Tech Considerations for Natural Disasters & Their Role in Continuity

Servers in data center

 

From wildfires raging in California to hurricanes directly off the southeastern U.S. coast, 2017 proved to be a busy year for natural disasters. Mix that in with the renewed threat of winter storms, and it’s absolutely clear that you should plan accordingly for business continuity — not only after such disasters strike, but also during the disasters.

There are many facets to disaster recovery, but in the modern world, no doubt one of the most important areas is technology. So how do you safeguard your technological assets, and what role can technology play in the process? Consider the following when it comes to natural disasters affecting technology.

Backing up Your Data

Company data storage is important, especially when it concerns finances and sensitive information. A good idea: Utilize a data center server located offsite that safeguards your critical business data. If you’re utilizing a server onsite, make sure it’s properly backed up. Servers can and will go down, so for any information that must be readily accessible to meet consumer/partner demand, consider keeping hard/printed copies on hand.

Onsite Power

The most obvious impact of a natural disaster is a power outage. Most recently, Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands caused a widespread blackout that lasted over 40 days. Backup power generators can be utilized to ensure that basic business needs are met.

Cellular Networks

Hurricane Harvey inflicted significant damage on southeastern Texas, particularly Houston, and resulted in significant cellular network outages. In such situations, it’s important to keep in contact with employees, partners, and clients. Ensure that other methods of contact are made known, whether it’s through landlines or meeting up in person. Cellular hardware solutions are becoming available as another viable form of communication. goTenna, for example, allows you to send messages to others directly via Bluetooth, even when cellular services are down.

Payment Processing

If you have brick and mortar locations or simply need to accept and process payments onsite, ensure that alternative methods of payment are available when credit card/bank systems are down. Utilize mobile solutions, virtual terminals, or online payment portals (i.e. PayPal). Credit card information can also be recorded manually and processed when online systems are back up.

Planning ahead for natural disasters is absolutely critical. Proper continuity planning ensures that your business keeps up and meets demand, even in trying times. For more tips on business continuity during natural disasters, see our previous blog post: Questions to Ask When Creating a Business Contingency Plan for Natural Disasters.

 

The Importance of a Contingent Workforce in Today’s Business Climate

As the economy grows increasingly diversified, to keep up with demand and cut down on unnecessary spending, manufacturing businesses are increasingly relying on contingent workforces. These employees provide flexibility and keep businesses competitive in their respective industries.

What Is a Contingent Workforce?

A contingent workforce is a labor pool where employees are hired as needed, in a non-permanent capacity. They are often brought on during labor disruptions to maintain production as well as during times of regular business operation. In any case, they provide companies with a number of benefits that aren’t possible with regular full-time workforces, including:

The ability to increase and decrease labor Businesses can bring contingent workers on when production is in high demand and taper them off during times of the year when production isn’t as high.  

Business continuity during labor stoppages Strikes and other forms of labor stoppages don’t have to ruin businesses. The utilization of contingent workers allows companies to persevere and continue to meet consumer demands.

Saved time Utilizing a contingent workforce often means outsourcing some HR-based tasks to independent contractors. Some companies representing these temporary workforces, such as Strom Engineering, will handle those tasks for you, freeing up time and internal resources.

Cost Savings The ability to scale up and down, as mentioned earlier, is an obvious benefit. That includes only having to pay employees when they’re doing the work. When it comes to contingent workers vs direct hire, permanent workers often require paid downtime when production demands aren’t as high.

According to a 2015 study from Deloitte, 51% of people surveyed from corporate HR indicated their need for contingent workers would only increase in the coming years. Therefore, contingent employees are only growing in terms of demand. Not only that, but labor pools feature a wide range of employees with diversified job skills, giving businesses in the manufacturing sector plenty of options to choose from.

To learn more about the benefits of contingent workforces, contact Strom Engineering today.

How Can Companies Prepare for Employee Picketing? Rules to Know

 

Strikes can sometimes present volatile situations. Employment is an integral part of a person’s life, and therefore, passions naturally run high. It’s extremely important not only to protect the premises from incidents that could occur during the strike period, but to also ensure the safety of striking workers and any non-unionized and temporary employees still onsite.

Picketing Rules & Laws

By definition, a picket line is the area where locked out workers gather to present their demands visually and a line is established that people from both sides do not cross. Many states have laws regarding picket lines. Picketing regulations from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) outline what is permitted and what isn’t. Here are some general guidelines to pay attention to for safer strike security (it’s important to note that picketing rules and laws can vary by state).

