Planning for business continuity within a crisis

Posted by: VersaCold on Nov 4, 2020 8:45:00 AM


Why agility was the key to productivity at VersaCold throughout the pandemic

VersaCold Director of Quality Management Systems, Moses Akingbade, recently participated in the American Supply Chain Summit where he shared how VersaCold has achieved business continuity throughout the pandemic, with zero days of productivity lost due to COVID-19 so far.

As a logistics provider for the warehousing and transportation of food products across North America, VersaCold had to implement rapid change in order to ensure the safety and reliability of its network throughout the pandemic. With requirements changing every day, Moses says the key to planning for an unknown future is to pursue a collaborative approach with agility built into your response plan. VersaCold applied this philosophy in the form of a six-step plan for business continuity.

6 steps to business continuity

1. Form crisis management teams
VersaCold immediately formed a Crisis Leadership Team made up of executive and functional leaders from across the country. This team met (virtually) on a daily basis for the first four months of the pandemic in order to address new developments from a high-level perspective. For time-sensitive and site-specific events, such as the event of an outbreak or transmission, VersaCold also created a smaller Incident Command Team. This team is still in operation and consists of Moses himself, as Director of Quality Management Systems, Sheldon Callender, Senior Director of Human Resources and appointed personnel from the site of the specific incident in question. This “roving team” structure empowered the right people to make the right decisions as quickly as possible in the event of an incident.

2. External and internal communication plan
With rapidly changing guidelines and protective measures, Moses said it was crucial for VersaCold to design a clear plan for how information would be communicated internally across the company, as well as externally, to customers and the public. Following a standardized communication plan ensured transparency throughout the company and let all parties rest assured that they would be informed and up to date as necessary.

3. A contingency plan for product movement
For a company that coordinates and provides warehousing for food products across Canada, if one location should stop functioning, it could affect the entire supply chain. Therefore, it was vital to create a contingency plan to ensure that business could continue uninterrupted should any of our warehouse locations be forced to close. Fortunately, no such disruptions have occurred so far.

4. Implementation of remote work
VersaCold has enabled employees who are not front line workers to work from home. This has vastly reduced the number of people crossing paths within VersaCold facilities and the number of opportunities for disease transmission.

5. Manage key vendors, external parties
VersaCold evaluated all external relationships and new requirements were put into place for vendors and external parties to access VersaCold facilities in-person. Interactions were moved to a remote basis wherever possible. It was also necessary to develop a contingency plan for business continuity in the event that VersaCold’s key vendors or partners were disrupted or forced to shut down.

6. Train employees on roles and responsibilities
It is always important to keep employees trained and up to date on their roles and responsibilities when it comes to health and safety, but it was especially important throughout the pandemic when new measures and changes to operational duties were implemented rapidly. This ongoing step of the plan has ensured every VersaCold employee is trained and up to date on roles and responsibilities, and no duties have been relaxed or forgotten as the pandemic continued.

Lessons learned

The pandemic is far from over, and as leadership teams continue to adapt and plan for business continuity here are four key takeaways from VersaCold’s six-step plan that every business should consider throughout the next wave of the pandemic and into the future.
  • Streamline decision making: Moses believes the nimble Incident Command Team was crucial to taking quick action within an ever-changing crisis environment. Because of the small size of the team, they were able to make decisions and execute quickly. Issues that impact operations or strategic direction will be escalated to the broader leadership team.

  • Stay nimble in a crisis: When faced with disruption, Moses says, “Many leaders want to plan out a response to every possible scenario in advance.” But in a situation like COVID, changes often unfold by the hour and it is virtually impossible to plan with any certainty. Instead, Moses suggests creating a broader plan with a focus on enabling quick decision-making and strong communication to instill confidence in customers and employees.

  • Cover your bases: VersaCold does business across the country, and every region has different rules when it comes to safety protocols, testing and return to work. To ensure business continuity between regions, Moses found it was more efficient to identify the region(s) with the strictest requirements and apply those throughout the entire operation.

  • It’s not over yet: VersaCold’s Incident Command Team continues to be engaged. VersaCold employees are continually refreshed and reminded of their roles and responsibilities to ensure that the highest standards are met to ensure the health and safety of the entire team and community at large.
VersaCold’s six-step plan has helped to create cross-functional solutions that have led to business continuity throughout the pandemic. VersaCold hasn’t lost a single day of productivity due to COVID-19 so far. Moses says, “That’s all thanks to the cooperation of VersaCold employees across the country, the endorsement of the plan from leadership and the quick adoption and implementation throughout the entire business.”

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and through careful planning and personal responsibility, we can build a safer workplace together. Contact one of our Business Development leaders today and let us show you why we are the right choice for your business. or 1-800-563-COLD.

Tags: VersaCold, food safety