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The Future in Focus

LRQA Podcast: The truth about business continuity trends: Is your business model built to last?

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Business continuity has been a hot topic in recent years. Even more recently, we’ve heard the term ‘Agility and Resilience’ referenced heavily in discussions about food safety and the food supply chain, but what does it actually mean to have an agile and resilient business model? In this episode, we speak to Kimberly Coffin, Technical Director of Supply Chain at LRQA, who shares the truth about business continuity trends.

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LRQA: The Future in Focus

Welcome back to The Future in Focus podcast by LRQA or if you’re new here, thank you. In this episode we are joined by LRQA’s Technical Director of Supply Chain, Kimberly Coffin to share the truth about business continuity trends that we have seen emerge over the last few years.

Thanks for joining us for this episode Kimberly, I’d like to jump right in and ask you to define what we mean when we say business continuity?

Thanks Holly, it’s great to be here and have the opportunity to speak to with you again on a subject that I find very important especially in light of the events over the last two to three years and definitely a topic that everybody is talking about being business continuity.

In its simplest form, business continuity is really the approach that organisations take to ensure that they look at how and what’s important to maintaining operations in the event of an unplanned disruption. And really it’s about digging into and evaluating those potential threats to their business, whilst also thinking about the impact of those threats on the processes that they use within their organisation and broadly all the processes that actually keep their business working and their business moving.

It can’t be specific to one particular area, but really needs to take into account those threats to potential threats to inputs, to outputs you know getting their product from out of their facility, as well as the actual threats that are internally within to their operating processes that they use to actually manufacture in the case that we’re specifically talking about today the manufacture of safe food for consumers.

It also needs to encompass and look at kind of those threats to the assets so the equipment, to the systems, as well as the people within those organisations. It’s well and truly kind of a very process driven approach to evaluating threats and actually looking at putting together if you will a framework or a plan to how that business will respond to potential incidents that might occur and have an impact on their business whilst allowing them to continue their business operations.

Can you give any examples of best practices for maintaining food safety and quality during business disruptions?

There’s three key areas that I’d like to talk a bit about Holly that are really important in respect to maintaining food safety and quality during business disruption. I think, I’d like to start with the first and foremost is it’s really important that organisations don’t lose sight of the foundations of those business practices, those business processes, those things that they do within their organisation to actually ensure that the safety of food, the quality of their food is not compromised in the event of a disruption. Whether that be a change in a raw material or a particular process and condition that’s impacted, it’s really having a really sound understanding and ensuring that they’re really clear with regards to what are those non-negotiables with regards to how they manage food safety in their business.

The second key area is around risk appetite and it’s, when I talk about risk appetite it’s about not having no deviations from our planned actions or the planned procedures that we follow, but it’s really about understanding that when we have a deviation from the standard processes, and what is the impact of that risk to our product and the risk specifically to food safety of that product. You know sometimes we can have minor deviations and they won’t create a significant impact to the actual safe consumption of that product and although those deviations might be undesirable, they’re in line with our risk appetite with regards to food control and management of food safety. So it’s really being able to delineate between what those not negotiables are, and also understanding that not every deviation has the same risk impact to our products and our consumers.

I think finally and I want to talk a bit about culture and really having the right culture in an organisation and in some respects, this is probably another key area that is a bit over talked about and maybe not as well understood. And I think part of that is because culture really comes from the behaviours and the understanding of people within our business with regards to what their role is in delivering safe food, as well as also not just the what their role is, but the impact of their role with regards to actually ensuring that we’re delivering safe food and they understand why those things are so important that they do every day in their role.

When I think about culture it’s not just about a single point of leadership but really having a workforce that understands that they have a responsibility to lead with regards to the delivery of safe food regardless of whether they are senior management or sit in the c-suite, all the way down to the shopfloor those people that really undertake really critical food safety and hygiene types of tasks and actually maintaining the environment with regards to the manufacture of food.

Great, and if we could backtrack slightly. Business continuity has been a hot topic in recent years, even more recently we’ve heard the term agility and resilience referenced heavily in discussions about food safety and food supply chains. But what does it actually mean to have an agile and resilient business module?