  • Picketers generally need to be employees of the business they’re picketing.
  • More than one person cannot picket at a single entrance when there is no active strike.
  • Picketing cannot interfere with those who are still working entering or exiting the premises. In other words, picketers cannot physically block entrances.

Preparing for Employee Picketing

While it’s important that both sides respect each other, there are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure order and safety before the picketing even begins:

Notify local authorities. In the event that picketing gets out of hand, police can be readily available to wind things down in a way that’s peaceful and orderly. Having police assigned to the event makes everyone feel safer.

Set the boundaries. Notifying picketing individuals beforehand that they are not to enter the building or business property can help set boundaries and minimize any possibilities of violations.

Prepare to report any illegal behavior. While picket lines are expected to be generally peaceful, illegal activity can occur. It’s important to document any illegal activity and report it to the local authorities accordingly.

Know your limitations. Picketing is a regular and expected part of the strike process. Picketers have the right to be there, and as an employer you must respect those rights. Employers cannot intimidate picketers. Unions and employers may, however, work to end picket events by working together.

Establish a contractor gate. Establishing a well marked contractor gate will allow non-striking contractors to enter the workspace without forcing them to cross the picket line.

Preparing for employee picketing during a strike ensures the safety of everyone, whether they’re part of the picketing or working on the business property. For more information on picketing regulations and how you can prepare for a strike, contact the experts at Strom today.

 

 

Tracking Everything: How to Document Business Processes

 

Documenting your business’s practices, especially if you function in the manufacturing sector, can be critically important. Not only is it essential for tracking standard practices when you bring on new hires, it’s also vital in any instances where a labor disruption occurs. This is true whether the disruption is the result of a labor dispute or due to some form of disaster – whether natural or because of error. So what’s the best way to go about ensuring that everything is correctly documented? When it concerns how to document business processes, consider the following:

Use images & transfer processes to flow charts – Flow charters are distinctively easy to follow and break down processes visually. Real images can be utilized as well to document steps.

Define clear objectives – What is the clear objective of each step in the process and how does it connect with the next step? Ensuring that you’re defining how each part of the process relates to the next is critical. Also emphasize why each step in the process is critical.

Make sure everything’s covered – During the documentation process, it can be critical to discuss each step with your employees. While you might be overseeing the overall operation, they could know something you’re leaving out that’s absolutely vital.

Use checklists – Such documentation can be utilized during the actual processes, or to keep track of machine maintenance that’s integral to ensuring safety and efficiency.

Document safety standards – OSHA compliance and safety standards in the workplace should never go unchecked. Each step of the process can be unique when compared to the next. Different techniques help ensure ultimate safety for each individual in the workplace.

At the end of the day, it’s about crossing all your t’s and dotting all your i’s. Process documents should tie everything together. In the event of a labor disruption or natural disaster, it may be necessary to bring on temporary workers. Thorough documentation ensures that adding new employees to the workforce in such times is as seamless as possible.

Strom Engineering provides complete documentation services, covering facility features and equipment. To learn more about this service we provide, visit our documentation solutions webpage.

 

 

After the Strike: How to Improve Employee Morale in the Workplace

 

Utilizing a temporary workforce helps maintain continuity by ensuring businesses meet their obligations to partners and customers even during instances of labor disputes. But what happens when conflicts are resolved and businesses and workers’ unions are back on good terms?

A top benefit of utilizing temporary workforces during strikes is the ability to disband once an agreement has been successfully reached. This not only paves the way for permanent workers to return to the workplace, it also offers a sense of normalcy among all parties. Nonetheless, it can be expected that some resentment may persist — making it an important priority to boost overall morale. When it comes down to how to improve employee morale in the workplace post-strike, consider the following.

Resentment can exist in different ranks – Not only may the workers returning to the jobsite feel resentment, but such feelings may also exist within other ranks of the organization. When assessing morale post-strike, it’s important to examine people at all levels, including management teams.

Focus on the manager-employee relationship – It’s critical to establish an open line of communication between managers and the staff they oversee. Employees need to feel comfortable taking any concerns they have directly to management. This means issues can be addressed immediately before they have the chance to cause larger problems down the line.

Recognize contributions – Let employees know when they’re doing their jobs well. This provides a sense of job stability and accomplishment among the ranks.

Utilize industrial psychology – When seeking to boost morale immediately following a strike, it can be extremely beneficial to utilize a licensed industrial psychologist who can assess what’s going on and recommend practices to remediate on any existing resentment.

