Manufacturers make money from production. If production stops so does revenue. Orders may not be delivered on time, delays happen, customers are unhappy, and the company loses money. Because manufacturers are increasingly reliant upon technology to complete production and technology will fail at some point it is vital to have a backup and disaster recovery (DR) plan at the plant level.

Potential Challenges

As I’ve alluded to in previous posts – plant Management’s concern is production – not IT. So when a consultant says their team should dedicate resources to “backing up servers” or “data classification” it doesn’t necessarily sound worthwhile. Plant managers are operations minded (and rightfully so!). Here are a few common cultural challenges you should be aware of at the plant level:

  • Lack of technical expertise around IT infrastructure,
  • Resource constraints (time, personnel, and infrastructure), and
  • Management does not understand the value of backup and DR.

Framing the Value of a Plant Level Backup and DR Plan

The trick to encouraging plant management to spend time and resources on DR is to appropriately understand and frame the risks and benefits of a solid DR plan. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is the frequency and costs of plant downtime due to technology failure?
  • What is the average downtime and resulting revenue implications? Is this tracked?
  • What are the average production delays and/or missed delivery numbers? Is this tracked?
  • Are there product quality or regulatory concerns related to technology failure (i.e., EPA Monitoring Tools, Pressure Gauges)?
  • What are the failure points that stop production in the event of outage (Instances of single point of failure)?
  • What mechanisms are currently in place around backup and DR?

Answers to questions like these help to understand how much time and resources should be dedicated to a backup and disaster recovery plan.

Inventory of Plant Level Systems and Infrastructure

I’ve covered inventorying systems in detail on previous posts, but here are a few things you should consider that are specific to the plant floor in a manufacturing environment:

  • PLC system (Programmable Logic Controller),
  • Critical data, software, and programs (i.e., PLC source code, EPA monitoring apps),
  • Plant level IT Infrastructure (servers, routers, switches, etc.),
  • PCs and Mobile Devices (especially those that control equipment), and
  • Critical production equipment and components (especially failure points).

Tip: It is likely that much of the technology infrastructure in a manufacturing environment is supported by off-site corporate IT (i.e., email, major ERPs, etc.) and not at the plant level. It is a good practice to understand “who supports what” and where plant management and IT management’s priorities lie at both the plant and enterprise levels.

Further Reading on Designing a Backup and DR Plan

If you are developing a backup and disaster recovery plan you can read the our whitepaper for a few additional tips. You can also read these blog posts.