information sharing.
- Work to safeguard your employees with clear instructions around remote working, travel and essential work within your facilities.
Analyze and Bolster Your Infrastructure
The elements of your COVID-19 response may put extra stress on your IT infrastructure as well. Now would be a good time to analyze the bandwidth and capabilities of your systems, networks, infrastructure, hardware requirements and ERP system availability. Are you set up properly for remote work? Can you effectively support your team even when they are out of the office? Don’t forget that your IT team itself may be entirely remote and may need new and unique capabilities to serve the rest of your team.
Spend time thinking through the possible limitations and failure points in your IT infrastructure based on your new needs. Are there new requirements for remote work, new mods and apps or other issues that could put new strain on your infrastructure. Also include plans, priorities and responsibilities in the case something should fail. Who are the proper contacts and what are the contact channels and procedures for issues? Are certain systems (e.g., customer facing systems) more important than others? Do you have the appropriate licenses for remote work?
Assess Security Threats
Remote work and access can open up new threats that you haven’t face before. Detail your security measures and plan for monitoring of your applications for remote access and identity management. It’s a good idea to test applications for remote access to stress test your VPN solutions and security. Work to educate your employees – especially those who have not worked from home before – on the importance of smart and safe usage. They may not be aware of typical attacks that can be avoided through careful behavior such as phishing or chat-bot attacks. Unfortunately, many bad actors see COVID-19 and remote work as a new opportunity to perform attacks on your company.
Plan For Employee Absences or Unavailability
During COVID-19, employees may be unavailable for any number of reasons – illness, social distancing requirements, child care demands, down systems and more. Take the time to analyze which roles and responsibilities are truly essential to your organization and create backup plans for covering shifts and responsibilities. Now is a good time to look into increased training and cross-training of your employees.
Due to social distancing requirements, you may find it necessary to work in different shifts than your team has been accustomed to in the past. Remind your managers that the outbreak itself as well as new issues related to work times and remote work are putting your employees under unusual stress.
Implementing workflow and automation can help you route and reroute tasks and assignments as needed as well as provide alerts for key process issues. Workflow design can make it easier for you to assign and distribute work throughout your organization.
A lot of work in a distribution organization simply cannot be performed remotely (e.g., picking, packing and shipping). Make sure your employees understand your arrangements and requirements for work that must be performed in your facility. Make sure you have a way to communicate and alert your employees, preferably with automation. Establish clear guidelines for how to communicate issues to vendors and customers.
Let Tridex Systems Help With Your Business Continuity Planning
This is by no means a complete business continuity plan; it is simply an outline of some of the most important responses to the dramatic changes your organization may be facing right now. Beyond COVID-19, your company must be ready with disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Contact us today if you need help getting started.