The importance of business continuity in manufacturing

As the rate of cyber attacks targeted at manufacturers continues to increase, it's never been more important for firms to revisit and revamp their business continuity strategy.

Mike Mead


It’s safe to say that 2020 was a challenging year for many companies. No matter which industry you’re in, the sudden change to the business landscape delivered a host of new challenges. Companies suddenly needed to reconsider the way they approached their customers, investing new resources, and time into digital transformation.

The shift to digital also gave organisations a new appreciation for the importance of business continuity and prompted many brands to redefine the term. Continuity isn’t just about making sure that you have a backup generator in place and extra employees in case of a spike in demand.

The world is evolving, and the threats that companies face are transforming with it.

In the manufacturing space, continuity is all about ensuring production can continue at the same pace and quality levels. Like all companies, manufacturing brands need to ensure that they’re ready for anything the world might bring, from fires and floods, to pandemics and digital breaches.

Now’s the time to make sure that your business continuity plan is up-to-date.

Why business continuity is pivotal for manufacturers

Backup and disaster recovery strategies are an essential part of any business plan. In the manufacturing landscape, the smallest mistake can bring production grinding to halt. The result is thousands or even millions in lost revenue. On top of that, every mistake has a significant impact on the reputation of your business. One major breach could lead to hundreds of lost customers.

Unfortunately, many manufacturing companies haven’t updated their business continuity plan for years. They’re prepared for what might happen if a machine stops working, but they don’t have systems in place to protect against things like digital disruptions.

In a world where things like data, IoT and intelligence are growing to become critical parts of the manufacturing stack, companies can’t afford to fall behind.

According to recent survey data, around half of the manufacturing companies in one report reported being a victim of a data breach in the last 12 months.

The world is changing, and manufacturing companies need to be ready to change with it. A good plan for business resiliency starts with understanding the operational hazards you face and taking steps to avoid them. If you aren’t prepared for digital issues in your continuity plan, then you’re not truly prepared.

The volume of cyber-attacks is rising

For years now, the manufacturing industry has been gradually shifting into the future. The rise of Industry 4.0 is here, and countless companies are already investing in things like big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things to improve productivity and efficiency.

However, many manufacturing companies embracing this new technology don’t have the right precautions to protect themselves if problems arise. Logistical issues in the manufacturing plan, IT infrastructure failures, and defective connections can have as much of an impact on a manufacturing team as a broken machine.

The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 accelerated the demand for digital business continuity measures in the manufacturing landscape, by showing teams just how reliant they are on their data. At the same time, the global pandemic has also prompted an increase in cybercrime.

As more people continue to work in the connected world, criminals are taking advantage. Malicious groups are amping up the frequency and scope of their attacks. According to the FBI, the number of cyberattacks reported each day has increased by 400% since the coronavirus struck.

Interpol also revealed an alarmingly large number of cyber-attacks are now targeting critical infrastructure, and major corporations. No business is safe.

Digital threats are everywhere: here’s the proof

According to Microsoft, some attacks are more common than others. COVID-19 themed attacks where criminals get access to a system through social engineering attacks has increased drastically. Ransomware attacks also increased by around 800% during the pandemic.

Ransomware attacks, where criminals hold a network or computer data hostage until they receive a payment, have been extremely successful during the pandemic. Hackers have gained control over various major company systems, demanding large ransoms in return for data.

Early in June 2020, Honda revealed that its Financial Service and Customer Service divisions were having problems. The company later confirmed that the issue was cyber-attack-related. After that, Garmin users reported wide-spread outages in July caused by similar cyber attack issues. Even Canon, the printing company, suffered an attack in August that led to criminals stealing around ten terabytes’ worth of private database information.

Elsewhere, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories announced that it had suffered a massive breach after its data centres were attacked in a COVID-19 related attack. The company reported the breach just days after receiving approval to begin conducting human trials of a vaccine for Covid-19.

Data Backup Can Save Companies Millions

Cyber security experts say that companies are seeing around 4,000 cyber-attacks per day since the rise of the pandemic. In a world with such a high threat level, manufacturing companies can’t afford to miss out on the right protection strategies for their data.

Data backup solutions can potentially save your company millions, ensuring that the lights in your business can stay on during a crisis. Data backup also ensures that you don’t have to risk losing customers if you lose essential data.

Remember, data failures can occur for reasons beyond the standard cyber-attack. A data failure can also arise as the result of a software or hardware issue, or a corrupted file. Backed up data means that you’ll always have protection in the event that something goes wrong with your primary data source. It’s a lot like having insurance. Just as you have insurance for your business and home, it makes sense to have the right solution in place for your data too.

Manufacturing companies aren’t siloed from the connection-centric trends of the digital world anymore. While that’s a good thing for transformation  purposes, it also means that manufacturing brands have a lot of work to do to catch up from a disaster recovery and continuity perspective.

How to Establish a Disaster Recovery Template

To develop an effective backup and recovery strategy for a manufacturing business, the company needs to examine the entire industrial network, as well as data use policies and potential threats. Being fully protected against any possible attack means not just defending against a potential power outage, fire, or hurricane, but also network downtime, cyber-attacks, and other digital issues. Any full disaster recovery template should include:

  • A risk assessment: To know how to protect the business, companies must first understand which risks they face. Every manufacturer is different. Even within a single business, various operations and facilities might have different risks. A full risk assessment will help the team to strategically find solutions to potential problems.
  • Mission critical facilities: After a risk assessment, the team needs to use the information gathered to identify the facilities, functions, and resources necessary for a business to continue operating. The way a team prioritizes production lines, channels for customer service, and applications are all essential in a disaster recovery strategy.
  • Balance strategy with business goals: Balancing business imperatives with risks is important in any disaster recovery and business continuity strategy. If a main goal of your business is delivering excellent customer service, then it will be important to prioritize customer experience channels during an attack.

While it may not be possible for all manufacturing companies to have a dedicated Disaster Recovery and Business continuity team, every employee should know their role. All staff members should have an insight into the best practices and policies they need to follow to protect against cyber-attacks. Some people within the team will also have additional responsibilities to consider. Ensure that everyone in your team knows what they need to do if disaster strikes.

You could also look into hiring professionals to help out with your disaster recovery. Experts that can conduct remote data backups for you can ensure that you never lose access to essential data.

It’s Time to Update Your Business Continuity Plan

In today’s digital world, no company can afford to go without the right business continuity plan. The pandemic of 2020 has accelerated the rate of digital transformation for almost every industry. That applies to the manufacturing landscape too. Businesses today must adapt to the technical changes in their landscape to remain competitive.

Increasing your digital strategy will ensure that you can continue to stay ahead of the competition, and better-serve your customers. However, you also need to ensure that you’re probably protected from any threats that the digital environment might bring.

According to experts the average ransomware payment has increased by 60% in the last three months. The cost of retrieving essential data from criminals is going up. Can you afford the impact on your company if you become the next victim?

If you don’t have the right strategy in place for continuity yet, now’s the time to upgrade. Contact Nice Network today to learn more about how we can help you to pandemic-proof your business.