This is a great question and it made me do a lot of thinking because these are two terms that I use a lot and I know increasingly we hear them all the time. Agile and resilient, you know the food industry has been incredibly resilient and we’ve had to be very agile in continuing to actually supply safe food to the consumers over what’s been a really quite challenging period in the history of the food manufacturing industry.

It took me back to actually look at kind of the definition of agile and resilient and really think about and get an understanding of what those are. And when we talk about agility or we talk about being agile, it’s about the ability to actually to be able to move quickly and easily and really being able to enact change rapidly with, in order to actually meet a particular demand or to continue to actually manufacture safe food.

When we look at then resilience and an industry that’s been resilient it’s about that ability to adapt and recover quickly from difficulties. And in many cases resilience comes not naturally if you will, it is built over time through really getting practiced to setbacks and recovering from those setbacks, if you will learning lessons from those things that we encounter by way of difficulties to our business and actually then looking at making considered changes with regards to the way that we work.

You know one of the, probably one of the biggest changes that I’ve seen most clients that I’m working with that have really looked at effecting is the process that they are undertaking with regards to how they manage the qualification and approval of new suppliers for raw materials to their manufacturing operations. In many cases and for so many years we worked so long to be just in time, single source, or minimal source with regards to those raw materials. What we found over the last two to three years is that that gives us great, great an ability (a) to be agile but also had a very detrimental effect initially in us being resilient in actually being able to maintain our operations in the early period of the pandemic.

What they’re doing, you know what that has resulted in is many cases people, organisations have had to increasingly go back and start looking at what we’ve done, is it still the right way to do things. You know we’ve learned a lot of lessons with regards to our supplier approval processes, we’ve understood where those real true areas of highest risk impacts are, and starting to look at what are those lessons that we’ve learned, what are those changes that we can make without having a detrimental impact to actually having the ability to move more quickly and more easily in managing that change in our supplier base.

They go hand in hand when I look at those, and I think about the order of those is well and truly you know resilience and agility go hand in hand in our ability to really maintain in a very effective way the way that we approach food safety across our supply chains.

So we know that being able to respond to risk at pace is important in the current landscape, but could the focus on agility be replacing the equally important need for resilient business models and what could this mean for businesses with a model that isn’t built to last?

Simply put Holly and to build on a bit of what I said in answer to your previous question, is to be truly agile and effectively manage the risks associated with making those quick decisions and make those quick changes that we need to actually ensure that our business continues to improve and continues to move forward, we must have a resilient business model that gives us that, that sound understanding and it builds on those lessons that we’ve learned from previous changes that we’ve made to our business to truly understand where and how we can make changes without incurring heightened levels of risk and/or really compromising or not understanding what the impact is going to be with regards to our overall risk appetite for managing and controlling our processes and our products.

And having worked in the food industry for many years, what would you say is the ideal balance for building and maintaining an agile and long lasting business continuity plan?

We need to recognise that this is our new normal, we are going to continue to see change, we’re going to see a continued need to manage that change within our business and we must recognise that our business continuity plan is the framework in which we capture those lessons that we’ve learned with regards to changes that we’ve made, that it truly gives us a clear line of sight with regards to those threats and emerging threats that might be having an impact on our business. Whether they be from supply chain disruptions, whether they be through changes in our workforce, through a natural disaster and increasingly cyber incidents that occur within our business. That we need to ensure that those are living documents, they’re not just a plan on a page, that they are part of the way that we actually run and operate our business.

Often, they’ve been an elemental requirement, standards say that we need to have a BCP therefore we put a BCP together, or our customers say we must have a business continuity plan and we go through and we formulate this plan based on what we know now. I think we need to recognise that these need to evolve, they need to continue to evolve but we need to actually ensure that what we’ve designed is well implemented, that its well understood across all of the areas of our business. That we need to take the time to validate that what we’ve implemented actually well and truly works, that in times of change, or when we’ve had setbacks with regards to our disruptions within our business, we go back and we really look at that and we analyse what has happened as part of those incidents, that we look at the design of our BCP and then we then move that forward with regards to the new way of working.

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