Quotation of the Month: Diane Ackerman

by James P. Tate on September 25, 2017

As a species, we’ve somehow survived large and small ice ages, genetic bottlenecks, plagues, world wars and all manner of natural disasters, but I sometimes wonder if we’ll survive our own ingenuity.

Diane Ackerman

American Poet



Disaster Planning – Protect Your Operations

by James P. Tate on September 25, 2017

The recent natural catastrophes, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have had a major impact on families and businesses in many areas of the country.  The scope of each disaster has been significant in terms of geographic area and the economic affects.  While the personal human tragedy has been heart-rending, this essay will focus on suggestions for mitigating the damage to businesses.  The recommendations in this essay are not intended to be all- inclusive.  Each plant and company is different.  These suggestions are meant to stimulate your planning process as you develop your own disaster relief plan.

Natural disasters can’t be predicted in long term with any degree of accuracy.  However,, by looking at past history in a particular geographic region, certain types of natural disasters can be expected to occur.  For example: beach and coastal areas are prone to hurricanes and tidal flooding.  The Mid-West sees more than its share of tornadoes.  The northern regions can expect snow storms and blizzards to disrupt operations.  The Rocky Mountain and Far West can see wild fires and earthquakes.

It only makes sense for a prudent business manager or owner to take precautions to protect his investment and operations from destruction or severe interruptions.  What sort of precautions should be taken?

First, look at the potential catastrophes that could occur to disrupt your business.  There may be several different types, and you may have to rank them by the probability of occurrence in your area.

Then consider the elements of your business that you need the most: Your accounting records, your bank connections; engineering drawings and bills of material; certain communication links; pieces of machinery that are unique to your operations; and key personnel.  These elements would be the most difficult items to replace if they were lost.  Each of these elements would have a page in your disaster plan.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How can I protect these elements? Duplication or off-site storage, including cloud storage of records; replacement parts; alternate communication links.
  2. Do I need back-up power to be able to restart or continue operations? How do I protect this backup power source?
  3. Do we have a protocol for a quick shut down of key machinery to avoid damage?
  4. Do we need a plan to relocate key machinery if necessary?
  5. Would the building of flood walls, drainage basins, fire proof structures, elevated structures or buried structures be required for protection?
  6. What supplies or raw materials would constitute a hazard to personnel, or the environment in the event of a disaster?  Should we construct special barriers; or alert local HAZMAT teams of the existence of these materials and methods to neutralize them.
  7. How would I notify key personnel of the impending disaster?
  8. What personnel would be most urgently needed to get elements protected in the event of a disaster?
  9. What personnel would be required to restart operations and get the plant back on-line?

With these questions asked, you can start to formulate an action plan to address these issues.  It may be beneficial to assign a subordinate a certain portion of the action plan and allow him to recommend solutions with estimated costs.  Then your disaster team could review the recommendations and assemble the complete plan.

When the plan is formulated, you should review it and make additions or corrections at least once a year.  There are some parts of the plan that may justify a drill or a walk-thought of the action plan to make sure it is feasible and uncover any potential problems.  If you haven’t found a glitch in your testing of the plan, you probably haven’t gone into enough detail!  It is better to find the surprises before the disaster occurs than as it occurs.

I would be interested in your feedback and comments on your individual disaster plans.  I would like to share them with others in the audience in a future article.


September Manufacturing Survey – Federal Bank of Richmond

September 23, 2017

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond publishes each month the survey results of manufacturing activity in the West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland area served by the bank.  This information is compiled each month from responses submitted to the Bank by manufacturing firms in the five state area.  The survey can be found here.

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Virtual Factory- A Technique Whose Time Has Come

August 23, 2017

In all the excitement and dreaming about the impact of computer software and virtual reality in the production world there has been one quiet project that could measurably enhance the use of computer software on the manufacturing process. In a recent article in The Economist magazine (July 15, 2017 issue, page 58) a real factory […]

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Manufacturing is Growing in America!!

July 24, 2017

We have been hearing about the loss of manufacturing jobs in America for, at least, the past twenty years!  The recent political campaign focused on the loss of jobs and how important it was to bring manufacturing back to America.  But let’s look more closely at the hard data. Although manufacturing jobs have indeed been […]

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Napoleon Meets His Waterloo

June 13, 2017

There will be no article for the June 2017 e-bulletin.  I will be participating in the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.  The e-bulletin will resume in July.

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Non-Value Added Activities- Quality Control?

April 26, 2017

In the Lean philosophy the activities in a value stream are typically divided into “value-added” and “non-value added”.  Value-added activities are defined as those for which the customer is willing to pay.  These include those operations to transform the raw material at each stage of production into a finished good that meets the customer’s requirements.  […]

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The Fear of Change- The Risk & How to Manage It

March 25, 2017

With each new project being implemented in a business organization, there are two risks.  The first risk, and the most obvious, is the danger that you didn’t select the right solution for the business challenge? The second risk is the danger of poor implementation of the solution.  A good idea badly implemented will yield a […]

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Software System Evaluation

March 1, 2017

As manufacturing managers and executives we are focused on the machinery, manpower and materials that go into our products. We want to have the best quality of each of these components.  We spend a great deal of our time evaluating and upgrading our machinery, labor force, and materials to manufacture the highest quality products and […]

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Manufacturing Jobs- Where Have They Gone?

January 26, 2017

We have been treated to many articles and theories about the demise of manufacturing in America. However, it is a fact that the percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) that comes from manufacturing has not changed in the last three decades.  But, the number of “manufacturing jobs” has certainly declined in this time period.  […]

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