Understand better workforce morale means higher productivity – The mental welfare of your employees is of course one of the most important issues at hand. But it’s not only important for their sake; it also helps your business prosper. Numerous studies have shown that maintaining a positive work environment significantly contributes to overall business productivity. It’s simply a win-win.

For more information on how Strom can help your business prosper during the post-strike phase, contact us today.

 

 

Jobs in Engineering: What Is It Like to Work at a Temp Agency?

 

Stability is often one of the primary factors people take into account when weighing career options. For that reason, people typically shy away from temporary positions. However, temp agencies provide a number of desirable benefits that many may not be aware of, especially for jobs in engineering and manufacturing.

So what is it like to work at a temp agency? Below we examine just some of the advantages to working on a temp basis.

Flexibility – While stability is suitable for some, flexibility works better for others. At most temp agencies, employees have to ability to take on job assignments at their choosing.

Learn & Apply New Skills – Temp agencies provide employees with thorough training and enables them to learn and apply new skills they can leverage in the future.

Temp Can Lead to Permanent – Since temp work allows people to learn new skills, many workers use those skills to obtain permanent employment — whether at the company they are temping at or elsewhere.

Change of Scenery – As part of a temporary workforce, people are often allowed to experience different geographic locations, a desirable benefit for those who enjoy moving around.

Network & Establish New Relationships – Temp work allows employees to network and meet new people at a faster rate than permanent employment, which is highly valuable in building a career.

Wide Variety of Backgrounds Wanted – Companies such as Strom value workers from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, including people with prior experience in warehouses, maintenance mechanics, steel manufacturing, and many other areas.

Still have questions about what it’s like to work on a temp basis with companies like Strom Engineering? Contact us today to learn more.

Strom Engineering Endows Holy Family Catholic High School with Historic Gift

Strom Engineering has endowed Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria with a historic $100,000 donation, the largest charitable donation the company has made to date. The endowment will be called the Strom Engineering Endowment for Technology.

“We feel strongly about participating in the community and donating to nonprofits that represent the values of Strom Engineering. Our corporate dedication to innovation and technology reflects Holy Family’s development of students to succeed in their professional careers,” said John Radick, CEO Emeritus of Strom Engineering and Emeritus Board Member of Holy Family. “The school’s combination of faith and values with academic rigor has launched alumni who are leaders in their fields. We are excited to see how this endowment builds the school’s technology program to prepare students for success.”

While Holy Family will be able to direct the funds wherever appropriate for the school, the Strom Engineering Endowment for Technology is expected to primarily benefit the school’s science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) program.

“We are grateful to Strom Engineering for the company’s support of Holy Family over the years and this endowment in particular,” said Kathleen Brown, Principal of Holy Family. “Our robotics club, Pyrobotics, has won multiple awards for innovation of design and presentation at regional and national competitions. This endowment will ensure that they have every opportunity available to compete at the highest levels.”

Previous Strom Engineering donations to Holy Family have facilitated the school’s purchase of digital whiteboards as well as the funding of financial need-based scholarships. Radick has had a close relationship with Holy Family; all four of his children have attended the school and he served on the school’s Board of Directors for six years, including two as the board chair.

“At Holy Family we believe we have an obligation and a privilege to provide our students with opportunities that will expose, engage and inspire their appetites to consider pursuing college degrees and occupations in STEAM-related industries,” said Michael Brennan, President of Holy Family. “These are the fields with the jobs, the salaries, and above all the ability to impact the world.”

A Dive Into Manufacturing: A Plant Relocation Checklist

 

Businesses in manufacturing must quickly adapt to the changing demands and technologies of their industries. Often times, this requires a reprioritization of resources – including perhaps the need to relocate or expand plants and other facilities. If you’re a business that has come to realize it’s time to move, there are a number of things you should keep in mind. Below we’ve composed a simple manufacturing plant relocation checklist to help:

Equipment Audit: Any plant relocation should include a thorough audit of existing equipment. Keep in mind: Some equipment might be easier to simply replace at the new facility, rather than repair and transport. Relocation can be a good opportunity to tie up loose ends and ensure that your equipment is not only in compliance, but in top working condition as well. For this process, it’s important to keep track of each machine in a spreadsheet, along with the status of its working condition.

Local Regulations: You’ll need to examine local issues and whether or not the area has already received approval for zoning, something that’s usually done through a city council. Other local issues you’ll want to pay attention to include property taxes and labor laws.

Safety Issues: Some of this ties into providing a thorough equipment audit, but it’s also important to ensure your new facility meets all the safety standards, as outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. For more on OSHA, visit OSHA.gov.

