As this issue is readied for press, the U.S. is responding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, with people frequently washing hands, practicing social distancing, and those who can are working from home. It’s a testament to the resiliency of American workers, and the foresight of their employers, to have the ability to telework – which many have been able to do in theory but are only now putting into practice.

Our connected world makes it possible to work together, with shared hardware and software platforms facilitating collaboration, and except for sharing work space, accomplish everything our jobs require. So, why weren’t we doing more of this before? I suspect force of habit and management’s reluctance have made telework more optional than routine. Yet, so far, companies are making this work, and staying open for business.

In the onslaught of emails I received relating to COVID-19, I was impressed with the message I received from Advanced Heat Treat Corp. (AHT) President Mike Woods, saying the firm was “responsibly open for business.” Beyond reassurances that the company was taking care of its employees, ensuring a safe and clean environment more rigorously, and keeping up with health authority guidelines, AHT was taking steps to maintain an “uninterrupted customer experience.” They planned to do this by

  • Being in frequent communication with vendors to ensure availability of critical supplies/services
  • Regularly reviewing their quality process to have adequate backups
  • Providing employees with ongoing communication/ training regarding COVID-19 symptoms, prevention
  • Having locations in three states (Iowa, Alabama, Michigan), move production to another location if needed

Having multiple locations is a luxury, but maintaining communication and quality processes, we’re now learning, is mandatory.

One way to stay open, connected, and committed during a pandemic or other business disruption is to activate an ISO 22301 business continuity management system (BCMS). It’s a plan to ensure that a company’s critical functions are up and running so it can continue to operate.

Even if a plant must be closed, the plan allows customer service, sales, and supplier teams to remain active.

ISO 22301:2019 can be used by organizations of all types and sizes to obtain accredited certification to this standard and demonstrate to their customers and peers that they are adhering to good practices, similar to what many do now for ISO 9001 (quality), ISO 14001 (environmental), and ISO/IEC 27001 (information security).

Briefly, the standard is divided into 10 parts, addressing: scope, references, terms/definitions, context of the organization (its legal and regulatory requirements), leadership, planning (risk identification), support (people with knowledge, skills, and experience to respond to incidents when they occur), operations (response structure), evaluation, and improvement.

It’s an ongoing management process, I’ve learned, that can also help a company return to normal operations.

After the pandemic passes, I believe many companies will be more confident in using remote workforces. I also expect to see many more implement an ISO 22301 plan. – Eric