It’s fair to say that the last few months have shown us all in the starkest of terms how precarious life can be. Bizarre as it seems, the most sophisticated species on the planet has been put well and truly on the back foot by a micro-organism.
Written by Alan Lusty, CEO and Founder of adi Group.
Societies across the globe are locked away as the appalling human impact is compounded by grim economic consequences for millions. Governments, organisations and businesses of every size and ilk are in damage limitation mode.
We’ve lost grip of the predictability we once took almost for granted and there is widespread uncertainty on when we might wrest it back. Yet, despite all the known unknowns, there are still things we can control. And, I believe, COVID-19 reminds us that we should.
Risks come in many forms. Some are easier to identify than others and, the recent global experience has confirmed, some risks are indescribably difficult to mitigate.
At the macro level, a simple virus can lay waste to an entire industry. Just look at the impact on commercial airlines of late. But, by the same token, at the micro level, a simple yet avoidable electrical malfunction, for example, can wipe out an entire factory and worse.
So, while it might not be the most engaging of subjects, getting a firm grip on our compliance management at this most unpredictable of times, is one way we can indemnify ourselves against risk and reassert some of that valuable control.
Now, nobody’s pretending compliance management is easy. It’s the stuff of administrative nightmares, with scores of regulatory and testing regimes to satisfy and hundreds of assets to cover in every production facility.
Nonetheless, the risks to life, limb, bottom lines and reputations are unbearably worse, so it’s a false economy not to invest in compliance management, the best possible maintenance and testing programmes and, indeed, quality training for your teams.
In fact, if you make the right choices in those areas, you’ll make a serious investment in the future of your business. So, despite COVID-19 placing all kinds of new pressures on you and your staff at present, it’s the right time to reassess your requirements and safeguard your long term stability.
Doing that is, admittedly, no mean feat. You have to look at every aspect of your operation and consider everything from electrical and mechanical safety to your climate systems and utilities, like water, for example, with your Legionella control.
Some businesses, of course, are well-equipped with the requisite in-house skill sets to navigate the minefield. Just looking at adi Group, we have more than 120 lines of compliance across our group service provision, over 80 of which are statutory, so best-in-class training is an imperative for us.
Others, however, find it useful to partner with an external organisation to meet all their regulatory and moral obligations. Some, such as ourselves through our cloud-based Compliance 360 platform, offer easy means of accounting for testing and compliance schedules in a consistent digital format, rather than by way of a never-ending paper trail.
But, however you choose to go about it, the important thing is that you get a comprehensive handle on everything you need to do and when, and establish a framework within which you can comply efficiently and confidently with all the legal or best practice regimes your specific assets require.
Getting that grip will not only minimise your business’ exposure to risk. Putting in place the right regimes and schedules will reduce outages and increase operational productivity.
At the same time, you’ll ensure best practice is adhered to, driving greater transparency and accountability and ‘right first time’ delivery.
And addressing the training and skills requirements of your teams in this area will demonstrate a dual commitment to both them and the services you deliver to your customers and enable you to allocate the right people to any given task.
In many ways, compliance, testing and maintenance sit at the centre of a virtuous circle. Their dynamics relate directly to almost every element of your operation and to the outcomes enjoyed by you, your staff and your customers. This driest of subjects is, therefore, everything.
I’ve got 30 years at the sharp end of engineering in the UK under my belt. And, in that time, I’ve lost count of the manufacturers exposing themselves to too much risk for the want of developed compliance management programmes.
Many of them get away with it and, perhaps after a close call, eventually get their houses in order. But it saddens me to say, my experience has also demonstrated that things can and too frequently do go wrong.
Unfortunately, we can’t rewrite the rules of physics - or biology for that matter, more’s the pity - but human beings are enormously resourceful creatures and we can work with what we know about those rules to establish greater control over how things play out.
And, as we’ve seen recently, control is at something of a premium these days. So, as your business begins to face down a ‘new normal’ - whatever that looks like - make sure you tighten your grip on compliance, testing and maintenance. The road ahead is nothing, if not unpredictable.