Environmental Aspects: In addition to local regulations, it’s important to also pay attention to federal requirements that regulate emissions (Clean Air Act – EPA.gov) and laws that regulate the disposal of wastes.

At the end of the day, it goes without saying that each company has unique needs and requirements to meet. For help with relocation, check out the relocation service from Strom Engineering. Also, feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

 

 

How Hiring Replacement Workers During a Strike Benefits Your Business

Labor disputes resulting in workplace strikes can have devastating effects not only on businesses, but also on local economies. However, if proper Business Continuity Planning has taken place, the fallout can be mitigated. The solution? Hiring replacement workers during a strike.

For its part, Strom Engineering provides a 5-step approach that empowers businesses to continue on and remain profitable with happy customers, even as they negotiate mutually beneficial agreements with their employees’ labor unions. The 5-step process is as follows:

Phase 1: Assessing the situation

Strom understands every business is different, has unique needs, and serves different audiences. That’s why early in the process, it’s important to establish an understanding of your business’s procedures, history, and culture. At this time, we’ll examine the following:

  • Labor distribution
  • Job descriptions and work aids
  • Processes and procedures
  • Production quotas

Phase 2: Recruiting the right temp workers

Strom draws from its large database of over 30,000 employees to find the right temp workers to assist your business during the dispute. We consider what skills your jobsite requires to function smoothly and recruit the right workers to carry out the business processes. In addition to our existing database, we recruit using:

  • Local and national recruiting
  • Job fairs
  • On-site recruitment

Phase 3: Establishing a pre-deployment strategy

It’s important for your business to maintain production promises to meet partner demands and to achieve proper customer satisfaction levels. The pre-deployment stage allows companies to strategically position the incoming temporary workforce to the local area so that they can be activated on short notice. Anticipating disruptions before an actual stoppage occurs ensures all prior business commitments are met.

Phase 4: Deploying the temporary workforce

The 4th part of the process involves executing, sending the temporary workforce to your actual jobsites, with all logistics taken into account. During the deployment stage, we’ll cover scheduling, housing, transportation of workers to and from jobsites, orientation and training, management protocols, and the establishment of performance standards, the latter of which ensures that high expectations are met.

Phase 5: Disbanding the workforce when it’s time

Temporary workforces allow you to be flexible. You can scale up to fill voids left by strikes and scale down and disband once labor negotiation resolutions occur. The disbandment process is swift and involves an assessment of each onsite project to help transition from a temporary workforce back to a permanent one. Additionally, the disbandment process includes an evaluation to see how effective the operation was and make recommendations to update your business continuity plan accordingly.

The Benefits

Each of the 5 phases is designed to benefit your company during what would otherwise be work stoppages. You’ll be able to meet demands, stay profitable, keep prior agreements, satisfy customers, and keep the overall reputation of your business intact.

Have more questions regarding the use of replacement workers during a strike? Contact the professionals at Strom Engineering today.

How to Analyze and Improve Business Processes

An overall audit or examination of your business’s current processes, especially if your company is involved in manufacturing, has the ability to significantly cut down on waste with the result of drastically improving workplace efficiency. When it concerns how to improve manufacturing processes throughout your business, you’ll want to consider the following:

Outline the entire manufacturing process

One of the first things you’ll want to do is outline the entire production process itself — all the way from the workers needed to attend to the production line, to the machines themselves. What technology needs to be updated? Exactly what parts of the manufacturing process are slowing you down? Exactly whom do you have scheduled, and are there enough workers with the right skillsets assigned to handle each unique part of the process? Perhaps you need to provide more training or change things up.

Analyze the costs closely & share the data

The evidence that you’re becoming more efficient in the manufacturing process can be seen in your financials. Gather the data, closely track it, and share it among your workforce — most especially with your project managers. Familiarizing them with the costs will empower them to cut down on all things wasteful they experience day-to-day.

Prepare for issues that could halt production

Machines break, so be prepared for this and any other kind of issues that could cause the entire manufacturing process to go awry. Devise backup plans and review how to fix issues before actual problems occur.

Embrace automation

The little things add up, whether it’s using an outdated program that makes entering data an arduous task or a machine that requires manual control. The goal here is to automate more things about the workflow process so that your employees have more time to be productive in other areas that deserve attention. In effect, labor costs can be reduced and you can increase on-the-job safety.

Take advantage of scalable workforces

Having the ability to scale your workforce up during peak production periods, then scale down when you’re not as busy allows you to cut out unnecessary downtime and push harder when it matters most. For increased scalability, consider utilizing a managed workforce.

Need more ideas on how to improve business processes for your company? Strom can help. Contact us today.

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