When a business is faced with the threat of sudden disruption to its operations, being able to respond quickly and effectively is the key to its survival. The Singapore-based food company Tan Seng Kee Foods Pte Ltd (TSK) didn’t wait for disaster to strike, but instead applied ISO 22301 Societal security - Business continuity management systems - Requirements. Today, the company is prepared – even for the worst.
Disasters can strike any time. These range from large-scale natural catastrophes and acts of terror to technology-related accidents and environmental incidents. The causes of hazards may be different – whether human negligence, malevolence, or natural disasters but their likelihood (and seriousness) is no less real.
These unexpected and potentially devastating threats led TSK to apply a business continuity management (BCM) system based on ISO 22301. TSK’s Executive Director, Raymond Tan, can now identify the company’s potential threats and safeguard its operations and reputation as well as the interests of its stakeholders in case disaster strikes. Here he shares with us his tips, lessons learned, and other useful titbits.
What are the reasons for your involvement with ISO 22301?
We wanted to equip our team at TSK with operational readiness in emergency situations, from manufacturing and logistics disruptions to natural disasters and IT failure. We believe that acquiring this capability will enhance our competitiveness as a preferred supplier and give customers peace of mind when doing business with us.
Take, for instance, a recent hazardous situation when the Pollutant Standards Index skyrocketed. Within hours, we were able to take action and implement precautionary measures, including the distribution of medical masks to safeguard the health and well-being of our logistics colleagues. This was a litmus test for our operational responsiveness to unexpected situations.
What were the main steps of the ISO 22301 programme at TSK?
Our company identified critical business functions and developed a strategy to maintain ‘business as usual’ in case of a major incident. We empowered staff with relevant competencies to strengthen process resiliency and increase confidence among the various departments. This process gave us the opportunity to continuously improve company (and staff) know-how to respond and recover from major incidents, resume critical business activities, and speed up the return to normal operations.
Other developments included a comprehensive fire emergency plan and numerous cost-effective and creative measures that will allow us to react appropriately in the face of disaster.
What were the main challenges you encountered?
Noodles are a daily staple and continuous supply must be maintained – disruption in our manufacturing operations is not tolerated. Any glitch in the process could seriously jeopardise our reputation, operating cash flow and services. These pressures are compounded by the need to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements for food handling and preparation, as well as risk management (workplace safety and health). We wanted to implement a crisis management framework that was consistent with industry best practice and able to adapt to the different business objectives of our various divisions.
What advice would you give to other companies thinking about implementing ISO 22301?
Every business is unique with its own set of goals and objectives. However, in all cases, management has to be very clear about its motivation and remain committed to its success.
In our case, a lot of time and effort was invested in business impact analysis and risk assessment, particularly in teaching departments the relevance and importance of operational readiness in emergency situations. One of the things that we found useful was appointing appropriate champions for each division.
Another key aim was to encourage a culture of preparedness. For TSK, we made special efforts in our staff communications to secure company buy-in at all levels, from top management to the last employee.
Does it make business sense for other companies big or small to follow in your footsteps?
Yes! Obviously, a project of this nature for a small enterprise like ours is no easy feat. However, it does give us that competitive edge. The project can help enhance resiliency and response in the event of operational disruptions, including pandemic risks. This is true for all businesses, be it an SME or a large multinational.