Making Business Continuity Friends in Manufacturing

Some areas of an enterprise are naturally more sensitive to business continuity than others. Whereas interruptions may be a nuisance in accounting, they may simply be unacceptable in manufacturing production lines aligned to lean and just-in-time manufacturing methods. As facilities increase in size, they tend to use more automation. The Manufacturing Execution System or MES is an example. It manages and monitors in real time what’s going on in the factory, which may include the activities of people, robots and machines. The MES has to be reliable or production won’t happen – sounds like a case for business continuity?

While a manufacturing execution system may already be complex on its own, things can get even more involved when the system is then connected to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. The idea is to extend the advantages of productivity and rapidity of the MES to add in the proactivity of ERP and never be stuck for producing quality products in a timely way. Naturally, the more complicated it gets, the more important it becomes to keep business continuity principles in mind. The possible failure points are multiplied: software malfunction, network breakdown, database performance (or lack of it) and server mis-configuration are just some of them. And it only takes one failure to halt production.

Business continuity is therefore a key part of designing and operating such manufacturing systems. IT teams and manufacturing personnel must work together to make sure that the right features and processes are designed in from the start. Having access to a helpful BC manager who can assist in guiding continuity solutions can be good for manufacturing and the perception of BC in the business. Ensuring that failure mode analysis is done, and that redundancy and fail-safes are built in is all part of the work to be done. So is the design of manual back-up procedures as appropriate if the MES is unavailable.